Perth has long suffered from a fear of heights — especially when it comes to coastal developments.
As decision day looms for a giant twin tower development in Scarborough that is set to transform the city’s coastline, some residents are outraged.
At 43 storeys, the development would dwarf the current height limit in Scarborough of 18 storeys.
The Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority is due to decide by the end of the year whether to allow the construction of the project, which would include a convention centre, hotel, apartments, shops and eateries on the corner of West Coast Highway and Scarborough Beach Road.
The proposed skyscraper would be almost twice the height of the nearby Rendezvous Hotel, formerly known as Observation City, and would be visible from anywhere along Perth’s coastline.
Local resident Anthony James warned it would be an assault on the city’s most prized asset.
“The coastline we have here is extraordinary, so you don’t want to build it out,” he said.
“You’ll destroy the goose that laid the golden egg … you’ve got to really leverage off what the tourists come here for, what the residents love about the place — the amazing coastline.”
The tower development is set to include a hotel, apartments, shops and restaurants. (Supplied: Hillam Architects)
‘Are we destroying our assets?’
Mr James believes if the tower is approved it will undoubtedly pave the way for Gold Coast-style development.
“You’re deciding that Scarborough should become — and Perth for that matter — fundamentally different to what it’s been before and what it is now,” he said.
“All the research suggests tourists come here for the magic of the natural settings, so are we leveraging off our assets or are we destroying our assets?”
But the owner of Scarborough’s Sandbar restaurant, Ben Randall, said the tower would be a major tourist drawcard which would revive the suburb.
“It will dwarf the Rendezvous (Hotel), however it needs to be of that scale to really attract that international tourist market,” Mr Randall said.
“Scarborough is becoming such a popular destination, we need those high-rise buildings to get that world-class feel.”
Businesses has been tough in the area for some time due to ongoing foreshore redevelopment, but Mr Randall is optimistic the future is looking bright for Scarborough.
“Scarborough has turned a corner from where it was 10 or 15 years ago … what’s happening here is so encouraging and positive for everyone … we are all gearing up for what’s to come.”
Lessons learnt from Hillarys fight
It’s an all too familiar story — few coastal developments in Perth have gone ahead without a fight.
In the 1980s the battleground was Hillarys Boat Harbour.
Its construction drew fierce, and at times violent, opposition with protesters laying in front of bulldozers to demand the government stop work on the project.
Marion Fulker says Hillarys Boat Harbour has become a top tourism drawcard. (ABC News: Irena Ceranic)
Opponents feared the harbour would destroy the beach and its environment, and drastically change the undeveloped, natural character of the Perth coastline.
But research by the Committee for Perth has found that the environmental impact has been minimal, and that the economic benefits of the harbour outweigh any negative effects it has had over time.
CEO Marion Fulker said the harbour had become one of Perth’s top tourism hotspots, drawing in millions of visitors a year.
“One of the things that was proposed was that it would improve local amenity and that certainly happened; that it would increase the ability for local jobs, and that’s also happened,” she said.
“It’s actually created the second-most visited destination in the Perth region, second to Kings Park.
“So just a tiny little intervention on the coast has really created a great local and regional facility.”
Ms Fulker said the Hillarys battle typified the contradictory views held by many Perth residents, who loved to have access to beachside amenities but feared any change to their treasured coastline.