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Margaret River Chamber of Commerce questions retail research in Lester Group Rapids Landing supermarket

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Margaret River Chamber of Commerce has taken issue with a potential WAPC-approved upsized supermarket complex at Rapids Landing.
Camera IconThe Margaret River Chamber of Commerce has taken issue with a potential WAPC-approved upsized supermarket complex at Rapids Landing. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret R/Augusta-Margaret River Times

A Shire of Augusta-Margaret River-commissioned peer review of the financial consequences of a new full-line supermarket in Rapids Landing failed to derail last month’s WA Planning Commission approval.

As reported last week, the Lester Group’s upscaled supermarket bid was approved despite opposition from Shire planners and councillors as well as a report by Location IQ, furnished by the developers, estimating a 12 per cent hit to retailers in the Margaret River town centre.

The Margaret River Chamber of Commerce this week said the initial report contained “flawed research”.

Spokeswoman Barbara Maidment reiterated concerns main street retailers in the town centre would be hard-hit by the new supermarket, which goes against years of Shire planning to keep retail in the town centre, and could lure one of three existing majors to relocate.

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“The chamber considers the developer’s report to be an overestimation in terms of population as well as need,” Dr Maidment said.

“There are some who believe the developer’s plan is a 20-years-into-the-future plan and that Margaret River will grow into this future vision.

“The chamber has no crystal ball to predict growth. However, we believe that in the 20-year timespan, the main street of Margaret River will suffer significant losses.”

Although the Shire hired consultants Urbis for a retail need and sustainability assessment to challenge the Location IQ findings, WAPC acknowledged some of the Urbis concerns, but believed the peer review still showed “that the proposed centre has merit”.

WAPC applied a guideline policy designed for bigger activity centres such as metropolitan Perth, Peel and Bunbury in their determination.

“The objectives, outcomes and measures of this policy may be applied outside of the above mentioned region scheme areas, as applicable, to guide the preparation and review of local planning proposals,” the WAPC report noted.

The State planning body ordered the Lester Group to prepare a local development plan which would fill in the blanks about what was proposed in Rapids Landing which would be subject to public feedback later this year.

The approval green-lights a greatly-increased Woolworths-style supermarket and 3200sqm of speciality shops and office space, while the site was previously envisaged as a “bespoke” retail precinct which included a childcare service.

The specific make-up of the future Rapids Landing shop offerings could not be known and the Urbis review echoed the chamber’s concerns a major town-centre retailer could choose to relocate to the Rapids Landing site.

A recommendation from Shire consultants that the supermarket floor space be kept to about 2000sqm was not taken on board by WAPC.

The WAPC approval noted Rapids Landing was the only anticipated approved future commercial district in the shire.

“In line with the report, in the absence of a detailed understanding of retail uses, it is reasonable that adverse trading impacts will not threaten the ongoing viability of existing centres nor the expansion of these centres,” it said.

“Future growth will support the viability of both the proposed centre and town centre.

“It is proposed that the centre will include larger floorplate retail tenancy opportunities that are not well catered for in the town centre.”

Improved choice, job opportunities, and competitive pricing were also considered mitigating factors in the WAPC decision.

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