Cowaramup residents voice fears at ‘loss of character’ in big push for housing

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Cowaramup residents are concerned about planned residential developments for their town.
Camera IconCowaramup residents are concerned about planned residential developments for their town. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret River Times

Cowaramup residents have voiced their disquiet at the scale of planned residential development for their sleepy hamlet, as well as the eased requirements on developers.

Those concerns came to a head last month at the end of consultation for the township’s second major subdivision which removed a promised retirement village and new commercial spaces.

The subdivision west of the highway was due to feature up to 243 homes and an extra 660 residents, adding to a proposal for farmland between Wirring and Palmer roads measuring 41ha and eyeing up to 1000 new residents across 372 lots plus a grouped dwelling site for up to 32 homes.

The western project was owned by developer Goldfields, who in 2022 also bought the future expansion site for Brookfield in Margaret River.

Goldfields’ Cowaramup proposal updates an existing structure plan to remove the lifestyle village and add a “key workers accommodation village” running behind the Cowaramup Districts Club precinct.

Goldfields WA state director Gareth Wilson declined to address public criticism of the changes to the new proposal, which would go before the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River later this year.

“We believe it would be inappropriate to comment on the Shire’s consultation process at this time,” he said.

“In submitting our application, Goldfields is seeking to help address the housing shortage across South West WA.”

Parkwater Residents Association committee member Lisa Bell said the Goldfields project removed commercial lots along the highway in favour of an “ugly” 500m noise barrier.

“The revised structure plan will result in poorer outcomes for the community,” she said.

“It looks like the love child of Subi Centro and soul-destroying suburbia — and would undermine the rural village feel of Cowaramup.”

Residents said too many trees were to be removed and not enough cycle paths were included in the latest plans that also removed proposed sporting club facilities.

Ms Bell and other residents said they accepted new homes would come, but their design had to be more sympathetic and to scale.

Cowaramup resident Anne Marsh said she had lost faith in the Shire addressing sensitive growth.

“We hate what the Shire is allowing to happen to Cowaramup, the constant opening of land to developers,” she said.

Shire planning and regulatory services manager Matt Cuthbert said the local government hoped submissions from the public included any specific concerns from residents.

Asked about the scale of housing earmarked for Cowaramup given Shire character studies and focus on lifestyle and amenity, Mr Cuthbert said residential development aligned with the town’s 2005 townsite strategy which considered “the long-term needs of the community and the desired character of the township”.

“Structure plans provide details of development in specific locations and are often prepared years or decades in advance of a subdivision taking shape, so it’s not unusual for these plans to be amended to ensure they meet current needs,” he said.

Changes to density codes in the proposal would also “use the land more efficiently to reduce the need for other areas to be developed”.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails