Height and traffic still stand in way of Scarborough towers approval

Artist impression of the revised Iconic Scarborough development. Image: Hillam Architects
Artist impression of the revised Iconic Scarborough development. Image: Hillam Architects

HEIGHT and traffic concerns still stand in the way of Chinese developer 3 Oceans being granted approval for its Iconic Scarborough project.

A planning assessment report released by the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority last week recommended approval of the contentious twin towers development, after the original application was rejected in December.

Since then, 3 Oceans has been involved in mediation with the MRA and architects on the Design Mediation Panel and lodged amended plans in March, May and on June 11.

The final revision keeps the tallest tower at 43 storeys but reduces the height of the eastern tower to 33, decreases the linking element between the towers by one storey and reduces the number of hotel rooms, residential apartments and parking bays.

The report noted the quality of design had improved and cited benefits, such as that it would stimulate investment and spending in the area, and provide an increase in resident population and job opportunities.

But it said the “same critical mass of population” would put pressure on transport options and roads, with specific concerns about vehicle access and egress and “unacceptably high levels of traffic” on local roads.

It identified a likely cost to the State because investment in transport infrastructure would be required prior to development completion.

The developer offered a $5 million contribution for transport upgrades in lieu of a pedestrian bridge over West Coast Highway but it could not be accepted because no specific solution was proposed.

Height remains a big factor as both towers are well above the 18-storey limit prescribed in the Scarborough master plan.

But the MRA has discretion to approve it regardless of the height variations if it deems the development is consistent with the planning scheme and design guidelines intent, and desired amenity of the area.

A four-star hotel, convention facilities and public parking were considered community benefits and “strict enforcement of the height control may result in a loss of some of these”.

The proposed WA coastal experience centre, market hall and rooftop sky gallery comprising a restaurant and exhibition space were not considered community benefits as the developer’s submission showed they were included for profitability.

Tourism WA said it was unlikely to ever partner with a private sector developer on such a project.

The report concluded most of the previous reasons for refusal were addressed in the revised proposal; it was now deemed to demonstrate design excellence subject to conditions, floor space had decreased and parking was reduced to fit with guidelines for an 18-storey building.

It recommended approval subject to 31 conditions, including more design amendments, the creation of an integrated transport strategy to the City and Main Roads’ satisfaction and a new carpark plan.

But an alternative option was provided for refusal, saying this could be justified because the “fundamental issues” remained relating to the height, bulk and scale and whether it was consistent with the desired amenity of the area.

The Scarborough Land Redevelopment Committee will consider whether to support the plans at meetings this weekJune 20, with the final decision expected to be made by the MRA board by the end of the month.

BENEFITS OF THE PROPOSAL
The report praises the application for demonstrating “design excellence” and it aimed to achieve a 5 Star Green Building Council of Australia Rating.

It said the development would stimulate investment and spending in the area, and provide employment opportunities.

Public submissions that supported the project cited reasons including that it would provide cultural and dining/entertainment facilities, increase residential options, revitalise an underutilised site, building upon the Scarborough foreshore redevelopment and support tourism development.

THE MAIN ISSUES
HEIGHT:
At nearly 160m, the tallest tower is 95m above the maximum permitted height of 18 storeys.

This would make it and two and a half times as tall as neighbouring Rendezvous Hotel and Perth’s fifth tallest building, the tallest outside the CBD.

The shorter tower would be nearly twice as tall as the existing hotel.

TRAFFIC:
The report anticipated more than 4000 vehicles per day would travel along 6km of local streets, which vehicles exiting must follow before accessing regional roads.

The City of Stirling suggested Manning Street east of Filburn Street would need to be closed.

It found several deficiencies with the applicant’s traffic impact assessment and the Department of Transport described the car park as “not safe or acceptable”.

THE COMMUNITY SAYS
The MRA received 1445 submissions during the 21-day public consultation period, with 55 per cent in support, 44 per cent against and one per centre neutral.

The most common comment for or against was regarding the non-compliant height and scale of the development.

Included in the number of supportive submissions was a 347-signature petition from the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union and 890 responses from a survey commissioned by PropertyESP on behalf of 3 Oceans.

But 66 per cent of respondents in Scarborough and 64 per cent from adjacent suburbs objected to the plan.

Premier Mark McGowan and Stirling Mayor Mark Irwin have both said they would like to see the project proceed.