Published Echo news June 30, 2023
THE release of City of Swan’s plan for a new Bells Rapids lookout, which includes the demolition of the old sales office building, has led to some criticism the proposal is more about tourism than the community.
The city statement said visitors to Bells Rapids would soon have a stunning new vantage point to look out over the rapids, across the Avon Valley and all the way to the Indian Ocean.
The statement also said the old building was unable to be repurposed for community use.
Swan chief executive officer Stephen Cain said the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (DPLH) owned the asset, and due to its condition being unsuitable for an alternate use, submitted a building permit for its demolition.
On Swan Hills MLA Jessica Shaw’s social media page residents said the proposal raised concerns about extra traffic, illegal turns and people parking on the roads due to the limited parking in the area.
Brigadoon landowner Karen Mowat said she had been asking questions about what was happening with the old sales office building, which was damaged by a storm in June 2020, after it was vandalised in January this year.
“I reported that the building had been vandalised to DPLH on January 3 with the property being fully secured, fenced and CCTV installed by early February,’’ she said.
“This was much appreciated after many years of neglect with the roof having required repair and being covered with tarps for many months previously.’’
Ms Mowat said an email from DPLH dated January 20 said DPLH was in the process of applying for funding to have the property handed to the city for renovating and leasing out.
DPLH said meanwhile the fence would secure the property and would be removed once repairs were effected and the property was leased out
On June 17 she saw a demolition permit on the City of Swan website, which had been lodged 11 days prior.
The Bells Rapids proposal inlcudes a new and improved viewing platform, space for a food and beverage van, landscaping and parking.
The Cook Government has provided more than $800,000 to the project, which the city said in the future would be connected to Bells Rapids via walking trails.
This week the city told Ms Mowat investigations into the condition of the building had been carried out and it was estimated that the required repairs were in the range of $2 million and therefore the funding would not be sufficient to bring the building up to the required standard.
The city acknowledged that in 2008, the council agreed for the building to be ceded to the city and the building was to be used for community purposes.
Ms Shaw said that the Bells Rapids lookout was a prized community, tourism and recreational asset, drawing thousands of visitors each year.
“Constituents tell me they want the derelict sales office replaced with recreational space, improved parking, safer road access and opportunity for food and beverage offerings,’’ she said.
DPLH was contacted for comment.