Servo site public comment anger
The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River has confirmed a Cowaramup site now subject to a proposed 24-hour BP and Wild Bean Cafe was not openly identified as such during public consultation.
The first formal documented notice came last year when residents learnt of a development application for the corner of Bussell Highway and Roy Earl Drive in the Cowaramup Country subdivision.
Despite previous reports that residents “always knew” a servo was planned for the site — and there is considerable anecdotal evidence residents knew about the potential for a new service station in Cowaramup since at least the late-2000s — the proposed site was not clearly identified in documents put out during public consultation.
Instead, a site on the opposite side of the highway was once viewed as the likely service station, with the location now subject to the BP application identified as a future commercial development zone.
Residents in the ailing Cowaramup Says No group opposing the BP proposal said the new information meant councillors could reject the application because it was a “discretionary use” only.
Group spokeswoman Anne Parker said other sites were preferred, and she put councillors on notice that under the newly proposed “no wards” system, Cowaramup electors would make their displeasure known in October.
“The bottom line is that the community did not have the opportunity to comment on this at that time or since,” Mrs Parker said.
“(Last year’s) public comment about the BP planning application shows that a significant number of local and wider community do not want a service station in that location.”
Mrs Parker said the Shire had to explain how “significant” modifications made after public comment between November 2007 and May 2008 did not trigger re-advertising.
“The community has a right to know what happened and why,” she said.
“If it was deemed necessary, who made the decision and on what grounds.”
New Shire planning director Dale Putland provided a comprehensive timeline of the process to the Times (below) but said the Shire met the requirements of the WA Planning and Development Act.
“The quantity of the submissions and detail in them suggests that many people were well aware of what has been proposed,” he said.
Deputy Shire president Kylie Kennaugh said the commercial zoning cited during public consultation “would have allowed an applicant to apply for a service station on the current site”, but she did not comment on residents’ anger they were not directly informed.
“The structure plan showing this zoning was extensively advertised,” Cr Kennaugh said.
“Change will continue to happen into the future and we need to make careful decisions to do our utmost to get it right.”
The Shire has met with the proponents and says the proposal will be modified to appease some community concerns.
According to information provided by Shire sustainable development director Dale Putland, the existing BP site is zoned future development.
The development proposal will be assessed under the Shire’s Local Planning Scheme, with a service station a permitted use and included in the structure plan for the site.
The Cowaramup Village Strategy — first developed in 2005 and subject to revisions — lists the site as “commercial”, while an “agribusiness/service station” was identified on the opposite side of Bussell Highway, with that precinct removed during the Shire’s structure plan process.
The structure plan adopted by the council in 2007 noted the BP site as “commercial”, after which the Shire said it was referred to the “proponent”, which was the land-owning developer and not BP, with no further public comment sought.
“The modified structure plan was (then) returned to the Shire and the site reference was ‘commercial, agribusiness and service station’,” Dr Putland said.
“Policy Statement 14 was also added to include provision for development of an agribusiness and service station as discretionary land uses, and that the ‘scale, form and architectural design of any proposed development would need to reflect Cowaramup’s ‘rural village’ character’.”
This structure plan was endorsed by the WA Planning Commission in May, 2008, without further advertising required, which meant residents did not see the change added by the developer.
“Records show that the reference to the southernmost commercial lot as agribusiness/service station was changed as the Cowaramup Village Strategy indicated agribusiness and service station at this location,” Dr Putland said.
“It is normal practice for the Shire and WAPC to make changes to plans, strategies and policies after the advertising period, in response either to submissions that have been received or that are necessitated to other changes in the plan or strategy that arise from the submissions.
“Plans, strategies or policies are only re-advertised if significant changes are made that result in a significant departure from the original plan.”
Although Policy Statement 14 mentions Cowaramup’s rural character, there is no mechanism to enforce conformity, with the developer to show “due regard” to the covenants of the Cowaramup Country subdivision although they are “a guide only,” Dr Putland said.
“The applicant has agreed to amend the plans for the proposed service station to better accord with the Cowaramup village guidelines,” he told the Times.
“Once the Shire has received the revised application, the Shire’s planning staff will assess the application against the Shire’s LPS, structure plan, and Cowaramup Village Strategy, and prepare a report to council for its consideration.”
Deputy Shire president Kylie Kennaugh said many residents “knew of the possibility” of a service station.
“However, 20 years ago I doubt anyone would have seen the growth of Cowaramup as it is today,” she said.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails