Stirling balks – WA News 26 Oct 2016

Stirling balks at state ‘land grab’ for Scarborough Esplanade extension

By Emma Young

The City of Stirling has resisted – for now – a state government request for it to hand over control of the planned Esplanade road extension site in Scarborough.

About 100 residents turned up to a council meeting on Tuesday night after hearing belatedly of the plan, which the local Beach Not Bitumen group had labelled a “premeditated, deceptive land grab”.

Scarborough beachfront development battle

Scarborough’s pristine sand dunes are under threat, with plans to build a dual-carriage road along the beachfront. Some locals fear the development could destroy their seaside sanctuary. Vision: Nine News Perth

“We only found out on Saturday, and that was by accident – a supporter who happened to read the council agenda came across it,”  group spokesman Anthony James said.

The agenda revealed that Planning Minister Donna Faragher had requested the council extend the boundary of the Scarborough redevelopment area to “facilitate transfer of planning authority” to the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority.

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The group hastily lobbied councillors to postpone the decision in order to consult more fully and a packed public gallery grilled council staff in question time, which had to be repeatedly extended.

“In the end councillors voted seven to four to postpone the deliberations until the next full meeting of council,” Mr James said.

“Councillors basically said they didn’t have enough information to back the handing over of the sand dunes.

“To their credit, they thought it was a complicated matter deserving further consideration.”

The dunes are fragile and should be protected, residents say.  Photo: Facebook/@Save Trigg Beach

Mr James said residents were “surprised and disappointed” the City of Stirling’s director of planning and development Ross Povey claimed the MRA’s proposed boundary extension did not include Bush Forever zones, when the map on the agenda confirmed it did.

“We were very surprised that he didn’t seem on top of this,” he said.

“And disappointed of course that he was guiding council in their deliberations on misinformation.”

Stirling council still refuse to comment on the issue until a final decision is made but the majority decision of concillors to postpone means flouting the end-of-October deadline from Ms Faragher.

It seems nonsensical to be building a road in the sand dunes and creating a permanent barrier to the beach.

“After years and years of brokering boundaries and partnerships, there is this letter asking, ‘can you just do this’?” Mr James said.

“It is unfortunate… we are still faced with the MRA and the government being sneaky about this.

“We have this dilemma where their MO seems to be not to engage the public openly for the best outcome.

“We do not support the dunes being part of the redevelopment zone.

“We want a broader consultation about the best outcome for traffic and for a 21st century development.

“We are stuck in thinking that building roads is the way.

“Even the RAC’s most recent Horizons magazine says we need to heavily invest in public and active transport. We cannot build roads to escape congestion problems.

“We have to cast our eye beyond the old way of planning.

“Yet we still seem stuck on road-based solutions instead of complementing existing infrastructure with better public transport solutions, car sharing platforms, the whole suite of options on the table, other than just more roads.”

Labor environment spokesman Chris Tallentire said the proposal to put a road so close to the beach was appalling.

“It seems nonsensical to be building a road in the sand dunes and creating a permanent barrier to the beach,” he said.

MRA chief executive Kieran Kinsella said ahead of the council meeting on Tuesday that the road extensions were in the preliminary design phase only and were subject to further analysis that would include 12 to 18 months of detailed design and environmental approvals.

He said the MRA had been working with the City on the $101 million, 30-year vision to transform Scarborough into a world-class tourist destination and the road extensions were just one element.

He was contacted on Wednesday for further comment.

The City in 2012 resolved that the Trigg Beach end of the proposed road extension site be protected as a Class A nature reserve.

Stirling council considered it as performing vital regional biodiversity functions in connecting coastal reserves and facilitating animal and seed movements across the region.

It initiated the process to reclassify the road reserve but, in 2014, the MRA intervened to put a stop to the process.