Development in Govt hands

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Saracen Property Group will have its resort and housing plan assessed by the State Government.
Camera IconSaracen Property Group will have its resort and housing plan assessed by the State Government. Credit: Unknown/WA Govt, Supplied

A proposal to build a five-star resort at Gnarabup will be decided on by the WA Government, the developers have confirmed.

Saracen Property Group’s Joel Saraceni told the Times the developer had not lodged the resort’s development application with the Augusta-Margaret River Shirewithin the 90-day window planned because the proposal, and associated short-stay units and housing, would be considered by the State Development Assessment Unit.

“We are still in the thick of preparing the final designs for the land and would expect to lodge the DA before the end of the year,” Mr Saraceni said.

“The DA is going through the State DAU as a development of State significance, and as part of that new process, it is subject to a rigorous design review process by the State Government Architect’s office.”

The proposal for the Westin Margaret River Spa & Resort was unveiled by Premier Mark McGowan mid-year and touted as a major injection into the region’s tourism economy.

At the time, an ancillary proposal for about 80 mixed-use holiday villas, apartments, several shops and a new restaurant site went unmentioned.

Mr McGowan also flagged multimillion-dollar tourism proposals such as the resort could be considered directly by the WA Government.

Previously, developer Luke Saraceni said residents would get to comment on the proposal when it went before councillors, but Shire sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan said the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage was taking the lead.

“The Shire would be consulted ... (but) the process by which the submission from the Shire will be made will be determined at that time,” Mr Logan said.

“There have been no applications made to the SDAU as yet, but the applicant has previously advised it is their intent to make one application for the development of all (five) sites.”

Protest group Preserve Gnarabup spokeswoman Beth Carlessi said she was disappointed the application would not go directly before the community.

“Despite saying this development is a good thing for the community, Mr Saraceni doesn’t want scrutiny from the community’s elected representatives on the council,” she said. Preserve Gnarabup anticipates its proposed scheme amendment seeking to rezone the Saracen lots to parks and recreation, or to buy the land from the developer outright, will be considered in December.

“This makes it especially important that all Shire councillors vote to adopt the proposed amendment to the Local Planning Scheme.”

“This will be councillors’ only chance to limit what is developed on the site and to represent the community’s interests.”

Applicants with projects worth more than $5 million deemed to create jobs could opt for the State assessment under rules introduced during the WA Government’s COVID-19 economic recovery response.

A DPLH spokesperson confirmed the SDAU would consider the resort bid and it was “undergoing pre-lodgement, which includes design review and preliminary planning advice” and “would be subject to environmental consideration, referral to State and local government authorities and community consultation.

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