A proposal by Perth's biggest council to stem the development of apartment buildings is a sign it plans to "slowly die", according to a sustainability expert.
The City of Stirling wrote to ratepayers this week to announce its proposal to limit apartment developments to land coded R60 and above - areas where there are at least 60 homes per hectare of land - to take pressure off infrastructure, car parking and improve the appearance of residential areas.
But Curtin University sustainability Professor Peter Newman has criticised the proposal as a "step backwards" for a council area that attracted a high number of city workers.
"Supporting this would be recognition that the City would like to slowly die," he said.
"The population slowly declines because people age and die and you get one person living in a house instead of five, services decline and shops close."
Professor Newman said the City could not afford to reject further development of inner-city suburbs where most of the metropolitan population wanted to live.
He said apartments in Crawley were an example of how high-density development could enhance an area and increase property values.
The proposal was a reaction to a 2012 petition signed by 506 Doubleview residents who feared overcrowding and homes which would be too small and out of character for the suburb.
A petition against the proposed changes attracted 149 signatures.
City of Stirling planning manager Fraser Henderson said council research showed apartment blocks were causing un- sustainable growth in the suburbs and "impacting the amenity" of residential areas.
"Current statistics show that the City will achieve its city-wide growth targets set by the State in the suburbs with single and group dwellings alone, so housing targets will not be impacted by excluding multiple dwellings (apartments) on land coded below R60," he said.
Urban Development Institute of Australia WA chief executive Debra Goostrey said urban infill was fraught with issues for many Perth councils.
She said residents' concerns could often be addressed with better-designed apartment blocks.
"Perth is very concerned about height, more than any other State," she said. "We do need to get more density somewhere and everyone agrees with that statement until it's near them."
Scarborough Beach Association chairman and local real estate agent Tom O'Rourke said the group was largely against the proposal but feared some streets could resemble "ghettos" if development was not in keeping with the area.
"We are looking forward to development but not density for density's sake . . . I just think it makes sense to have accommodation where people need it. In select areas there is already a culture of flats," he said.