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The excluded Foothills Investigation Area pictured in red against included areas Maida Vale South and Wattle Grove South in orange.

Foothills development excluded, but door left unlocked

By Melissa Sheil

KALAMUNDA foothills residents are calling a decision to remove a portion of foothills land from future development investigation an “injustice”.

At Tuesday’s council meeting Maida Vale resident James McKie made a deputation on behalf of 60 residents against excluding the area from  potential subdivision.

The motion divided council, as the City had previously advocated to the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) for its inclusion.

In discussing its Local Housing Strategy 2021, a document that outlines areas promoted for future housing growth, several councillors expressed confusion over why the area bordered by Mundy Regional Park and Hawtin Road, previously known as the Foothills Investigation Area, had been removed, considering it had been earmarked for investigation since 2013.

Cr Lesley Boyd questioned the catalyst for this change.

“I’m just confused what has physically changed since 2013 that means that this area can no longer be considered,” she said.

“As far as I can tell, the houses, infrastructure, roads and Mundy Park are still the same.

“What’s different, because honestly, I’m baffled.”

Staff replied that it was not infrastructure, but policy, specifically those regarding environmental protection and bushfire mitigation that had evolved since 2013.

Furthermore, the officers report noted the Department of Land and Planning (DPLH) had not included it in its overarching North-East Sub-regional Planning Framework and the City’s previous attempts to change this through deputations and meetings were rejected.

“The area was excluded from investigation for reasons including the availability of utilities and servicing, protection of environmental attributes and bushfire risk,” DPLH wrote in its submission to the City.

“[Low-density housing] would also represent a significant departure from the Foothills Structure Plan 1992 which generally sought to protect the rural landscape in the area.”

An alternate motion to include the area was foreshadowed but never reached voting.

“We’ve been back to the WAPC several times in regards to including this area and they are adamant it is not to be included so it makes no sense that the City go against the State,” Mayor Margaret Thomas said.

An amendment, proposed by Cr Brooke O’Donnell, was added to say that should the WAPC signal they would reconsider the area, the City would assist in putting forward applications for subdivisions – a move development services officer Peter Varelis said was akin to “leaving the door ajar”.

Cr Dylan O’Connor argued the City should commit to a stance.

“Terms about leaving the door unlocked have been used a lot tonight and if we actually wanted to do that, we would insert this area back into our housing strategy and leave it up to the WAPC to determine if they agree with us or not,” he said.

“There has been no significant outcry to the position we took back then, people saying leave us as we are, we don’t want development, but I have heard the contrary.

“We know our community best and we know what they want.

“I suggest that council actually take a position and not just leave the door ajar, standing firm in the opinion we advocated so strongly for.”

Mr McKie said the option should remain for homeowners to develop  their own properties.

“Some wish to cut up their lots to make it easier to maintain, some wish to apportion some of their lot for family to live on or for financial return,” he said.

“These are aspirations we can’t achieve if the option is removed altogether.

“Being there for 30 years, you’ve developed community connections and having to leave because you can’t maintain your large property is a bit of an injustice.”

The decision to adopt the Local Housing Strategy 2021 without the Foothills Investigation Area was carried seven to five.

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