Albany Middleton Beach – regional infill development

Middleton Beach represents one of the most extensive and intensive community engagement projects in regional WA. It has now become a DevelopmentWA case study into how community engagement - with a view to community development - is vital to the planning process – and ultimately crucial to attracting private investment.

Project overview

In late 2014, after a decade of community concern surrounding a parcel of privately owned land at Albany's Middleton Beach, the State Government intervened by tasking DevelopmentWA to purchase the 13,171sqm site and pave the way for private developers to create a vibrant mixed-use precinct and visitor destination with an active beachfront.

The site offered potential for a mix of uses including a hotel, retail and commercial tenancies, as well as permanent residential accommodation.

Challenges and opportunities

Building heights sympathetic to the surrounding environment was a significant consideration for the community with 2 to 3 storeys preferred in areas adjoining existing residential homes. If higher storey buildings needed to be considered, (particularly for the position of the hotel/mixed use site) the sentiment was to locate them near to the base of Mt Adelaide.

There was also a desire for better connectivity to the beach and foreshore through significant road realignment through the development area. This results in more options for activating the public realm and ideas emerged for family friendly facilities, alfresco eateries, places to enjoy a glass or two while taking in the views of the foreshore, adaptable space for pop up stores, busking, cultural and recreational events, weekend markets, etc.

Participation process

A community engagement program was developed early on in the project to help shape the planning process, with a series of activities designed to engage with the community to help identify local requirements for hotel, residential and commercial opportunities as well as thoughts on how planning could enhance the numerous sporting and recreational activities held on the foreshore. With this information we interpreted the needs and aspirations into strategies that would not only benefit the community, but which could be used to enhance the commercial potential and thereby attract private investors.

To attempt to reach a fair representation of the Albany community, we engaged with the community both online and face to face. Working in partnership with the City of Albany engagement activities were promoted widely and we received an overwhelming participation response, both before and during the formal advertising period, clearly showing that the people of Albany were passionate about the future of Middleton Beach.

The community engagement program was one part of an overall 18 month stakeholder consultation process. Every month from January 2015 there was ongoing engagement, updates and two-way communications with the City, Great Southern Development Commission, other parts of Government, business, local architects/planners, community and local, national and multinational private developers. A working group was established and key community group representatives were included in ongoing presentations of results and work to date.

Outcomes and benefits

Assimilating feedback from all stakeholders, including private developer requirements, was a lengthy process, but one which led to the creation of three potential development options. Once publicly presented, general consensus on the preferred option was obtained and we were able to efficiently progress the structure planning and associated local amendment documents.

In the main, we were able to marry the requirements of the community with the economic, social and environmental objectives of the project. The exception, however, was the maximum height limits for the hotel site, which proved polarising for the community. In this instance, however, a maximum of 12 storeys is considered crucial in order to maximise the potential to attract suitable hotel developers in a challenging market, and bring the associated hospitality employment opportunities to the young people of Albany.