MAYORS and councillors from across the state were locked in a fierce debate about demolishing homes at Wednesday’s WA Local Government Association (WALGA) AGM.
Subiaco mayor Penny Taylor moved a motion urging WALGA to advocate on behalf of councils.
“Many local governments have experienced negative impacts since the State Government regulations changed in 2015, allowing single houses to be demolished without the need for approval,” she said.
“The idea is to avoid historic and character houses being demolished without a plan for redevelopment and to ensure lots do not sit vacant on character streetscapes for an extended period of time.”
The motion was seconded by Subiaco councillor Julie Matheson.
“I believe there are a number of single houses in WA which the community would like to keep, but they don’t know that there is this piece of regulation,” she said.
Belmont mayor Phil Marks said people had the right to demolish.
“I appreciate what Subiaco has to say, however we have a lot of old houses that definitely need demolishing, I wouldn’t like to think that we put this sort of restriction on it,” he said.
East Fremantle councillor Cliff Collinson said councillors had a responsibility to look after streetscapes and the 2015 changes were “a drastic step”.
“So many people come into our town saying the reason they come is they love the streetscapes, they love the old houses – these are slowly being eroded,” he said.
Albany mayor Dennis Wellington called the motion “an absolute load of rubbish”.“When you own your own property, you have the right to do whatever you like with it,” he said.
Fremantle councillor Doug Thompson spoke in support of the motion.
“If you want to see what happens when you don’t try and retain the streetscape, look at some of the buildings the City has got over the years,” he said.
Claremont councillor Paul Kelly said he sympathised with the motion’s intent but the wording went beyond heritage houses.
“You run the risk of people not applying for demolition for houses that probably should be demolished,” he said.
“That in my view is much more of a blight on the streetscape and the community than having a vacant block.”
Bayswater councillor Chris Cornish said the motion had leeway for councils to make choices.
“This simply allows individual local governments – Fremantle might be different from Belmont – as a collective to embrace the fact that each locality is different,” he said.
Mayor Taylor said the plan would be opt-in and wanted to reassure delegates that it was “not looking to infringe owners’ rights” or keep derelict buildings lingering.
“All of us know of examples where a vacant site has sat there for years and years and become an eyesore,” she said.
The motion was lost 95-127.