A three-year battle over a petrol station planned for one of the main streets through Dunsborough’s town centre has drawn to a close with the developers and Puma walking away from the project.

The Dunsborough community had been up in arms and fighting tooth-and-nail to halt the petrol station, slated for a vacant block on Dunn Bay road — which already housed petrol stations at either end.

During the fight, developers recast the station as a ‘convenience store’ that sold petrol in a bid to appease local planning laws and push the proposal through.

Over the course of more than three years the station was in and out of developer panels and the courts after first being rejected in 2015 by the Southern Joint Development Assessment Panel, which took umbrage with the convenience store classification.

That move was subsequently rebuffed by the State Administrative Tribunal, which ordered the SJDAP reconsider its decision — which it did, before again turning down the development.

It was then back to the SAT in 2017, as developers appealed the decision and scored a victory, with the tribunal approving the station as a convenience store.

But another appeal late last year challenged that SAT ruling, arguing an “error of law” had taken place as a City of Busselton town planning scheme amendment submitted in 2015 and signed into law only days before the SAT verdict in 2017 barred the development from going ahead as a convenience store.

The appeal was successful, sending the project back before the SAT.

However, a press release issued on Wednesday announced the ageement between Puma Energy and developers DCSC had lapsed at the end of 2018, and “despite legal advice that a High Court challenge would have a high probability of success”, both parties had decided not to extend the agreement.

DCSC spokesman Paul Kotsoglo said in the statement there was now uncertainty over land use given the City of Busselton and state government could “make changes to the permitted land use under the zoning at any time”, and the development syndicate would consider other commercial options for the land, next to the Dunsborough Centrepoint shopping centre.

“We are not the first, and will not be the last party, to be thwarted by a long, expensive and an unpredictable approvals process,” he said.

“The ability of the state to change rules at will during the approval process is cause for concern for anyone with an interest in or who owns property.”

Puma2Go, a protest group formed to fight the development, hailed the news as a “great start to the new year”.

In a statement on its site, the group thanked the Dunsborough residents who turned out to voice their opposition to the planned station.

“From the initial JDAP hearing in December 2015 residents made it clear a petrol station disguised as a convenience store was not needed or welcome in our main street,” it said.

A Puma2Go spokesman said it was surprising the developers still pointed the finger at the government for changing the rules “at will”, as the City of Busselton’s change to the local planning scheme had already been submitted before the project’s development application in 2015.

The group noted it welcomed Puma and other petrol stations in Dunsborough: “Just not in its main street”.

Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said the City had long held reservations about the proposed station, which “was not considered to be in keeping with the community vision for a vibrant and pedestrian-friendly Dunsborough Town Centre”.

“The City now welcomes the opportunity to liaise with the owners around alternative concepts for this very important site,” he said.

Planning and development director Paul Needham said the City had pushed forward amendments to its town planning scheme that would “effectively preclude development of this kind on the site in future”.

“Those amendments are currently awaiting final consideration by the Western Australian Planning Commission and Minister for Planning,” he said.

“It would certainly have been far preferable if this outcome could have been achieved more quickly, but the matter has essentially been between the applicants and various arms of the state government for most of the period.”

Extracted from Canberra Times