Council faces Cowaramup development dilemma

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River planning officers met with the developers of a proposed 24-hour BP service station this week to discuss concerns raised in more than 300 submissions from Cowaramup residents.

With public submissions closing last week, councillors will have a tough job ahead of them when the generally unpopular proposal comes for consideration later this year, with few options to reject the development outright, and modifications able to be challenged by the British-based multinational oil company in WA’s State Administrative Tribunal.

Cowaramup Says No convenor Anne Parker told the Times efforts to highlight opposition to the high-visibility service station and accompanying Wild Bean Cafe off Bussell Highway were frustrated by more talk than action as she urged fellow residents to consider how the development would undermine local traders and damage the hamlet’s village ambience.

“It is clear that the development of a large, multinational-owned service station and attached franchise cafe are blatantly contradictory to the core values and recommendations in the Shire’s own planning reference document, the Cowaramup Village Strategy,” Mrs Parker said.

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“It represents architecturally, culturally and economically everything Cowaramup was seeking to avoid in encouraging a unique, rural village atmosphere.”

More than 150 residents attended a meeting in Cowaramup earlier this month, voicing unanimous opposition to the plan.

Some residents have also defended the proposed service station on social media, saying it would add convenience and offer jobs.

Business columnist and Cowaramup resident Barbara Maidment told the Times she thought the employment prospects of the service station would be minimal but local government did not have a role in adjudicating business decisions.

Although Dr Maidment and others noted a service station had been slated for the site since 2006, Mrs Parker said residents in Cowaramup Country and Country Vines had only been told the land was marked for “future commercial development”.

“I don’t believe anybody envisaged the kind of BP and Wild Bean we are seeing (proposed) now,” she said.

Other residents involved in developing the Cowaramup Village Strategy said the BP proposal did not meet the original intent of the document. Site works for the station have already begun.

Shire sustainable development director Dale Putland said most of the 313 public submissions opposed the proposal in part or as a whole.

“Several submissions have expressed concerns that the proposal is not in adherence to Cowaramup Village Strategy guidelines,” Dr Putland said.

“The Shire is meeting with the applicant today (Wednesday) to discuss concerns raised in the submissions prior to a report being prepared for council.

“The applicant will be given the opportunity to consider the community feedback and revise the application to address some of the concerns.”

Mrs Parker also listed antisocial behaviour, groundwater run-off and the unfeasibility of the station’s design for truck drivers as additional reasons to reject the proposal.

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