Tonight’s meeting took place back in the War Memorial Hall with social distancing in place – making it easier for the public and media to attend, which they were not being offered the chance to do online. Whilst it is debatable whether residents would prefer to have to attend in person in current times (rather than online from the preferred – and Government recommended – safety of home isolation), it is at least more transparent than the previous plan of having ‘closed’ meetings online.
The agenda was relatively short – a Planning Scheme Amendment was passed to allow John Curtin House in Jarrad St to operate an an AirBnB (quests can imagine themselves as a wartime Australian PM!), changes to several Council policies in light of recent Local Government Act changes, and more in the ‘local lane’ issue.
However, there were two key issues I’d like to report on. (I have already provided a video update on these to East Ward residents, so will summarise here).
The first is Council’s veto of the 2020 Sculpture by the Sea purchase. I was concerned that other Councillors had not seen the detailed rationale that went with the recommendation to purchase, including that artists exhibiting in 2020 had “done the work”, with money specifically set aside just weeks prior, and pulling money out after the event with Covid-19 looming seems to seriously undervalue (or perhaps misunderstand?) the key role artists play in a successful Sculpture by the Sea, which brings so much to Cottesloe. I was not able to have Council simply ‘note’ that Rationale, even after the veto has been made. I understand Councillors being defensive about the veto. The full rationale is available on the Art Committee’s page. A very modest purchase seemed to have been vetoed out of fear, or lack of understanding.
Second was the ongoing “North Cott Primary Kiss & Drop”, despite the recent community consultation showing a majority of local residents don’t support the project.
Tonight’s Council Resolution takes the next step of commissioning the ‘detailed design’, simultaneously with the conduct of a safety audit. I and others had preferred concluding the safety audit first, to properly feed into the design stage, but time seems to be of the essence. However, the larger issue I saw was “traffic congestion” was not being factored in at all to the next stage. This is despite the entire “Kiss & Drop” relocation being in Cottesloe’s Strategic and Community Plans under a traffic priority (not a school amenity or even safety priority). So, whilst Main Roads WA will be conducting the safety audit, they will not be looking at whether the new carpark will actually solve the terrible traffic congestion, which causes huge delays not only for East Ward residents south of Eric St, who get “locked in” every morning (and at other busy times not linked to ‘peak hour’), but also many others driving through Cottesloe. To me this is a huge missed opportunity to ‘solve the primary problem’ of traffic congestion that our Town Strategy requires, even if the planned upgrade to Eric St Bridge is 2 to 4 years away. It would only take up to six months total for Main Roads to assess traffic congestion, with the detailed design/safety audit taking up to 4 months anyway. To my mind this does raise the question about why the project is proceeding so quickly and in this way – is it solving the main issue (traffic congestion) or is the safety audit simply to ‘overcome’ another key community objections to the plan? I’m not sure. I am not opposed to a new carpark that delivery on safety, or improved amenity for the School (subject to the question of who pays for it!), but I am worried about the disregard given to the primary concern – traffic congestion on Eric St and Railway St, which can be solved as part of the Eric St Bridge planning.
Needless to say, I wasn’t able to persuade the Committee to include traffic analysis in Main Roads review (and, in fact, my amendment was struck from the minutes…), so the Council Resolution went through unchanged. However, one upside is that the consultant doing the detailed design is required to undertake a “traffic analysis”. I haven’t been able to determine what this in means, nor who the consultant is – despite this being something East Ward constituents ask me about, and which relates clearly to an ongoing issue before Councillors. My request for this simple, relevant detail was swiftly refused. It does worry me how this project is proceeding.
However, I was able to have the detailed Committee Report included in the Council papers – it was an unusual occurrence that it had been excluded. I am not sure why.
A final note, the State’s Long Term Cycle Network was supported tonight, with just an amendment to one of the secondary routes. More details on the State’s plan here.
Cr Michael Tucak (East Ward)