IN case you hadn’t heard, the unelected but powerful state administrative tribunal approved plans for a two-storey McDonald’s in Applecross on December 18.
One man — the SAT’s deputy president, David Parry — overturned an earlier unanimous rejection of the project by the five-member development assessments panel, which had itself been backed by the 14-member Melville city council and local MP Dean Nalder.
Residents opposed to the $4.6 million plan will know next week whether they have grounds to appeal the SAT’s controversial approval.
Campaigner Michael McCormick is seeking legal advice on whether the WA government has grounds to appeal the ruling, and is sounding out whether the Barnett government has the stomach for a legal stoush.
Mr McCormick says the SAT ruling makes a mockery of the development assessment panel process.
DAPs, consisting of three appointed “experts” and two councillors drawn from the local council, had been trumpeted by premier Colin Barnett four years ago as being more capable at making decisions on planning grounds.
“The DAP unanimously rejected McDonald’s application—which I believe is very rare—yet the SAT overturned it,” Mr McCormick says.
“It makes a mockery out of the DAP system: it should now either be enforced properly or scrapped completely.”
Mr Parry says if the government solicitor and key witness Peter Prendergast—the City of Melville’s statutory planning manager—hadn’t wobbled, his decision could have been different.
“Had Mr Prendergast’s evidence remained as it was originally foreshadowed in his witness statement and had the respondent’s [JDAP] case remained as it was originally formulated, the tribunal’s determination as the correct and preferable decision in this proceeding may well have been different,” he said.
Mr McCormick says the WA government didn’t have enough legal firepower at the SAT hearings, and its solicitor was frequently up against a barrister for McDonald’s, who was supported by up to two solicitors and multiple clerks.
“The government solicitor and the council witness didn’t do a bad job, but they were up against a highly paid and reputable barrister who had an extensive support team behind him,” he says.
“We needed more bodies on our side.”
The WA government has 28 days to appeal the SAT’s decision.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK