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Retail growth hangs in the balance



THE tussle over the future of the Whitford City Shopping Centre is a three-way contest between owners Westfield and the State and Local Governments.

All three parties have legitimate and, at times, conflicting interests.

The State Government, through its activity centre’s policy, wants to ensure shopping centres are more than stale retail areas and the Whitford City plan is seen as a test case of the policy.

They want vibrant, mixed-use precincts, with high-density housing, well serviced by public transport.

These aims are laudable.

Local Governments want to protect the amenity of residents living near centres.

They have legitimate concerns that changes of the scale required to comply with the activity centres’ policy could radically alter the suburbs around shopping centres.

Caught in the middle of the competing interests are the shopping centre owners – in this case Westfield. Its main interest is expanding commercial offerings to maximise returns to shareholders.

In normal circumstances, it would have little interest in developing structure plans or prescribing housing densities around shopping centres, but this is a role that is being forced upon the business.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Whitford City, as this planning tussle is likely to be repeated across Perth when other shopping centres want to expand.

It is likely an agreement can and will be found to balance the competing interests, although it is unlikely to be reached quickly.

Watch this space.

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