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Developer to bypass the council on Smiths Beach

27 August 2008

By Busselton~Dunsborough Mail

The Busselton shire has defended its actions over the handling of the Smiths Beach development after the proponents questioned the independence of the shire’s planning review process.

Last week the developers of Canal Rocks Pty Ltd announced they would be asking the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) to make a determination on the development plan for Smiths Beach which would effectively bypass the council.

The developers claim the shire was not able to report on the development and had been given a number of extensions, the last of which expired in August.

However, in response, shire director of lifestyle development Nigel Bancroft called the claims “inflammatory” and reasserted that the shire could decide on the plan.

“The applicant has the right to lodge an appeal and that right is respected,” he said.

“The reasons given by Canal Rocks Pty Ltd in support of their decision to appeal are inflammatory and unjustified.”

Canal Rock Pty Ltd chairman David McKenzie claimed the shire seemed unable to make their report on the development to the council, however, Mr Bancroft denied this.

“We are certainly capable of doing that report,” he said.

“They’re trying to create a picture of a development which has been solely delayed by the shire since 2005 and my comment is that this is just ludicrous.”

The shire received over 8000 submissions to the latest plan for the development and had agreed to an independent audit of the submissions.

Mr McKenzie said the SAT was the only body able to decide on the development.

“It is with regret that we now refer the project to the State Administrative Tribunal for a truly independent assessment,” he said.

“We decided there was no option in the light of advice from various approval agencies that they were all waiting on each other prior to making decisions.

“We are locked in a ‘Catch 22’ situation and the SAT is the only circuit breaker available.”

Smiths Beach Action Group (SBAG) chairman Bob McKay said he wasn’t surprised by the latest development in the long-running saga.

“SBAG are appalled that the developers have used a flimsy excuse to avoid the harsh reality of an adverse report from the independent auditors,” he said.

“However, the SBAG is not surprised at this tactic, as it expected this would happen when the developers originally insisted that an independent auditor be appointed to write a report on the public submissions.

“The SBAG expressed opposition at the time, to the developer’s request and confidence in the ability of the shire staff to provide an unbiased and independent report in a timely fashion.

“The fact remains that over 8000 written submissions were lodged with the shire and we believe that more than 6000 are opposed to the development.

“This shows that despite a huge media campaign, secretive attempts to influence the planning process and the use of influential lobbyists, opposition has more than doubled since the last plan was withdrawn.” .

© Copyright 2008 by Rural Press Ltd. This report is for information only in order to inform readers about this report. No charge for such use is made and the material is not being used for commercial purposes. The text has not been modified from the original report.

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