Hundreds of local residents held a protest outside St George’s Cathedral in Perth on Friday afternoon. (ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)
A fight in the Perth Hills suburb of Stoneville has pitted residents against one of Australia’s biggest private residential land developers and one of the country’s biggest churches.
- The plan includes 1,410 new dwellings for a total of almost 4,000 people
- The local shire rejected the plan over what it said were its “fatal flaws”
- The development’s fate rests in the hands of the WA Planning Commission
The local community is trying to stop the Stoneville North development, proposed by the Satterley Property Group on Anglican Church land.
Locals have branded it a planning “disaster” and claim it puts lives at risk.
Last year a plan for the new development — which includes 1,410 new dwellings for nearly 4,000 people — went out for public comment, with the Shire of Mundaring receiving more than 900 negative responses.
The townsite plan involves more than 1,400 new dwellings on a range of block sizes. (ABC News)
The council rejected the structure plan at a special meeting in August, and its fate now rests in the hands of the Western Australian Planning Commission.
‘We are protecting Perth’s backyard’
Paige McNeil lives on the edge of the proposed development and chairs the Save Perth Hills group.
She said she was concerned about a lack of traffic planning, the risk from bushfires and plans for a new privately-operated wastewater treatment plant.
“The fight has been huge, we are fighting the state and the Church,” she said.
Hundreds of local residents gathered for a protest outside the Anglican Church in Perth late on Friday afternoon over what they claimed had been a lack of community consultation.
“The Church needs to speak to us, to listen to the community,” Ms McNeil said.
“So we have no other choice, because they won’t talk to us, but take direct action.”
Paige McNeil is concerned by what she says is a lack of traffic planning. (ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)
Ms McNeil was also concerned about what the development would mean for the future character of the area.
“Financially we will be losing here,” she said.
“We will be losing amenity, we will be losing the financial viability of our property. And when people choose to live in the Hills they choose on a number of factors, and amenity is one of them.
“We’ve been told ‘you NIMBYs’. Well you could say that, because we are protecting Perth’s backyard.”
While a majority of the plan includes blocks greater than 800 square metres — with some up to 2,000 square metres — 50 of the blocks will come in at 350 square metres.
Shire rejects plan over ‘fatal flaws’
Peter Brazier lost his home in the 2014 Perth Hills bushfire and said he was concerned about the impact a suburban development would have.
Peter Brazier’s home was destroyed by fire five years ago and the idea of a bigger community worries him. (ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)
“Ember attack is basically what destroyed our house and we’re very fearful that this is such a catastrophic fire area, and [this would] put so many people in danger of that,” he said.
“There are only two major roads out and I can’t image 4,000 people trying to get out of two exits in a major fire.”
Mundaring Shire President John Daw said the council voted unanimously against the plan due to “fatal flaws”.
“[Mainly] the impossibility of the road network to handle the number of vehicles that would be created by it,” he said.
“The council’s other significant issue with it was the amount of land clearing involved, at up to potentially 184 hectares of some very, very high quality, high conservation value bush.”
A traffic study commissioned by the shire found the local road network could only accommodate 70 new dwellings.
In a document released after August’s special community meeting, Satterley Property Group attempted to quell community angst with a list of answers to frequently asked questions.
“Satterley has made commitments to the council to contribute to upgrades of the district road network necessary to ensure safe and efficient movement,” it said.
The company also outlined that its bushfire management plan had been developed in consultation with the shire and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
Townsite will bring services, jobs: Satterley
Satterley’s WA general manager of operations, Brendan Gorringe, said the development would bring a number of benefits to the community.
“Satterley has always followed proper planning and statutory processes including a wide range of public consultation activities and a public submission period,” he said.
“We believe a new townsite will bring many benefits to the Hills community including new housing and lifestyle choices, improved services and infrastructure, major recreation amenities and parks, and a boost to the local economy including jobs.”
The decision over the future of Stoneville now rests with the WA Planning Commission. (ABC News)
But Mr Daw said he believed WA’s planning laws required significant reform to include more community consultation.
“This is demonstrated by this particular proposal,” he said.
The Anglican Diocese of Perth issued a statement saying it had welcomed the views of the local community via a number of different channels over a significant period of time.
It said the land in question was only a small portion of a considerably larger parcel, much of which had already been sold to former and current Hills residents.
The Diocese also said that while the right of residents to protest was recognised and respected, it was disappointing the group decided to protest at a place of worship.