Approval for the expansion of the Bunbury Forum went before the State Administration Tribunal this week as the debate over the best location for a department store in Bunbury continues.
Considered the most complex issue to cross Bunbury City Council’s desk, the council has engaged Perth-based lawyers McLeods Barristers and Solicitors to represent the council in the matter.
Forum owner, Atlas Point Pty Ltd, says it has been negotiating with a major national department store for the past four years, and was disappointed not to get WA Planning Commission approval.
Believed to be either Myer or David Jones, the development would be a major coup for the Forum and Bunbury. However, last year independent consultants Shrapnel Urban Planning warned a department store at the Forum could result in a loss of almost 8 per cent of retail sales for Bunbury retailers as a whole.
Despite the concerns, the council has 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.
The Tribunal hearing came as the Commission released the new Activity Centres for Greater Bunbury Policy which encourages mixed land-use development in urban centres.
Commission chairman Gary Prattley said the new planning policy focused on community and lifestyle.
‘‘The Activity Centres for Greater Bunbury Policy sets out the broad planning requirements for the development of new activity centres and the redevelopment of existing centres,’’ Mr Prattley said.
‘‘With this policy we move beyond planning based uponthe floorspace cap principle and the mere provision of shopping centres.
‘‘This policy will create vibrant public spaces with increased interaction and improved community utility.’’
The South Western Times understands the final decision on the best location for a department store will rest with the council.
It will consider the issue at a meeting in August and the matter will return to the Tribunal in September. The council has also asked the Commission to clarify local government decision making responsibility under the Greater Bunbury Regional Scheme.