Bigger than Ben-Hur – East Freo Rallies Against Mega Woodside Aged Care Development

Readers of the Shipping News are familiar with the escalating urban planning controversy over the proposal of big private aged home care provider and developer, Hall & Prior, to construct and operate a big aged care facility on the site of the heritage Woodside mansion and maternity hospital on Dalgety and Fortescue Streets, East Fremantle.

Developer’s image, from Dalgety Street frontage

If you’d like to remind yourself about what’s at stake, look here.

And if you want to see for yourself just how the development would loom on Dalgety and Fortescue Streets if approved, as calculated by the objector residents, look at this image.

The development application is still going through the approval hoops. Not long ago, Hall & Prior were heading to a JDAP hearing – one conducted by a Joint Development Assessment Panel involving 3 State appointed members and 2 local councillors. But after JDAPs recently lost their deserved reputation as developer-friendly planning approval authorities, Hall & Prior hit the panic button and took their proposal directly to the WA Planning Commission under the even more developer-friendly Part 17 of the Planning & Development Act 2005. Under that process all pesky planning and heritage laws can effectively be sidelined by the WAPC. What seems to matter most in Part 17 hearings, is not ‘orderly and proper planning’ that regard a community’s best interests, but economic interests – how much the developer is spending on a project and how many jobs it is asserted it will create.

Local governments don’t have a decision-making role under Part 17, but they do get to put their view about a proposal before the WAPC. And last night East Fremantle Council resolved 6-1 (the stand out being the Mayor Jim O’Neill) to not support the current Hall & Prior proposal demanding an investigation into the sustainability of such a big aged care proposal with so many parts to it. The Town’s planner also expressed concern in a report to Council about the size and uses proposed by the facility, particularly the fourth storey, and a separate wellness centre and cafe.

Today, the History Council of Western Australia issued a media release under the heading ‘Western Australia’s heritage processes gamble with the future of our past’, drawing attention to the Woodside proposal and stating that it ‘is further evidence of the heritage processes in Western Australia that risk the future of our past.’ The Council added: ‘The state’s complex processes favour development on the grounds of post-Covid economic recovery, and weaken opportunities for community and other stakeholders to preserve valuable material and cultural heritage.’

And this morning, top TVW Channel 7 political reporter Geof (with one f) Parry, who not long ago was reporting from the battlefields of Ukraine, requested a meeting with the East Freo citizen warriors who have been leading community objections against the oversized development proposal. They met in front of the Woodside site on Dalgety Street to discuss the issues. If you tune in tonight on Channel 7 Nightly News at 5-6 pm, immediately before Sam Kerr and the Matildas take on England in the FIFA World Cup semi final, you’ll see and hear more. Don’t miss either! Here’s some of the action from this morning.

The future of the Woodside proposal is plainly up for serious contention. What a local government and community strongly see as required to meet the dictate of ‘orderly and proper planning’ – for so long the bedrock of our planning and development system – and what a large developer/business operator sees as conforming to its business-as-usual way of doing things, are in serious conflict. Indeed, the Battle of Woodside now looks like becoming bigger than Ben Hur, to coin an expression.

We at the Shipping News have said before, and we say again, Blind Freddy can see that what Hall & Prior have proposed for the Woodside site is just too big. Indeed, it’s MEGA. Why Hall & Prior persist in pursuing such a development proposal in such a residential urban setting in East Fremantle must make folk, who otherwise admire the company’s aged care business success, wonder about the company’s decision-making processes.

Watch this space.

* By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


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