THE proponent behind a large-scale tourism venture in the Bickley Valley has scrapped plans for a reception centre after strong opposition from residents, who argued it would ruin their lifestyle.
The East Metro Joint Development Assessment Panel will assess a development application to build a gin distillery, restaurant and 15 chalets at 116 Union Road in Carmel.
Union Road resident Aidan Cosgrave said it was an exceptional development but it was proposed for the wrong area.
“An astute business person with experience in the hospitality industry would look at this and acknowledge placing such a development near the end of a no through road, on the most densely populated residential street in the area, which is also a priority water catchment and a recognised bush fire zone, is not a challenging proposition but a careless one,” he said.
“Tourism plans in the Bickley Valley should be intimate and embrace and blend in with the community and respect the needs of residents in terms of noise, risk, safety and scale. Places like Plume, Belara Springs, Packing Shed, Brookside, Fawkes House, Myattsfield and Cosham have successfully done this over many years of operating in the area.”
Developer Terry Martin, who bought the 9ha property in September 2016, said the Perth Hills tourism market had room for expansion and this could be done sensitively to the residents and the environment.
“WA Tourism Council has highlighted accommodation shortfall in and around Perth and has set a target of 1900 additional short-stay rooms by 2020,” he said.
“The Hills Rural Study 2014 also recommends the rural zoning should be rationalised to allow new land uses, especially agri-tourism, which has received support from State Government agencies.
“If even a well-considered, low-impact development is not supported on land zoned for that purpose, what is the message sent to those who may wish to invest in the region later? This should be a concern of the community, the council and even the State Government, particularly when the need for accommodation and alternative attractions in an identified tourist region has been a highlight of numerous studies, and strategies.”
Mr Martin said his proposed Bakehouse Distillery was a small-batch boutique gin distillery that aimed to use endemic botanicals and ingredients, while the chalets were intended to be a mid-level short-term stay for guests wanting a quiet rural accommodation option.
But Mr Cosgrave said plans to distil gin onsite posed a bushfire risk.
“The base for gin is ethanol and the storage and use of such highly flammable product in a high-risk bushfire zone is of significant risk and places visitors and residents at greater risk as well,” he said.
“The area is an acknowledged bushfire zone and the proposed development only has one point of entry and exit.
“This itself fails to meet the Department of Fire and Emergency Services guidelines for such a development.”
Fawkes House Country Spa Retreat owner Caroline Babbage said if the development went ahead, she would be forced to close her doors.
“We are appalled at this inappropriate development,” she said.
“The overwhelming viewpoint of local tourism operators is that we need to retain the unique points of difference that set us apart from other local destinations such as the Swan Valley.”
But Mr Martin said he had addressed the bushfire risk and had scaled back his proposal in light of community concerns.
“We respect the reception centre’s capacity, evening hours of operation and traffic impacts are the key concerns, so we are amending our proposal to exclude a reception centre,” he said.
“This will limit operating hours to the day and significantly reduce traffic volumes, and get rid of any intense traffic movements when guests would arrive or depart functions.
“What is attractive about the location is a key asset we ourselves want to protect. We will have guests staying onsite and their peaceful amenity is also of paramount importance.”
Shire of Kalamunda chief executive Rhonda Hardy said a drop-in session would be held in coming weeks for residents to find out more about the proposal.