Opponents of the proposed, greatly increased Smiths Beach development, were dismayed this week to learn the project is likely to be assessed under the Premier’s fast-track system for items of State significance. The Smiths Beach Action Group and City of Busselton already said they wanted the Adrian Fini-led consortium proposal assessed under existing planning laws, most of which came into effect after a Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry on the prized coastal land under previous owners. SBAG spokesman David Mitchell — an architect once employed by Mr Fini’s Fini Group — told the Times the fast-track process, which is also in place for Luke Saraceni’s proposed Westin Margaret River Spa and Resort at Gnarabup, risked throwing out 15 years of careful planning. “We are not saying that development can’t occur,” he said. “Due process must be followed. “The use of the short-track planning approval system is unacceptable. I’m not sure that environmentally-sensitive coastal developments that have had a chequered history ... (are) the appropriate development to go through this (fast-tracked) process,” he said. The State development assessment unit was set up during the pandemic giving the WA Planning Commission and State Government ultimate authority on major projects and the power to override existing local government planning laws and Environmental Protection Authority findings. The project aims to deliver a 65-room hotel and 61 residences — similar to the previous failed plan — and a 36-platform camping ground for walkers, which has tentative support from the Friends of the Cape-to-Cape Track. The 45ha proposed footprint is bigger than the previous plan and sits much further west, higher on the hill and closer to the beach. City of Busselton Mayor Grant Henley was disappointed the developer wanted the fast-track which risked inadequate community consultation. “We encouraged Hesperia to undertake robust stakeholder engagement and consultation, beyond the mandated 28-day period,” he said. “Hesperia indicated they would not be adverse to any extension of the consultation period, but that decision will be made by the relevant decision-making authority,” he said. Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said a project “of this magnitude” should be assessed under the existing planning framework “given the history of the site”. “To achieve a fair and balanced outcome at Smiths Beach, it is essential that the project’s planning is not rushed.” Cr Henley said the City would lodge a council-endorsed submission to the DAU. A spokesman for the developers said Mr Fini was open to a longer public consultation period. “We are continuing to meet and consult with a range of individuals and local groups in the area to explain our concept and obtain their feedback. This process will continue,’’ he said. A State Government spokesperson said no application was yet received.