Striving for a perfect balance at Cirque

Lisa Holland-McNair
The West Australian
Wednesday, 18 September 2019 7:24AM

More than a decade ago, a vision for the Canning Bridge area started a process that has since made the City of Melville the proverbial meat in the sandwich.

“The Canning Bridge precinct will evolve to become a unique, vibrant, creative community centred on an integrated transport node of the Canning Bridge rail station,” the Canning Bridge Activity Centre Plan boldly stated.

From that point, the City of Melville has been juggling the State Government’s expectations about higher density with community opposition to increased building heights, while trying to maximise local benefit for its residents.

Testament to the continuing balancing act, the city is again facing opposition around its “development bonus provisions”, which are based on design and community considerations outlined in the Canning Bridge Activity Centre Plan.

The challenges in juggling competing interests is shown in the activity centre’s report, which highlights the precinct’s “location, integrated mix of office, retail, residential, recreational and cultural uses that create areas of excitement, the promotion of its local heritage and as a pedestrian friendly enclave that integrates with the regional transport networks while enhancing the natural attractions of the Swan and Canning rivers”.

As part of this vision, design guidelines were developed — including controversial “bonus provisions” within the M15 and M10 zones — under which developers negotiate more height for their apartment complexes if they “meet or exceed desired outcomes and propose exemplary design and the development provides significant benefit to the community”.

A list of requirements are outlined in the plan including meeting and exceeding a 6 Green Star design rating, traffic allowances, providing public facilities such as rooftop cinemas, bike storage and pedestrian links.

Three apartment complexes in the Canning Bridge area, which have negotiated the extra height and are completed or being built, include Norup + Wilson’s The Precinct, Finbar’s Sabina and Stirling Capital’s Cirque.

As a result of the community benefit provisions, Finbar will build a 1490sqm piazza for the public, providing a pedestrian link between Canning Highway and Kintail Road where there was previously a boat yard and carpark.

On the other side of the highway in Mt Pleasant, Stirling Capital has given the City of Melville a large community space on its ground floor.

“The City of Melville is currently calling for expressions of interest from seasoned workshop co-ordinators, start-up entrepreneurs and community groups to trial our newest community facility, Cirque Community Space,” a city spokeswoman said.

“We are looking for creative and community-minded operators to offer either recurring activities or once-off events to the community from now until early 2020,” she said.

“Activities that could work in the space include arts and crafts, fitness classes, sustainable living workshops, exhibitions, club meet-ups, youth activities and much more.”

Stirling Capital marketing and sales director Daniel-Paul Filippi said the community benefit element of approval for the Cirque building had led to a wide range of facilities built for public use.

“In addition to the community space, the public can access a business centre, cafe-restaurant space and we will be opening up a link between Ogilvie and Kishorn roads to ease congestion and allow better access to the river foreshore,” Mr Filippi said.

“We have obviously negotiated our height based on the existing precinct plan but because we are design-driven not yield-driven we didn’t go as high as we could have,” he said.

“That said, it’s essential for developers who are investing millions of dollars into these projects before they even get a development approval to know what the ground rules are up front and not have these changes.

“Medium-rise is so important in these areas which have high amenity, are close to Perth and easy access to public transport, because they allow people to own homes in suburbs which would otherwise be out of their reach.”

The council is reviewing the Canning Bridge Activity Centre Plan, which was endorsed by the WA Planning Commission in mid-2016.

It was not due for review until 2025.

It’s essential for developers who are investing millions of dollars into these projects before they even get a development approval to know what the ground rules are up front and not have these changes. – Daniel-Paul Filippi

However, the council voted at its August meetings to review the plan in its entirety and then, after further advice and debate, to limit the review initially to building height and bonus provisions currently included in the plan.

The decision came about after a draft Local Planning Policy — prepared to provide additional clarity in relation to the application of the building height provisions — received 194 submissions, with many seeking a reduction to the threshold heights.

This, however, proved to be problematic as, according to the officer’s report to the council, “reduction in the threshold heights and-or introduction of more stringent requirements to exceed threshold heights would be likely to introduce inconsistency with the) Canning Bridge Activity Centre Plan) and is therefore beyond the capability of the LPP”.