Council rejects BP proposal
The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council has declared it will risk a costly legal battle to defend the character of Cowaramup, refusing and then rejecting plans for a BP service station and Wild Bean Cafe on Bussell Highway.
A full public gallery cheered in surprise at Wednesday night’s decision, when four councillors overcame recent animosity to refuse the application which had 297 public submissions against it.
Leeuwin ward councillor Mike Smart’s lengthy stint on the council was on display as he offered an alternative proposal specifically outlining the planning grounds for the decision.
The rejection cited a failure to meet the amenity and character of the locality, positioned in front of a residential subdivision without adequate bunds to stop the noise and lights of traffic penetrating homes as trade grew along with the townsite.
The volume and strength of community submissions were also cited in the alternative motion, which echoed a warning note in the council agenda alerting councillors to the risk of legal costs if a decision was not made on firm planning grounds.
Residents were overjoyed by the decision.
Outside the meeting, Cowaramup residents said they were disappointed their ward councillors Ian Earl and Kylie Kennaugh had voted in favour of the service station.
Shire president Cr Earl moved the officer’s recommended approval when no councillor stepped forward, seconded by his deputy.
After the motion was lost and the rejection passed 4-2, Cr Earl warned councillors the likely State Administrative Tribunal hearing could strip the careful conditions put on the development by the Shire’s planning department.
Cr Kim Hastie used the same rationale to argue against the proposal.
“That tells me this is a pretty tough site if it needs that much scrutiny,” he said.
Crs Peter Lane and Felicity Haynes also rejected the proposal.
Cr Haynes said the decision called into question the council’s role to defend communities regardless of risks.
Cr Lane said many protesters had told him they preferred a rejection and the risk of a worse outcome at SAT, “and that certainly influenced me”.
Cr Smart said it was a case of councillors standing up.
“We still might lose, but we will do our best to win the battle on behalf of the people we represent,” he said.
Earlier, Cr Kennaugh said it was the hardest decision she had made and had caused a family “rift”.
After invoking the spectre of October’s local government election, she drew gasps on saying BP’s colours were a better fit for Cowaramup than a Coles Express.
“Two greens and a gold,” she said. “It’s like our paddocks at the change of season.”
Cr Earl defended his decision, saying forecast growth for Cowaramup meant the service station would be necessary.
“And I have to say it will get there, because it will go to SAT,” he said.
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