The uphill battle

An end could be in sight to a long-running row over plans for a controversial residential subdivision in the Perth Hills.

Next month, the Shire of Mundaring council will hold a special meeting to vote on its formal recommendation to the West Australian Planning Commission.

It may advise rejecting or accepting the Satterley development group’s proposed North Stoneville plan.

It comes amid calls from Save Perth Hills, a community advocacy group, for the WA Planning Commission to refuse the controversial housing estate plan.

The Save Perth Hills group objects to the North Stoneville plan and has been fighting urban sprawl since the 90’s.
Video: Olivia Ford.

The North Stoneville plan proposes creating a new townsite covering over 520 hectares of land in Stoneville.

This council decision also coincides with the period for community submissions into the plan, with locals raising concerns about the environmental wellbeing of the area and the estate being at risk of bushfires.

The bushland area is home to 13 Aboriginal archaeological sites and endangered species such as chuditch and black cockatoos.

According to the Mundaring shire, the area is rated as an extreme bushfire zone.

Save Perth Hills deputy chair Debra Bishop is hopeful about the council’s decision. Photo: Olivia Ford.

Save Perth Hills deputy chair Debra Bishop says a recommendation from the council to reject the North Stoneville plan would be significant, not only because it will hold weight in the WA Planning Commission’s decision-making, but because this is the first time the council is considering refusal.

“This time around, shire officers have found it goes against several state planning policies,” she says.

Bishop says she is very confident the council will vote to oppose the North Stoneville plan considering the community’s attitude towards the proposed developments.

The plan was originally refused by the WA Planning Commission in 2020.  Satterley’s new proposal, announced at the end of 2022, has revised the plan to be more bushfire-safe and to have less of an impact on the environment.

Some of the changes include reducing the number of potential residents by 29 per cent and cutting the number of houses from 1,410 to 1,001.

Some residents believe this is still not enough and argue the project should not go through at all.

Bishop says the next couple of months are going to be crucial for the Perth Hills community.

“This is essentially the community’s last chance to stop the urbanisation of Stoneville.”

She says if this plan is approved by the WA Planning Commission, it will set a precedent for other developers to continue with urban sprawl.

“If this plan is approved, it will open the floodgates to developers marching up the hill, and urban sprawl will burst eastward.”

Stoneville and Parkerville Progress Association president and Stoneville resident Jo Sheil says the prospect of future housing developments in Stoneville has been a big part of her day-to-day life.

“Since 2018, when we found out just before Christmas (about the Satterley property group re-commencing its plan), it’s had a profound impact. We think about it all the time.”

“Pretty much every day we’ve been fighting this.”

Jo Sheil

Sheil and her family were affected by the 2008 Parkerville-Stoneville bushfire when flames ripped through their property and destroyed everything except their home.

The land to be developed is owned by the Anglican Diocese. Photo: Olivia Ford.

She says her biggest fears are for the people living in potential estates in the case of future bushfires. While people currently living in the area have their own source of water and preparations for fires, people living in the potential housing estates won’t have the same protections.

“Those people living in the estates won’t have power and water and most certainly won’t have water tanks.

“That’s the biggest reason for fighting this. It’s not about “not in my backyard”, it’s about those people and that duty of care to those people.”

When asked if the community has felt the fatigue of this fight, Debra Bishop said that is not the case.

“Are we tired? We are not tired.”

Debra Bishop

“This group has been going for 32 years. It’s been having the commitment and support of the community all that time.

“Our campaign is bolstered. The energy is enthused by so many thousands of other people that keep our core group going.”

The deadline for community submissions is May 8, and the Planning Commission will make its decision on whether the project should go ahead in June.

Satterley said the company could not provide any comment during this time.