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"Smiths house plan in court"
(High on the hill)

10 July 2006

Letter to the Editor, Busselton~Dunsborough Mail

"Smiths house plan in court" ('The Mail', 21/06/06). Whose house plan is it for the area on the western ridge of Smiths Beach hill?

Before investigating further it is worthy of note that shire planners commented in 2001, in relation to the portion of the Smiths Beach hillside location in question, "The rocky headland in the west has a high scenic landform quality; The low heath vegetation on the western headland and the Banksia vegetation are considered to have high scenic quality in terms of vegetation."

On making enquiries to the Busselton Shire and 'The Mail', I was impressed that my phone call was promptly and informatively returned by the officers most knowledgeable to deal with the case. It was confirmed that the 'Smiths house' application is being made in the name of "Canal Rocks Pty Ltd". Canal Rocks Pty Ltd is the developer of the hillside overlooking Smiths Beach.

The number of "units of development" reported in the article was also questioned with the answer being that the plan before revision showed "approximately 500". The important adjective was missing in the report.

It is general knowledge that good behaviour, respect for community and accepted social values, usually termed "norms", are taught at home. Ideas, plans good and bad, like children, grow into fruition based on their genetics and the environment in which they develop. This knowledge may have some application in the growth of a development plan like the one at Smiths Beach.

The media reports that the developer desires an exclusive, visually impacting residence on, or near, the scenic western ridge of the Smiths Beach development site. The recent article in 'The Mail' informs us, in part, "The original refusal issued by the shire was on the basis that ... the dwelling was inappropriately located given its visual impact and conflict with the scheme objectives for the land." The developer doesn't agree with the shire or the Town Planning Scheme and the case is now in court.

The wider community is yet to find out what is planned for the rest of the Smiths Beach development, as the plan isn't available for public comment for a few months.

In relation to the recently 'revised' plan, the developer's spokesperson was quoted as saying, "... some community members remain concerned about the size of the development ..." (1). Notably this comment was made after an exclusive presentation to a developer selected community group before presenting the plan to the shire. Despite the plan not being open for public comment. The community group was not the Smiths Beach Action Group despite the SBAG being documented over many years as the key community advocate group.

Having to make these observations and apply interpretations demonstrates that community consultation by the developer's consultants is not as extensive as has been historically claimed, exposing it as tokenistic or selective at best.

Bringing it all together, the directors of Canal Rocks Pty Ltd have, based on scant information from recent media reports (1), a large development plan of unknown but suggested visual impact on the scenic Smiths Beach hillside. Concurrently, and for some years it seems, the same development company struggles with the shire over another inappropriate coastal development, a house on the hill that disagrees with the Town Planning Scheme that partly protects Smiths Beach from such development. And the developer is willing to appeal that visually impacting smaller development test case to the State Administrative Tribunal. What then are the aspirations for the larger development that has grown in this environment?

Frank Gaschk

(1) ABC News Online, 31/05/2006

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