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Legal development at Gnarabup

THE Augusta Margaret River Shire is facing a compensation claim totalling $5.7 million in relation to the controversial development at Gnarabup Beach near Margaret River.

It’s understood the joint-venture proponent of the $30 million development, Mark Hohnen’s Gnarabup Beach Company, is seeking the compensation from the local shire in relation to past actions of the shire council.

“We’ve had a claim put in for $5.7 million from Mr Hohnen and he’s put that it is for injurious affection, alleging the council has cost him monies in the future,” Augusta Margaret River shire president Nick Dornan said.

The shire is currently seeking legal advice to ascertain whether an injunction can be obtained to put a stop to the earth works, including drainage and sewerage being undertaken on the site.

However, the shire admits promises and undertakings given by the WA Planning Commission, the previous council and the Court Government will make it difficult to prevent some type of development on the site.

“The proponent does have an expectation that there will be some level of development,” Mr Dornan said.

“The history of it stands as high as my desk.”

He said there should be some sort of low-key tourist development to avoid long and costly legal action.

Earthworks have begun on the coastal site, adjacent to the Margarets Beach Resort, following a decision by the WA Planning Commission to grant a subdivision approval.

There also are claims the development exceeds the lot allowance for Gnarabup set out in the town-planning scheme.

But the ambiguous nature of the town-planning scheme has only further muddied the waters.

It’s not just the coastline development that has got the locals concerned. Separate to the housing and tourism development at Gnarabup is a proposal for a 120-room lodge on a site north of the proposed coastal development.

“The community are very unhappy with the lodge site. They believe it will be an eyesore and it’s right above the Gnarabup Cafe,” Mr Dornan said.

Local environmental lobby group the Leeuwin Conservation Group also has waded into the melee.

“It’s a pristine coastal heath on limestone and it’s in really good condition. It’s quite a complex eco-system with all sorts of different plants,” Leeuwin Conservation Group secretary Rod Whittle said.

The group is taking on the WA Planning Commission with the hope it can scuttle the Gnarabup Beach company development plans and get the subdivision approval revoked.

“The amazing thing is that without legitimate structural plans and whilst the structural plans were going through the council, the WA Planning Commission gave subdivision approval,” Mr Whittle said.

“The Leeuwin Conservation Group is legally challenging the WA Planning Commission’s conditional subdivision approval.”

State Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan has rejected calls for a judicial inquiry into the development and the clearing of land at Gnarabup, claiming there’s no basis for such an inquiry.

It’s understood Ms MacTiernan is travelling to Gnarabup to meet with stakeholders next week.

When the shire originally advertised the development for public comment it received more than 700 submissions claiming there should be no development on the site.

Based on these recommendations, the shire commissioners submitted a recommendation that the development not go ahead.

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