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The latest version is a 320-apartment, $150 million development with an end value of $365 million, incorporating upgrades for the heritage-listed former police station and post office on the site, two apartment towers of 39 and 22 storeys and 25 ground-floor commercial tenancies.

An artist's impression of the approved development.

An artist’s impression of the approved development.

The local planning assessment panel refused it saying it lacked the “memorability and distinctiveness needed to uphold the landmark status of the site,” was aesthetically “incoherent”, conventional and bulky.

But Planning Minister Rita Saffioti employed rarely used legislative powers under the Planning and Development Act 2005 to “call in” the matter and approve it.

She said on Tuesday the issues had now been addressed.

“We haven’t accepted the development that was put forward in its entirety,” she said.

“Some key issues in respect to the podium, the ground floor area that interacts with the street and the community, we have made some significant improvements to that, in particular to the green wall and how that space interacts with the street.”

She said the building would be a landmark in an area intended for decades to be an extension of Perth, and said the tower developments would change South Perth’s interaction with the city.

“We want an active, vibrant South Perth, one that supports small business and creates a variety of places for people to live,” she said.

“I think the train station will come, I have had discussions with the Member for South Perth who is very keen to proceed with a train station so that will be something that is seriously looked at.

“It [already] has excellent bus services and of course the ferry as well.”

She said she made her decision after considering advice and evidence from the panel, the council and the developer.

Artist's impression of the development at ground level, including upgrades to the old post office.

Artist’s impression of the development at ground level, including upgrades to the old post office. Credit:Finbar

“The role of the Minister is finally to make a decision,” she said.

“I didn’t believe further years of uncertainty would be good for the community or the economy.”

West Australian developer Finbar has signalled it will proceed immediately with the project, its largest since it completed its first apartment project in South Perth 25 years ago.

A statement said the approval reinforced the findings of South Perth council’s Design Review Panel which had found the design to be an exemplary precinct entry statement.

“We will now move to embrace the Minister’s conditions and recommendations, and move promptly to the marketing stage of the project where we already have a register of 4700 enquiries,” said managing director Darren Pateman.

“This news has come at a good time for our business and for the WA economy.

“We have recently sold out of South Perth stock and are very keen to bring this flagship project to a market which is showing very positive signs of both sales rate and price recovery.”

While a flagship tenant has not been announced to replace the supermarket dropped from the original design, Finbar promised a “ground-floor food, beverage and fresh provisions precinct”.

The promised green wall will exceed 700 square metres and more than 200 trees will be planted, including a planned tree-lined boulevard stretching to the Perth Zoo entry.

Artist's impression of planned landscaping at the Labouchere and Mill Point intersection.

Artist’s impression of planned landscaping at the Labouchere and Mill Point intersection.Credit:Finbar

The apartments will include four penthouses, a 25-metre pool, two gyms, massage rooms and saunas, two theatrettes and a rooftop viewing deck on the 37th floor.

The project will provide an estimated 500 construction jobs.

Save the South Perth Peninsula, one of the major community groups opposing the project, said the decision was appalling.

Spokeswoman Vicki Redden said the Minister’s intervention demonstrated a lack of confidence in the planning assessment panels that the state government itself had put in place and appointed the experts on.

“What she has done is teach people that if you have enough money and enough connections in the right places you can get away with anything,” she said.

“The Minister has recently approved a set of guidelines for apartments – this would not comply.
She has set up a State Design Review panel and put the Office of the Government Architect in charge – yet she has overidden their decision.

“She has cut the legs out from underneath joint Development Assessment Panels.”

Ms Redden said an opportunity to put a community piazza between the two historic buildings had now been lost.

Artist's impression of the approved development looking up from the Labouchere/Mill Point intersection.

Artist’s impression of the approved development looking up from the Labouchere/Mill Point intersection. Credit:Finbar

“The government tells us infill is important, getting people to downsize and free up their big house further out in South Perth or Kensignton,” she said.

“Then why approve apartments designed and marketed to overseas buyers?

“The only thing ‘iconic’ about this site is the gross overdevelopment.It does not provide the benefits the community were promised in the original tender documents.

“If the community were told years ago that all that would be built was two towers of three-hundred-plus apartments that disrespect the heritage aspect – no supermarket, no entertainment, no significant long-term employment, just a few more coffee shops – then we would never have agreed.”

Finbar's Civic Heart will be its largest ever project.

Finbar’s Civic Heart will be its largest ever project. Credit:Finbar

Emma Young covers breaking news with a focus on science and environment, health and social justice for WAtoday.

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