The Bunbury Forum will face its biggest hurdle in the fight to secure a major department store when the matter goes before Bunbury City Council this month.
The Forum’s owner, Atlas Point Pty Ltd, is edging closer to approval for the $80 million redevelopment which would be anchored by either Myer or David Jones.
During the next two weeks the council will decide if it supports the Forum’s expansion and if it will ignore the WA Planning Commission which says a department store should be located in the CBD and not the Forum.
The proposal has sparked a debate about the health of Bunbury’s CBD and whether a department store in the city could save the city’s ailing retail sector.
Atlas Point managing director Steve Cuzens said a department store at the Forum would underpin the viability of the CBD against the rapidly developing competition of Eaton, Treendale and Dalyellup shopping centres.
Mr Cuzens said the developers were committed to expanding the Forum despite the severe national retail downturn which had halted any new department store openings.
‘‘This is a temporary setback, regardless of which councillors are being asked to decide between what is effectively a bird in the hand and an unlikely fowl in the bush,’’ he said.
‘‘The fowl in the bush is whether a future developer would be prepared to start the process all over again to seek approval to develop a whole new centre in the CBD.’’
The council was previously warned the shopping centre’s expansion could result in a loss of nearly 8 per cent of retail sales for Bunbury retailers as a whole and erode trade in the CBD.
Bunbury Chamber of Commerce and Industries chief executive officer Andrew Horan has backed the redevelopment saying the economic benefits far outweigh any short-term negative consequences.
Mr Horan said it would be unacceptable if the department store was lost to Mandurah or Busselton.
If the council grants approval, the matter will return to the State Administrative Tribunal next month.