Dunsborough locals have helped dent the aspirations of developers who want to build a 24-hour Puma Energy petrol station and convenience store in the middle of the town centre.

The WA Court of Appeal on Monday upheld an appeal against the controversial project on one of the last remaining vacant blocks along Dunn Bay Road, the popular tourist town’s main strip where two petrol stations already sit at either end.

Opponents have argued the idyllic South West town’s busy centre was already serviced by two petrol stations – a BP and recently-rebranded Coles Express – and a third would make the pedestrian-heavy area and surrounding tourist precinct unsafe, especially during peak holiday seasons.

The long-running development battle will now likely return to a new State Administrative Tribunal panel to reexamine after the Southern Joint Development Assessment Panel last month appealed a Supreme Court decision to allow the petrol station, on the basis it was approved by the SAT as a ‘convenience store’.

Local community group Puma2Go spokesperson Tony Sharp said the developers DCSC could appeal Monday’s decision to the High Court or pursue the issue with the SAT.

“Any such application would now have to be heard under new planning regulations, which put up much higher hurdles to any such development hiding behind a so-called ‘convenience store’ loophole,” he said.

“Puma2Go wants DCSC to recognise the strong community feeling against this development and stop wasting taxpayers’ money on dragging out this fight. Lead directors Jim Litis and Kylie Brierty should work with the community in finding better use for the land.

“We are awed and delighted with the huge groundswell of community support, which has kept this fight alive.”

DCSC told WAtoday it would consider the Court of Appeal’s decision before it determined its next move.

“We are surprised and concerned by the outcome, given three prior decisions had ruled in favour of the development application,” a spokesperson said.

“The major concern here is that changes to planning can be taking place without the knowledge of the landowner, the JDAP and SAT, after everyone has had their say at a final hearing.

“This substantially increases the risk for all landowners because they cannot even go to the SAT confident that their time and investment in resolving disputes would be put to good use.”

Alternative site for Puma station on cards

In March 2018, both sides of the political spectrum urged Puma Energy’s Swiss-based CEO Pierre Eladari to consider relocating the petrol station to Dunsborough’s light industrial area, where it would be approved for use by the City of Busselton.

They argued a recent community survey showed 99 per cent of residents preferred the development there as it was adjacent to a new housing development without petrol stations or convenience stores nearby and was more community-friendly.

MPs told Mr Eladari the proposed Puma site was in the middle of the town centre and on the corner of what the RAC listed as one of the riskiest intersections in rural WA.

Community members and the City of Busselton had also created a strategic plan to make Dunsborough’s town centre more pedestrian friendly.

Bitter three-year legal battle

The long-running stoush appeared to have been settled last year when the SAT ruled in favour of DCSC, despite the project being rejected twice by the SJDAP.

Lawyers for SJDAP argued in the Court of Appeal last month there was an “error of law” in SAT’s decision as it didn’t consider an amendment to the City of Busselton’s definition of a “service station” in its planning scheme, first made in 2015 but signed into law only days before the 2017 verdict.

The verdict had already been appealed, but that was dismissed earlier this year — a move which is the basis of the latest appeal from the SJDAP, which has requested a new SAT hearing if successful.

Whether the development is classified a “service station” is central to its approval for the Dunn Bay Road location, where two petrol stations already stand.

To clear a path through local planning guidelines, DCSC had put forward a development plan for a “convenience store” featuring three petrol bowsers.

The SJDAP first rejected the development as a “convenience store” in 2015 and knocked it back a second time, after being ordered by SAT in 2016 to reconsider the proposal.

DCSC again appealed SJDAP’s decision to the SAT, which approved its development last year as a convenience store before the latest round of legal argy-bargy ensued.

Extracted from Sydney Morning Herald