Elections may be the decider

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The ruins of Wallcliffe House.
Camera IconThe ruins of Wallcliffe House. Credit: Getty Images

The contentious Wallcliffe House rezoning will almost definitely come back to the council elected after next month’s poll as it emerges the wealthy Burt family cannot take last week’s rejection to appeal.

The owners of the historic homestead will take a break to consider their options after last week’s council decision to knock back their high-end resort bid.

Julian Burt and wife Alexandra (the heir to mining magnate Michael Wright’s fortune and owner of Voyager Estate winery) wanted local approval to advertise a planning scheme amendment to allow redevelopment of the riverfront site destroyed in the 2011 bushfires.

The rejection cannot go to the State Administrative Tribunal, which only considers failed development applications rather than changes to a planning scheme.

Four out of seven councillors refused the scheme amendment because the application foreshadowed extensive development on the riverfront site they felt would endanger the environment and the ruins’ links to Aboriginal and settlement history.

The Burts are “incredibly disappointed” with the decision. “The council failed to address the question that was before them,” Mrs Burt said. “The dissenting councillors raised several concerns, all of which we agree are critical.”

Mrs Burt said “a high degree of checks and balances” could have given the community certainty around project oversight.

“We have been conducting a rigorous amount of consultation with neighbours, traditional custodians, Shire staff and councillors, environment and heritage experts, local business people and tourism groups,” she said. “Overwhelmingly, the community is engaged with the vision for the project.”

Last week’s meeting heard conservationists, Aboriginal elders, and descendants of the Bussell family, who built Wallcliffe, had serious concerns.

A 50-bedroom, five-star hotel and restaurant with 120 promised staff was part of the proposal, but the specifics — including a request for nine additional use rights in total — was not detailed because it would be part of a future application if the rezoning was approved.

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

Sign up for our emails