HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [9.48 pm]: I rise tonight to speak about a number of local planning issues that are arising in the North Metropolitan Region. During the winter recess I was approached by a number of residents and community groups from different parts of my region who are quite concerned about the future of their neighbourhoods. Their concern is primarily about the management of infill within Perth. The Greens are very supportive of the principle of infill; it is an important strategy to prevent an ever-expanding Perth region. We know that Perth and Peel@3.5 million requires us to ensure that 50 per cent of new dwellings in Perth will be infill developments, so we are looking at about 380 000 infill dwellings across the Perth and Peel regions. Of that, North Metropolitan is being asked to absorb almost 160 000 infill dwellings. In the western suburbs, two councils are currently updating their local planning scheme documents, and they have been asked to greatly increase their infill targets. The amount of the increase is well beyond the minimum requested in the central subregional planning strategy. We have seen that the City of Nedlands has already been asked to plan for more than double the minimum infill. The Western Australian Planning Commission amendments create space for nearly 9 000 new dwellings, rather than the expected 4 400. The City of Nedlands, after a great deal of discussion and consultation with the community, has now decided to remove the amendments made by the WAPC and to return its original plan for approval. It is very unclear what will happen from this point. We know that in Golden Bay, south of the city, a development has gone ahead that was explicitly rejected by the council and is still being fought by the community there. I really hope that we will not see this happen in Nedlands.
The WAPC’s changes to the City of Subiaco’s draft local planning scheme 5 create the possibility of 8 970 new dwellings, rather than the 6 200 initially envisaged in Directions 2031 and Perth and Peel@3.5 million. I have been approached by constituents who have rightly pointed out that already a number of substantial developments are about to start in Subiaco; for example, the redevelopment of the market site, the redevelopment of Princess Margaret Hospital for Children—we still do not know what will happen there—and the Subiaco East plan. I think people quite rightly are very concerned about the impact that changes to R-codes and density will mean for their areas. We have seen numerous old areas of Perth undertake piecemeal intensification on effectively a backyard-by-backyard basis, and as a result these areas have tended to have a dramatically reduced tree canopy, at a point at which we are trying to implement strategies to increase amounts of tree canopy; public space is being lost; well-loved landmarks may not quite fit the criteria for heritage listing; the character of suburbs is being irreversibly changed; and there have been significant increases in traffic, yet the public transport and cultural benefits of housing density, which are meant to be part and parcel of infill, are nowhere to be seen. Even when the community has played an integral part in developing the vision and the plan for an area, there is no guarantee that the approved developments will meet the criteria the community has originally agreed to. An example of this is happening right now in Scarborough. The scheme, which was developed with the community, provided for a 12-storey maximum height with a discretion to approve up to 18 storeys where it could be demonstrated that the proponent was providing outstanding community value. We now have towers going in at 43 and 33 storeys. Is it any wonder that people are beginning to lose trust and faith in our planning system?
Once again, I will mention the redevelopment of the Shenton Park hospital site, which is an issue I have spoken about numerous times in this place, where the community strongly supports an infill development, but just wants to retain the bushland onsite, in accordance with so many of our strategic documents and policies around bushland.
This should not be a fight that the community needs to undertake, let alone undertake every single time we propose a substantial infill development, but that is what is happening.
I commend the government for commencing the review of the planning system. I note that many of the frustrations shared with me by my constituents are reflected accurately in the green paper review that was led by Evan Jones. What I hear most often are concerns that community consultation is a tick-and-flick exercise rather than genuine engagement; that the community has lost the power to say no to unwanted developments; that projects and developments can go ahead with little or no regard for the strategic planning documents; and, an issue that the Greens have talked about literally for decades, that the community has no right to a third party review process. The green paper suggested that it might be a wise idea to pause the local planning scheme reviews—the very ones that I am talking about tonight—while we go through the process of building a robust and strategically led planning system that is easy to understand. This is what the constituents of the City of Subiaco have asked for. Right now, they are asking for the review of their planning scheme to be put on hold. I note that the City of Subiaco is already on track to meet its infill obligation under Perth and Peel@3.5 million. It is not as though the issue is not being addressed. It is well and truly on track. There is no need to rush reviewing the City of Subiaco’s local planning scheme on the basis of needing it to meet infill targets because there is no urgency around that. The imposition of double infill targets with no public explanation for how these targets were arrived at appears utterly arbitrary and it is certainly unwanted. There is no need to further reduce trust in our planning system, and there is plenty of distrust now. I urge the minister to put the review on hold for now and to see how and if we can make the planning system fairer, more transparent and more comprehensible and, importantly, ensure that our planning system is being led by the community and not simply by developers.