THREE peak industry groups have joined forces to publicly voice concerns about planning approvals in the Swan Valley during the interim period before any new planning laws take effect as a result of the Kobelke review into the Swan Valley Planning Act 1995.
The industry groups are also urging Planning Minister Rita Saffioti to take whatever steps are necessary to stop unsuitable developments happening in the Swan Valley in the short to medium term, so as to secure the long-term viability of the Swan Valley as a grape growing and wine making premier tourism destination long into the future.
The Swan Valley Tourism Alliance, Grape Growers Association of WA and the Swan Valley Winemakers Association said they had taken the unprecedented step of uniting as one to call for action after recent planning decisions taken by the City of Swan and the State Administration Tribunal (SAT), which had seriously concerned their members.
This included plans for a proposed roadhouse, restaurant-tavern and tourist facilities in Caversham opposite Sandalford Wines and another since withdrawn plan for a tavern on West Swan Rd in West Swan.
Swan Valley Tourism Alliance vice president Alain Gaudet said there was a genuine fear within the Swan Valley community that some recent decisions would result in a proliferation of development applications being lodged and approved that were unsuitable in a viticulture, food and wine tourism precinct such as the Swan Valley.
“The recent decision by SAT redefining what can be considered as ‘community purpose’ in development applications has heightened these concerns,’’ he said.
“Examples of inappropriate developments under ‘community purpose’ are rehabilitation centres and places of worship.
“These unsuitable developments, if approved, could seriously impact the future development of the Swan Valley as one of the state’s premier tourism destinations and limit the future economic prosperity of residents as a result.’’
A proposed change of use from grouped dwelling to community purpose for Shalom House in Park St, Henley Brook is due back before the City of Swan later this month.
On July 4 City of Swan officers had recommended conditional development approval for Shalom House but Swan Valley Gidgegannup ward councillor Charlie Zannino successfully moved a motion against it.
Cr Zannino disagreed with SAT’s description that Shalom House was community purpose as it was not open to the community 24hr a day.
He said it was a private facility and one that people had to apply to attend.
On August 17, SAT asked the city to reconsider its decision, which it will do later this month.
In its report SAT said it was not satisfied the city had turned its mind to and properly considered the merits of the development application.
“In light of the councillor’s submissions at the council meeting, there is a real possibility that the council only considered the application on a misunderstanding as to its proper land use classification,’’ the report said.
But Mr Gaudet said the Swan Valley had its own Act which was intended to protect the valley from developments, which did not meet the vision or objectives for the growth of the region as a food and wine tourism destination.
“[But] a recent review of the Swan Valley Planning Act 1995 clearly identified the historic failures of the existing Act, due to its ambiguity, to protect and enhance the uniqueness and ambience of the Swan Valley as well as its rural and viticultural character.
“The review further identified the significance of the Swan Valley as a state asset.
“It recommends a substantially strengthened planning structure by way of a new Act, incorporating planning control of the Swan Valley area, in order to better protect and enhance that ambience.
“Of particular note in the report was the recommendation to discourage potential businesses which do not contribute to the ambience provided by viticulture but seek to profit from its presence and proximity as an attractor to the region.’’
Shalom House was contacted for comment.
By Anita McInnes
See also Saffioti responds to industry groups