Recent Bunnings Inglewood blaze raises questions about additions to Balcatta store

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THE recent Bunnings blaze in Inglewood amplified concerns about fire risk for proposed additions to the hardware chain’s Balcatta store.

Bunnings sought approval from the Metro North-West Development Assessment Panel for various changes including extending its timber trade sales area and enclosing the building materials and landscape yard.

A report by the City of Stirling presented at the March 7 panel meeting recommended approving plans for changes to the garden centre, hardware showroom, parking, landscaping and signage but refusing the timber trade and building materials yard additions because of bushfire risk.

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The report said the site was in a bushfire prone area and the bushfire management plan and bushfire emergency evacuation plan submitted by the applicant “failed to adequately convey an alternative solution to demonstrate compliance” and had many inconsistencies.

It said there was not sufficient justification for the location of the structures so approving the extension would represent a “high to extreme risk”.

Burgess Design Group associate director Mark Szabo presented on behalf of the owner and said the changes would increase safety because the open timber sales area would become enclosed and described the fire risk area as “small bush” in a road reserve.

Bushfire behaviour analyst Mike Scott, of Bushfire Prone Planning, also spoke on behalf of Bunnings and told the panel there were “minimal” fatalities from building fires in the past 100 years and the non-combustible materials used in the proposed structure would reduce the risk of a building fire.

Stirling councillor David Boothman noted the “significant fire” at Bunnings in Inglewood on February 26, and the large bushland on Reid Highway near to the Balcatta store.

“We’re not looking at just the danger of bushfire to the building but of the building to bushfire,” he said.

Cr Bianca Sandri moved the report recommendation because she believed there was “too much of a risk to approve” the proposal in the high risk bushfire area but specialist member John Syme moved a procedural motion to defer the application for three months so the applicant could provide more information about the bushfire conditions.

The motion passed, with Cr Sandri and presiding member Karen Hyde voting against it.

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