The lack of a second access road to the coastal Prevelly-Gnarabup hamlet is shaping up as the biggest challenge for development of the proposed Westin Margaret River Resort & Spa. The Luke Saraceni-led project is under deliberation by the WA Planning Commission’s State Development Assessment Unit, with strong support for the resort and de facto village project from Premier Mark McGowan, who personally championed the development in an on-site appearance when first announced in 2020. But contention around the neighbouring Smiths Beach project in Yallingup has cast a renewed focus on bushfire risks associated with big coastal developments where the proponents plan to shelter guests and residents in place in the event of any major emergency. Last month, the Busselton-Dunsborough Times reported the Smiths Beach plan received a critical submission from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services because the lack of escape options was deemed too risky. While the DFES submission for Gnarabup was still under lock and key while SDAU considers the Saraceni proposal – and State and Federal environment agencies undertake due diligence – the road issue was also a factor in the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s submission to the SDAU. Shire president Paula Cristoffanini declined to outline the Shire’s concerns because the matter was under adjudication by a higher authority. But she pointed to the council’s March resolution which backed planners’ saying there was too much “ambiguity” around the Saraceni proposal to endorse it. In March, the Times reported planners said they were “not able to make a definitive recommendation on the proposal”. It would depend on whether WAPC supported the shelter-in-place arrangements as well as a contentious bid by the developer to use public reserve as part of its buffer to meet WA’s stringent bushfire risk policies. A Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage spokesperson said concerns raised about bushfire issues pertained to planning discussions that were more than 18 months old. DFES was still expected to make fresh submissions on both resort projects. “Once the Public Environment Review process being undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency is complete and the planning assessment has been finalised, the application will be determined by the WAPC,” the spokesperson said. “As part of its determination of the application the WAPC must consider all submissions received during consultation, including DFES’ advice.” The DFES advice would be made public just before the WAPC decision.