‘Game-changing’ Belmont Park progresses

Article by Claire Tyrrell

Source: Business News

Victoria Park mayor Karen Vernon has acknowledged community frustration around the $4 billion project.

Town of Victoria Park mayor Karen Vernon has acknowledged the community frustration around Golden Group’s stalled Belmont Park project, but says progress is being made on the site.

Ms Vernon was speaking at a Property Council of Australia WA Division breakfast this morning, where mayors from five major local government areas spoke about the importance of community consultation.

She noted the strong level of interest in the $4 billion masterplanned Belmont Park, admitting that the project stalled during COVID.

She said this was due to the international nature of the park’s major developer Golden Group, who were navigating a difficult environment during the pandemic.

“What we are seeing is over the last eight months are positive steps forward, we’re starting to see some new traction,” she said.

“Some of the site works have begun, so that’s going to be a long end game but we see that as a game-changer for Victoria Park.”

Golden Group signalled its intentions to develop on the 38-hectare site in 2011, before it bought the land in 2013.

The group devised a 20-year masterplan for the site comprising 4,500 homes to be developed over four stages.

Its latest development application involved a $1 billion nine building development, featuring 19-storey towers and 200 three-storey townhouses.

Ms Vernon told the audience the council was seeing a lot of interest from developers in the “old Burswood” precinct, separate to the peninsula.

Community plays

City of Joondalup mayor Albert Jacob said the state of the property market had shifted the dial on public sentiment toward development.

“We’ve had a lot of community pushback [but] I’ve just seen that dissipate in the last few months [and] I think that’s reflective of a resurgent property market,” he said.

“I think the community’s values at that local sense … the anti-development causes slip away as the property market turns, people see opportunity for them and their family in the property market.

“It’s almost turned in the space of a few months, where you can be a bit more bolshie about getting investment into your development in your community to cater for a growing community that wants to stay home more often.”

He said with the Ocean Reef Marina, currently under construction in the City of Joondalup, drew community opposition from the time it was first envisaged in the mid-2010s.

Mr Jacob said the council worked to identify those people who were broadly anti-development as opposed to those who had a specific issue with the development, early in the consultation process.

A group of surfers were opposed to the marina for its potential impact on the surf break, separate to the broader opposition to the project.

“Rather than have those two groups come together … we identified the ones who had a particular issue associated with that project, engaged with them and neutralised that concern,” Mr Jacob explained.

Ms Vernon agreed that while Victoria Park had a “long solid history of pro-development” early community engagement about major property projects was key.

“I do agree that engagement in your community is supremely important, it’s important to go early to those comprehensively and go transparently,” she said.

Ms Vernon added that state government’s legislative framework around local planning schemes and policies could be difficult to navigate, which could add to community confusion.

“State governments requirements over years for local governments to bring greater and greater structures around planning frameworks has been exhausting for local governments … so you can only just imagine what it’s like for the community,” she said.

City of Armadale mayor Ruth Butterfield said Armadale was one of the state’s fastest growing local government areas, which made early community engagement crucial.

“We found that it works best if we engage early and hard and bring people along,

“I would disagree with the terminology of neutralising opposition; we tend to try and be more inclusive and get people on board so that they’re informed early about what’s going on in paddock next door.”

Ms Butterfield added it was important residents moving into the area knew it would undergo significant changes in density, at the point of their entry into the community.

“We’ve got population to house, so bringing the community on board with information about what is earmarked for development in future [is important],” she said.

“As long as those people haven’t invested with the thought that they’re living next to some farm or some beautiful paddock with swan in or wetlands, that would be unfortunate.

“We are consulting not at the point where it’s a hostile takeover of their neighborhood, they get to choose what they want to do early on.”

City of Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said Fremantle’s heritage elements played a significant role in the council’s decision-making processes.

“It’s not development or heritage in Freo, it’s development that respects heritage,” she said.

Ms Fitzhardinge added that in every decision the council made, there was often a compromise.

“Some of the community is great, but you end up with slightly compromised outcomes particularly when it comes to height, and then we go back to a developer and they say it’s not feasible,” she said.

Ms Fitzhardinge said she was interested in the policy levers to make more infill development occur.

She said recent apartment developments around East Fremantle Oval showed how people could live in apartments and not feel boxed in, with access to vast public open space and abundant amenity.

She said developments such as Sirona Urban’s King’s Square project has changed the town centre dramatically, and with other proposals in the pipeline Fremantle was set to transform further.

She said the city benefitted from COVID, with more foot traffic and more residents wanting to live and work in the same area.

Subiaco mayor David McMullen said community engagement was part and parcel of working in local government, which included responding to community opposition.

“We wouldn’t be fulfilling our brief if we weren’t looking to the community and adequately representing them,” he said.

Mr McMullen added that the strong support for Blackburne’s One Subiaco development showed that the community welcomed large scale residential development.