Crawley: Perth Commissioners caught between ‘rock and a hard place’ with UWA’s Forrest Hall

Artist’s impression of the view down on Forrest Hall stage one and two. Picture: Kerry Hill Architects
Artist’s impression of the view down on Forrest Hall stage one and two. Picture: Kerry Hill Architects

CITY of Perth commissioners are caught between “a rock and a hard place” with Forrest Hall 2 plans.

The commissioners voted last week to advise the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) that Council recommends approval for UWA’s mixed-use development in Crawley, which will contain nine scholar rooms, 65 short-stay accommodation rooms and 38 car bays.

A number of locals spoke against the project at the council meeting.

City of Perth Western Residents Association Inc president Anna Vanderbom said residents were “appalled at UWA’s apparent lack of consultation”.

“Our residents value Matilda Bay, and we’ve had an overwhelming response that they’re not happy,” she said.

Chair commissioner Eric Lumsden said the City was a referral body, not a decision maker for the project.

“The City is here between a rock and a hard place,” he said.

Mr Lumsden suggested amending the motion to advise the WAPC to suggest more consultation between UWA and residents, but told residents in the gallery it would not be binding.

“The council nor the commission can force UWA to have that consultation,” he said.

Commissioner Andrew Hammond said he could understand the residents’ frustrations, and thought the commissioners could also pursue better communication between the community and UWA’s senior stakeholders.

“Our role as an advocate is to pass on to decision makers the very valid concerns of residents,” he said.

A UWA spokesman told Guardian Express that on current planning, construction is set to begin in the second half of 2019 with a completion date of 2021.

“Access to the foreshore for neighbours will be maintained during construction, and the design of the project will result in improved public access to the Swan River,” he said.

The spokesman said UWA would communicate with the community as plans progressed and that the university was currently consulting with stakeholders in adjoining properties.