Bunbury council faces business bun fight

BUNBURY City Council CEO Michael Whitaker’s honeymoon period looks set to end as his administration faces attacks from various quarters of the business community.

What some are frightened of is the trend to what is seen as an anti-development path.

Local architect Robert Nichol-son said Bunbury had traditionally been a pro-development city but as recently as four months ago council had changed its policy.

“For the first time since I’ve been in Bunbury there has been a total disregard to development,” Mr Nicholson said.

He said Bunbury’s economic development was under threat.

“The council has developed a number of anti-development policies,” Mr Nicholson said.

“The current vogue is that everything gets delayed for at least twelve weeks.”

Mr Nicholson said delays and demands on developers to produce more and more documents would force developers away.

He said, by comparison, Dard-anup Shire was excellent.

“Bunbury is going down the Busselton model. It becomes so complex that no-one can give a firm answer as to what you can and cannot do,” Mr Nicholson said.

“Bunbury will pay a huge price with the uncertainty that exists with getting building approvals.”

A spokesman for architectural firm Brian Delfs and Associates said the council was one of the better ones with which it dealt. However, the process of dealing with council could become more formalised, definite and certain.

Mr Nicholson said it was possible to talk to many in Bunbury’s building industry who were upset with the current trend.

“Everyone is ropeable with what is happening in council. It really has reached crisis proportions. It’s just immoral what is happening,” he said.

Mr Nicholson said recent changes to the Bunbury administration have destroyed the whole operation.

What also concerns him is that the shift in attitudes to development in Bunbury has gone on either without councillors seeing what is happening or simply not caring.

“Bunbury was moving ahead because we have been development friendly. You take that away and you will see people moving to Perth for development because it gets too hard,” Mr Nicholson said.

“If it becomes too hard it’s much easier to go elsewhere or forget about it. We will lose development hand over fist.

“I think it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. It cannot be allowed to run for another week with the way it is going.”

Local developer Joe Lamonica is furious with the way he has been treated by the council.

He has had to advertise the plans for his property twice when others had no such requirements laid on them.

According to Mr Nicholson, the use of advertising was normally reserved for when a proposal did not in fit in with the current zoning of the land. If the proposal did fit the zoning requirements there should be no need to advertise.

Mr Whitaker believes the use of advertising is an important tool to protect the community by providing it with an opportunity to provide feedback on developments.

Also of concern to Mr Lamonica is the perceived preferential treatment of LandCorp, particularly on Marlston Hill.

He said obligations with regard to providing adequate open space and room for parking around the Marlston Hill lookout displayed short-sightedness on the part of the council and LandCorp.

Mr Whitaker denies this is the case.

“What we have in Marlston Hill is an award winning development which has been recognised because of its terrific design,” he said.

Mr Whitaker also dismissed concerns over the length of time it took for building approvals to be given by the council saying the length of time was well within the regulated requirements.

Yet he will find it increasingly hard to ignore the concerns of local developers. A special electors’ meeting looks increasingly likely as more developers and interested parties put pen to paper and sign a petition calling for action.

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