The wanton destruction of our natural heritage

Posted on July 1, 2012 by Western Suburbs Alliance [Updated December 1, 2012]

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 10.29.00 AMRecent research at UWA shows that mental health improves in line with the quality of public space in the neighbourhood and that urban planners and developers should consider this as a priority for achieving mental wellness. So what has the Barnett government done in the last two years? Cleared, or approved for clearing, 50 hectares of bushland in the western suburbs alone. In addition to the clearing of the Underwood Avenue Bush Forever site and Monash Avenue Bushland and trees being cut down for the Churchlands housing development, as Anna Vanderbom reports in a letter to the POST (December 1, 2012), we have seen loss of:

  • About 130 trees, including tuarts, at Perry Lakes.
  • One hundred and thirty mature trees on Winthrop Avenue and in the lost QEII therapeutic gardens.
  • Two hundred pines and hundreds of superb sugar gums in Kings Park for reasons of nicety.
  • Thousands of trees in the Cambridge area, including nearly all of its 300 majestic fig trees.
  • Almost 300 mature trees to make way for the Wembley Sports Park.
  • Remnant bush at the A.K. Reserve on Stephenson Avenue. Mt Claremont.

Despite pleading and lobbying, the Barnett Government displays a total disregard for the natural environment, sustainability and preservation of wildlife corridors. It is only concerned with the developers’ interests. Dr Ron Johnstone, WA Museum Curator of Ornithology, warns that the continued depletion of habitats could lead to the extinction of black cockatoos and that the birds feeding in the banksias in the Underwood Bushland are the last surviving flock in the western suburbs. Premier Barnett apparently knows better, saying that the threat to the “so-called endangered species” by clearing this bushland is “grossly exaggerated.” “Environment Minister” Bill Marmion is in a similar state of denial. And just when you thought it couldn’t get worse . . . it did, at Elizabeth Quay.  Continue reading

Public spaces falling into private hands

Posted on June 25, 2012 by Western Suburbs Alliance

There is growing public concern worldwide about public spaces in cities falling into private hands and favouring business over community.

There are, of course, significant benefits to the redevelopments, but many worry that outdoor spaces are being designed on a corporate model that favours profit and high levels of footfall for retailers rather than community spirit and sustainability are not a priority.

One critic says, “It is a vision of society in which you work and you shop. At times when you are not working or shopping, you may go to restaurants. You may possibly go to some officially sanctioned kind of entertainment activity which is sponsored by X but there’s no scope for people to do something of their own – to do something spontaneous.”

It is common for developers to argue that they are creating new public spaces where none existed before. Critics say that this is ‘public repossession’, reclaiming a symbol of wasted resources.

The loss of public space risks erasing local character in favour of corporate sterility, that it is energy intensive and biodiversity is poor.

In her post on Facebook, which generated dozens of comments, many critical of urban regeneration and building projects in many diverse places, Aberdonian singer Annie Lennox has launched a scathing attack the Aberdeen’s City Gardens project, planned as a privately run park and arts complex in city centre. She says this would be “Another dog’s dinner of crap concrete development, ravaging the only authentic, historical green space in the city centre [which] is not the solution to the challenge of re-energising and revitalising Aberdeen. When will they ever learn?”

Today, all new development – like the financial system itself – is a model which is in deep trouble. In many places such developments are at a standstill. Some remain no more than a hole in the ground. This will probably be the case with Elizabeth Quay. Very often local authorities themselves are keen to offload their democratic responsibilities, as did the City of Perth in regard to this development. The places we create reflect the social and economic realities of the time and provide a litmus test for the health of society and democracy. That fact that we are setting out to create undemocratic places is simply a reflection of the times we live in.

The Guardian – public spaces – undemocratic land ownership

Public spaces in Britain’s cities fall into private hands

Annie Lennox launches attack on Aberdeen’s City Garden project

Recent changes in planning laws

Posted on June 25, 2012 by Western Suburbs Alliance

Many argue that the recent changes in the planning laws have been ideologically driven and a response to development industry lobby groups without any serious concern for ensuring the best community involvement and outcomes.

The Approvals and Related Reforms (No.4) (Planning) Act 2010 has taken away planning powers from local governments and placed these in the hands of the State Government. They represent the biggest change in planning since 1928. These are the main changes. Continue reading

The Perth Waterfront Development (Elizabeth Quay)

 Posted on June 25, 2012 by Western Suburbs AllianceThis was what the Esplanade looked like before Premier Barnett and Planning Minister Day decided that this would become a “vibrant tourist area” linking the river to the city. In fact it will have nine 6 to 35 storey buildings, plus a 5 storey parking podium and comprise 1,700 apartments, 150,000 m2 of offices, 39,000 m2 of retail space and a 220 room hotel. The government is paying $440M (the 2009 estimate) to develop this site and will then sell it off to developers for $170M. An average of $19M per site.The Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority is proud to show you what this will be like in a three-minute video at http://www.mra.wa.gov.au/Projects/Elizabeth-Quay/Gallery. These images are totally misleading. Showing the tower blocks in white downplays their over-bearing impact. For most of the day, the site will be in deep shadow right down to the water’s edge. The tall buildings will create a wind tunnel. Continue reading