Planning Minister says act not strong enough to protect the Swan Valley from inappropriate developments

L-R John Griffiths (Winemakers Association), Alain Gaudet (Swan Valley Tourism Alliance), Matt Katich (Grape Growers Association)
L-R John Griffiths (Winemakers Association), Alain Gaudet (Swan Valley Tourism Alliance), Matt Katich (Grape Growers Association)

PLANNING Minister Rita Saffioti says progressing the Swan Valley planning review is a priority because the current act is insufficient in protecting the Swan Valley from inappropriate planning.

The comments come after an unprecedented move by three of the Swan Valley’s peak industry groups to join forces in calling for drastic action to protect the premier viticulture, food and wine destination from unsuitable developments.

Swan Valley Tourism Alliance vice-president Alain Gaudet said there was genuine fear amongst the alliance, the Grape Growers Association of WA and the Swan Valley Winemakers Association, that recent planning decisions by the City of Swan and the State Administration Tribunal (SAT) would result in a proliferation of ill-suited development applications being lodged and approved.

“The recent decision by SAT redefining what can be considered as ‘community purpose’ in development applications, including places of worship and rehabilitation centres, has heightened these concerns,” he said.

“These developments, if approved, could seriously impact the future development of the Swan Valley and limit the future economic prosperity of locals.”

Mr Gaudet said the Kobelke review into the existing Swan Valley Planning Act 1995 showed the Act had failed to protect the region.

“The review clearly identified the historic failures of the existing Act, due to its ambiguity, to protect and enhance the uniqueness and ambience of the Swan Valley as well as its rural and viticultural character,” he said.

“The review recommended a substantially strengthened planning structure by way of a new Act, incorporating planning control of the Swan Valley area to better protect and enhance that ambience.

“Of particular note in the report was the recommendation to discourage potential businesses which do not contribute to the ambience provided by the viticulture but seek to profit from its presence and proximity as an attractor to the region.”

Mr Gaudet urged Ms Saffioti to take whatever steps were necessary to stop unsuitable developments happening in the Swan Valley.

Ms Saffioti said she shared the concerns of residents.

“The current Act for the Swan Valley is insufficient – we all recognise that,” she said.

“It is integral the next piece of legislation precisely identifies what is suitable for the area and what isn’t.

“In the meantime, I am looking at what interim planning measures are available to government during this period of transition.

“However, it is worth noting all applicants have the right to appeal decisions in the State Administrative Tribunal.

Ms Saffioti said she expected to present the State Government’s response to the report by November.

City of Swan acting chief executive Jim Coten said the City has always fully supported preservation of the unique character of the Swan Valley.