City of Melville considering new definition of ‘public space’ to include footpaths, drainage areas, streets

Point Walter Golf Course.
Point Walter Golf Course.

A DRAFT City of Melville policy seeks to introduce a new definition of ‘public space’ that would classify footpaths, publically accessible drainage areas and “streets that are or could be made pedestrian-friendly” the same as parks and river foreshores.

The purchase of new land for parks is viewed as prohibitively expensive under the proposed Improving Public Spaces Policy, with improvements to existing public spaces preferred.

But City of Melville chief executive Shayne Silcox stressed the policy did not suggest selling traditional parks and reserves.

“It is critical that we ensure funding available for public spaces is utilised effectively and efficiently to deliver best value for the community,” he said.

“The purpose of the policy is to provide a clear strategic direction and to inform future decision-making on the best ways to improve our public spaces across the City.

“There are a range of opportunities to enhance our existing spaces by adding new amenities, providing shade and greenery, improving accessibility and connections, providing more things to do and making spaces more environmentally sustainable.”

Examples suggested in the officers’ report include making streets more pleasant and pedestrian-friendly, upgrading drainage areas or sumps to allow public spaces and negotiating with developers to provide publicly accessible decks or rooftop gardens in new developments.

“Local streets and footpaths are reported as the most frequently used facilities among Western Australian adults for physical activity but were not considered in previous public open space strategies,” reads part of the City officers’ report.

The report also states that while $800,000 might buy 800sq m in some parts of the City, the same amount could also fund 2.1km of new or upgraded footpaths, 2000 new trees or 26 basketball half-courts.

Melville councillors will vote on the draft policy on February 21. City officers recommended it not be advertised for public comment because it “builds upon previous community feedback on public space” received through a pair of surveys conducted in 2015 and 2016.

The policy seeks to replace the current Public Open Space Strategy 2004, which is deemed out of date and out of line with the WA Planning Commission’s draft Liveable Neighbourhoods document.