SHALOM House has once again lost its battle to keep its doors open in the Swan Valley with City of Swan councillors voting 8-5 overnight to refuse changing the rehabilitation centre’s zoning because it was inconsistent with local planning objectives including the Swan Valley Planning Act 1995.
City officers had recommended the council grant Shalom approval for a proposed change of use from residential to community purpose for it’s properties in Henley Brook.
The program run by former drug addict and councillor Peter Lyndon-James claims to be the strictest rehab centre in Australia and has been locked in a three year battle with the City over zoning classifications.
Cr Cate McCullough said while Shalom’s program was invaluable in helping men beat addiction, planning laws could not be ignored.
“Shalom prides itself on being the strictest program of its kind in Australia and the men in the program know they must follow very strict rules, regulations and guidelines,” she said.
“There is zero tolerance for any deviation from these expectations which results in the removal of the attendee from the program.
“We are looking at the power of example here, following City planning guidelines, the rules of the land and there are consequences for individuals who ignore planning laws.”
Cr Charlie Zannino commended Cr Lyndon-James and his team for the valuable work they carried out but said the rehab centre did not comply on planning grounds.
“The issue is the location, not what Shalom does,” he said.
“The State Administrative Tribunal has required council to reconsider the matter even though we have deliberated this matter in detail.
“The Swan Valley is a place steeped in history with the oldest vines in WA and is also the second oldest wine region in Australia and prospers as a world class tourism destination.
“The Swan Valley Planning Committee, which is endorsed by the State Government, unanimously objected to this application on planning grounds.
“We need to protect the Valley and its fragile future so we cannot support inappropriate development within the Swan Valley Planning Act boundaries.”
There were more than 20 deputations from community members many of whom including one Park Street resident who said she felt extremely intimidated by the residents in the program.
Those speaking in support of Shalom said the centre was an asset to the community and did not detract from the core essence of the Swan Valley as a food, wine and tourism region.
Swan Chamber of Commerce president Gerry Hanssen said Shalom posed no threat to the Swan Valley.
“Just because they are only men living in existing properties it’s no different than a large family living there,” he said.
“They’re absolutely no threat to tourism, wineries or vineyards.”
Ahead of last night’s meeting, Grape Growers WA called for the City of Swan to reject the planning approval.
However Mayor David Lucas said there was a groundswell of opposition to the application from established vineyards including Mandoon Estate and the Edgecombe Brothers.
“I have been inundated with emails from wineries, restaurants, table grape growers and tourism operators who have highlighted to me how special the Swan Valley is and have objected to this proposal,” he said.
Cr Zannino has called on Planning Minister Rita Saffioti to provide a formal submission to SAT and outline her department’s position on Shalom’s zoning battle in light of the current review of Swan Valley Planning Act.
A spokesman for Ms Saffioti said the minister would consider writing a submission to SAT regarding the interpretation of “community purpose” in general.
“Any decision by the SAT involving an interpretation of “community purpose” could have broader planning implications across the state,” he said.
“Moving forward, the Minister and the WAPC chair have agreed there needs to be a clearer definition of “community purpose” in the planning scheme and the WAPC will investigate a specific land use definition for rehabilitation facility in the future.”
Mr Lyndon-James has been contacted for comment.
Earlier this month, Shalom House purchased a property in Bullsbrook with Mr Lyndon-James’ plans to build a hub for the men’s drug rehabilitation centre.