Bunbury Mayor David Smith has slammed the State Administrative Tribunal’s “worst possible decision” to knock back the Bunbury Forum’s application to expand the shopping centre to include a department store.
Believed to be either Myer or David Jones, the Forum’s multi-million dollar proposal has been refused by the WA Planning Commission.
The Forum had made an appeal to the ultimate umpire — the Tribunal — which last week handed down its ruling.
The Tribunal concluded it could not give planning approval because of the potential adverse affects to the CBD and the lack of a firm commitment from a department store.
But it said it may give approval in the future if circumstances changed.
Mr Smith said the ruling was “the worst possible decision for all retailers and potential employees in the Greater Bunbury area”.
“Quite frankly, I believe the decision of the Tribunal is proof of what happens when you have too many experts and not enough local knowledge,” he said.
The development was considered a major coup for the Forum, but independent consultants Shrapnel Urban Planning warned a department store could result in a loss of almost 8 per cent of sales for the rest of Bunbury’s retailers as a whole.
Despite the concerns, the council had supported the Forum development, arguing it would cement Bunbury’s status as the shopping hub of the South West and attract shoppers from Busselton and Mandurah.
Mr Smith said when the council made its decision, the Forum was closer to striking a deal with Myer, but this changed as the appeal process “dragged on”.He said the council would continue to investigate and promote sites in the CBD and work with the Forum.
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