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Independent candidate for Nedlands Max Hipkins looks, walks and talks like a Liberal State Government MP.

The 68-year-old lives in the western suburbs, helped the Barnett Government get elected and was a member of the Liberal Party.

Yet he is leading a revolt against the party in the Government's heartland - underpinned by high-profile planners, architects and other party defectors who have become disillusioned with what he describes as the Barnett Government's "develop at any cost" approach.

Mr Hipkins will take on Environment Minister Bill Marmion in the March election while Cottesloe mayor Kevin Morgan will lock horns with Premier Colin Barnett.

Mr Hipkins admits he wants to tap into the Liberal Party's conservative voting base by capitalising on resentment stemming from the Government's preference for high density, high-rise, the large-scale design for Elizabeth Quay and a steady erosion of local councils' control over projects.

Ultimately, his decision to turn his back on the Liberal Party is rooted in his old-school approach to planning, honed during his stint as director of planning at the City of Nedlands when the emphasis was on creating public space, low-scale developments and fulfilling the Australian dream of owning a quarter-acre block.

Mr Hipkins, who still lives on a quarter-acre block in Dalkeith, wants Perth to stay this way.

"When I was a kid, I lived on a large block and we had aviaries and rabbits running around the lawn," he reminisced.

He said low density and greenery was what tourists liked about Perth.

"If you fly in from Asia or Europe, what strikes you is the space . . . that's what we've got to sell, not that we are like everybody else with traffic jams," he said.

Mr Hipkins insists this approach to planning is still realistic even with more than 1000 people moving to WA every week.

He said the growth could be managed by a good transport system and an emphasis on developing alternative growth areas like Joondalup, rather than continuing to build up central Perth as cars and buses find it increasingly difficult to get into the city.

He believes Perth should not be prevented from expanding outwards because it is built on an "infertile sand plain" whereas Eastern States cities' outward development eats into farmland.

Mr Marmion rejected the notion he supported a "develop at any cost" attitude, having opposed the scale of the original China Green development in Subiaco and the proposed Woolworths supermarket complex on the old Captain Stirling Hotel site because he believed the scale would have an impact on locals. But he did not think the old-school approach to planning was realistic.

"A city, as fast-growing as Perth, cannot sustain new urban developments on quarter-acre blocks," he said.

"Planners and developers have for some time been ensuring current developments have lot sizes much smaller than this, particularly around transport nodes such as train stations."

Political analyst Harry Phillips said while Nedlands appeared to be a highly safe seat for the Liberals, who hold it by a notional margin of 16.6 per cent, two-party preferred, the contest will be much closer because as an independent, Mr Hipkins is likely get the bulk of preferences from Labor and the Greens.

"Mr Hipkins has the advantage of being a Liberal ideologically and a mayor which gives him a big profile, so theoretically a good campaign might be able to get him very close and if things go well, he could win Nedlands," Dr Phillips said.

Mr Marmion only narrowly won Nedlands from Sue Walker, who held the seat as a Liberal Government MP from 2001 to 2008 before she quit the party and took on Mr Marmion as an independent.