Resort to kickstart precinct plans

Warren Hately and Peter LawAugusta Margaret River Times
The architect's image for the proposed resort design.
Camera IconThe architect's image for the proposed resort design. Credit: Christou Design Group

Many residents not involved in the tourism sector have expressed surprise, shock and even anger at this week’s news of a major five-star resort proposed for the defunct Gnarabup Beach Estate site.

The proposal to build the resort, on coastal land behind the White Elephant Cafe, also triggered the angst of residents with memories of the community-led, Shire of Augusta-Margaret River-backed fight against the unpopular development early last decade.

But the Times can reveal new resort plans for the “Lodge” site involve only one of five land parcels in play by the developers, with adjacent sites slated for up to 80 additional holiday villas, plus apartments and residential homes on prime coastal land.

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan confirmed a revised form of the past proposals which once stirred community angst was in the pipeline.

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“The developers have indicated an intention to include Lots 501-504 with Lot 783 in a combined DA application providing certainty of the design intent for this precinct,” he said. “The existing approved design for Lots 501-504 comprise short-stay villas, apartments and permanent residential.”

No mention of the additional developments was made when Premier Mark McGowan and developer Luke Saraceni faced the cameras at Gnarabup on Tuesday.

While tourism zoning remains in place for the resort site, a WA Government spokesman confirmed a fresh development application would be needed for the Westin Group project.

Residents would therefore have a chance to comment on the revised plans when they are released later this year — with Mr Saracini hoping to break ground by year’s end.

“Once the local government has received the DA, there will be a requirement for community consultation to occur,” the Premier’s spokesman said.

However, the Times understands the scale of the $100-plus million project means the local council will only provide advice, with bigger commercial projects referred to WA’s Joint Development Assessment Panel.

The new Westin Margaret River Resort & Spa could also be one of the first tests for a plan to fast-track major project approvals in WA.

The developer’s announcement comes as Parliament’s Legislative Council this week considered legislation to give the WA Planning Commission powers to approve or reject developments worth more than $30 million during the next 18 months.

If the Bill passes Parliament, regional and tourism projects of “State significance” could also be referred to the Commission by the Premier on the recommendation of Planning Minister Rita Saffioti.

In Margaret River on Tuesday, Mr McGowan and Tourism Minister Paul Papalia hailed the proposed resort as a game-changer for the South West and a big driver for the local economy.

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