Coun­cil gives in on town’s BP ser­vice sta­tion fight

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Front Page - War­ren Hately

Coun­cil­lors who re­belled against a pro­posed BP petrol sta­tion and cafe on Bus­sell High­way in Cowaramup have ac­knowl­edged de­feat and ap­proved the con­tentious de­vel­op­ment.

Au­gusta vet­eran Cr Mike Smart led the de­ci­sion at Wed­nes­day night’s coun­cil meet­ing, tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the pre­vi­ous re­fusal, say­ing mem­bers had “ex­hausted” all op­tions to fight the de­vel­op­ment.

“I feel for the com­mu­nity of Cowaramup that weren’t happy with that hap­pen­ing and will have to drive past it while it’s there for the full life of the sub­di­vi­sion,” he said.

“The re­al­ity is, once that’s zoned com­mer­cial, we don’t have ca­pac­ity (to refuse it).”

Re­spond­ing to out­cry in Cowaramup and about 300 sub­mis­sions against the de­vel­op­ment — for­merly planned as a 24-hour out­let — five of seven coun­cil­lors re­jected the ap­proval ear­lier this year and were toasted by res­i­dents.

How­ever, as Cr Kim Hastie ex­plained, 10 min­utes with the Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River’s out­side le­gal ex­pert elim­i­nated any hope the mat­ter would be up­held by the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion Tri­bunal.

“We were se­ri­ously of the view we were do­ing it for good plan­ning rea­sons,” Cr Hastie said.

“It was just wiped off the ta­ble in the first 10 min­utes.”

The Shire en­gaged sev­eral con­sul­tants to bol­ster their de­fence at the SAT, but the ex­perts un­der­mined the coun­cil­lors’ po­si­tion, find­ing the plan­ning as­pects con­formed with re­quire­ments.

Cr Pam Town­shend said coun­cil­lors quickly learnt a planned so­cial im­pact re­port “was not go­ing to be ad­mis­si­ble” at the SAT.

“Ev­ery­thing’s weighted in favour of de­vel­op­ing things,” she said.

Shire president Ian Earl and deputy president Kylie Ken­naugh pre­vi­ously voted for the de­vel­op­ment and on Wed­nes­day night re­it­er­ated how they saw the writ­ing on the wall from day one.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing his role as a pre­vi­ous landowner who had no in­volve­ment in the con­tentious re­lo­ca­tion of the com­mer­cial zon­ing from the other side of the high­way that was never for­mally put to res­i­dents, which oc­curred be­fore his time on the coun­cil, Cr Earl said the re­fusal “never had a hope . . . of get­ting up”.

Cr Peter Lane said the SAT out­come had mer­its be­cause of the ex­ten­sive con­di­tions put on the pro­posal, and devel­op­ers Michael Stew­art and Gino Ve­spoli were open to fur­ther changes dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions. Al­though not happy with the out­come, the coun­cil­lor said “un­der the cir­cum­stances the out­come was re­ally good”.

Cowaramup res­i­dents re­acted badly to the news, though some said sav­ing ratepay­ers up to $100,000 in costs and the risk of dam­ages against the lo­cal govern­ment was the only sen­si­ble move.

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