High Wycombe and Maida Vale property owners fight land grab

Lawyers Tim Houweling and Helene Chryssidis with concerned residents on the steps of Parliament House.  Picture: David Baylis               www.communitypix.com.au   d443774
Lawyers Tim Houweling and Helene Chryssidis with concerned residents on the steps of Parliament House. Picture: David Baylis               www.communitypix.com.au d443774

LANDOWNERS in High Wycombe and Maida Vale are fighting to keep their land after a special meeting was held at the Kalamunda Shire about the Forrestfield North District Structure Plan.

A lawyer representing the landowners said at last Monday’s development and infrastructure meeting that it was “hard not to see it as a land grab by the Public Transport Authority”.

“This is a misuse of the powers of government to take land for public purposes,” Cornerstone Legal lawyer Tim Houweling said.

“The use of draconian powers to forcibly take land under a thinly veiled veneer of its being used for public purposes is in our view entirely improper.”

The PTA has bought three properties already and claims a carpark would be built on the site that would accommodate 2500 cars.

The area of land had previously been identified by the Shire’s planning department as high-density development.

The PTA has mentioned compulsory acquisition would be an option if landowners did not voluntarily sell their land to the authority.

High Wycombe landowner David Bacchion said he was disappointed and it appeared to him and other residents the Government was wrongly trying to take their land.

“It’s been a nursery since 1960 and my father bought that land,” Mr Bacchion said at the meeting.

“Don’t act like someone trying to steal it from us, talk to us.

“We have contributed to the community over the years, we’ve paid our rates and contributed to the infrastructure.”

In an email obtained through Freedom of Information, the PTA despaired that the Shire had publicly released its structure plan identifying land it was trying to acquire.

“…Lands and our negotiators will find it extremely difficult to engage landowners in an open and honest manner without being accused of being part of a wider government land grab,” the email said.

“The PTA does not wish to build a multi-storey carpark but wants to acquire a huge area of land around the station for a carpark that will make it one of the biggest carparking areas in the metropolitan region near a train station,” Mr Houweling told the council.

“There is no other carpark bigger in the whole of WA.”

Mr Houweling queried the disparity in the PTA’s narrative and the council’s zoning, which was at odds with a carpark.

Documents released by the PTA show meetings have been held about the Forrestfield Airport Link and station since January this year.

More than 230 separate landholdings were identified in the initial reports for the council.

Early this year Kalamunda Shire chief executive Rhonda Hardy told councillors that (WA developer) “Nigel (Satterley) can certainly see a role for large developers to play, being involved in this project to support the community to realise the potential of the development”.

But by mid-year that approach appeared to have changed.

In a letter dated May 12, Mr Satterley wrote to Kalamunda Shire stating that: “the fragmented ownership is a significant constraint to the future development of the area”.

Since that letter, the Government through the Department of Planning and the Shire of Kalamunda appears to be working to rezone and adopt the area plan through StateGovernment acquisition.

The council committee, which was expected to recommend approval of the Forrestfield Draft Strategy on Monday, voted to delay its decision until more information could be sourced.

“I am not in favour of anybody here not being paid what their land is due,” Cr Margaret Thomas said after listening to landowners and their lawyers.

Planning Minister John Day said the structure plan was not at odds with the Transport Minister’s intention for the area.

“The Department of Planning is working with the Shire of Kalamunda alongside the Public Transport Authority to progress the land-use planning around the proposed new stations along the Forrestfield-Airport Link (Airport West and Forrestfield),” Mr Day said.

“I understand the Shire’s draft Forrestfield North District Structure Plan was recently released for public comment and all of the relevant planning matters will be considered through this process.

“The Forrestfield-Airport Link is a significant public transport project and an opportunity to create a transport-orientated development that will revitalise the area and benefit many, including the residents of Forrestfield and the foothills.”