A BULLSBROOK resident is calling for a third party independent body to be involved in planning decisions and mediation when an outcome cannot be reached between local government and the State Administrative Tribunal.
Christine Spycher has spent two years fighting against a 40m Optus telecommunication tower being built on Crestmoor Pass in Bullsbrook less than 120m from her property.
Ms Spycher thought in February 2016 that the tower would not be going ahead after the City of Swan rejected the proposal on the grounds it was not a permitted use under the local planning scheme and it would have an adverse impact on local residents.
However, following an appeal to SAT and mediation between Optus and the City of Swan, the SAT ruled in favour of Optus and approved the tower in November last year without any modifications to the proposal and despite more than 100 statements from concerned nearby residents asking that the tower not go ahead.
Ms Spycher said this was not an isolated case and in far too many cases local government were powerless and planning procedures were being ignored.
She said SAT was not an independent body and there needed to be a third party involved where mediation failed.
“Our council has no power to protect our rights and our environment,” she said.
“There are planning policies and guidelines in place that are there to preserve the amenities of the area and when submitting our building applications as residents there are clear requirements that we are expected to follow, including building envelopes, minimum boundary setbacks, height restrictions, visual impact and proximity to neighbours.
“As residents we have abided by these council policies. However, these same restrictions do not apply to big business.
“There was no regard shown to council policies by either Optus or the SAT and our elected local government has no power to enforce them.”
The SAT stated that it took due regard of the respondent’s relevant structure plan by applying clause 27 of the deemed provisions in scheme 2 of the planning and development (local planning schemes) regulations 2015 (WA).
“The building envelope depicted could not be determinative of the outcome of this matter and the proposed facility was therefore capable of approval,” SAT determined.
“The Tribunal having considered the evidence of the significant number of local residents, who objected to the proposed facility on the relevant basis of their view that it would have an adverse impact on amenity, as well as the expert evidence in relation to amenity, State Planning Policy 5.2 and having had the benefit of a site view, concluded that the proposed facility would not have an adverse impact on amenity.”
Swan councillor Kevin Bailey, who originally put forward a motion to reject the tower, said it was disappointing that the SAT gave approval when it did not meet the local planning scheme.
He said the tower wasn’t even close to meeting requirements, with the tower being 80m to the closest property, when a 200m setback was required.
“My personal view is that there is definitely a need for a third party appeals process to support ratepayers,” he said.
Cr David McDonnell said the WA Local Government Association was currently asking for feedback from local governments on the Third Party Appeal Rights in Planning discussion paper.
Cr McDonnell said City of Swan staff were currently putting together a response to the paper and said he would be making his own personal submission, and urged other councillors to do the same.
“Given the current environment for planning outcomes and decisions with the SAT and Development Assessment Panels, I would say there is a desperate need for a third party appeals process within WA to protect the rights of everyday ratepayers,” he said
Ms Spycher said aside from the visual impact of the tower to nearby residents and a lack of rights, there were concerns over the health impacts and the electro magnetic radiation the towers emit and the impact to land values, both of which are not arguments that can be used to refuse a proposal.
She said it would not take long before local governments across Perth stopped rejecting the towers, because the cost was too great.
“The funding that is spent to attempt to fight them in the SAT is simply a waste of funds,” she said.
“There is no avenue to challenge or block them.”