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Artist's impression of the Beach Shack at 171 West Coast Highway in Scarborough. CREDIT:NORUP + WILSON

Australia: 'Environmental vandalism': Scarborough's scenic dunes slipping away

A section of coastal dunes in Perth’s north will be cleared by a private developer despite the area having the highest protection available under the Land Administration Act 1997, with an activist calling it "environmental vandalism".

The pocket of Bush Forever dunes in Scarborough will be cleared, revegetated and filled with coastal sand by Norup + Wilson as part of its Beach Shack apartment development on West Coast Highway.

The developer originally applied to clear 1000sqm of native vegetation within a1600sqm portion of dune system bordering the Beach Shack but later withdrew its clearing permit application due to community backlash.

Local residents and conservation groups campaigned against the clearing, wanting the Crown land to be protected and remain untouched.

The original 1600sqm section of dune is part of a 3.3 hectare area, once a road reservation earmarked for the extension of The Esplanade, and has since been amalgamated with the South Trigg Class A Reserve, thanks to a campaign led by Beach Not Bitumen.

The reclassification of the land means the City of Stirling is now responsible for its care, control and management rather than Main Roads.

However, the City has handed its responsibility to Norup + Wilson, which now plans to clear 70sqm, revegetate and fill 300sqm and weed about 500sqm of dune to create a firebreak and pedestrian pathway.

Beach Not Bitumen spokeswoman Robyn Murphy said the city had an obligation to protect this land and that Norup + Wilson had no right to use it because it was owned by the WA public.

“We were dismayed that Norup + Wilson had gained the support of the Stirling Natural Environment Coast Care and the City of Stirling to clear, fill and disturb these vegetated coastal dunes up to 11 metres from its boundary,” she said.

The area of coastal dune Norup + Wilson will clear, revegetate and fill. CREDIT:ROBYN MURPHY.

“This is environmental vandalism."

“We’re not willing to give up an inch of this land to Norup + Wilson and we’re bewildered by the City of Stirling’s support of this.

“Class A Reserve status affords the greatest degree of protection for reserves of Crown land created under the Land Administration Act … used solely to protect areas of high conservation or high community value.”

In December 2015 the Department of Fire and Emergency Services listed the land as a ‘designated bushfire prone area’, meaning mandatory works and revegetation of the area were needed, according to Norup + Wilson director Dave Wilson.

Ms Murphy said there was no need for a firebreak as the existing dual use path was a perfect access route for DFES, which previously would of had to be used for existing residential developments.

She said an independent botanist had accessed the area and said the bushland was in
excellent condition and that DFES requirements had been overruled by government departments in the past when firebreaks were recommended but not actually required.

Mr Wilson said works, expected to begin in the next three months, would include widening the existing limestone pathway to three metres to ensure fire services can access the property, installing a 1.8m-high fireproof rated glass screen covering the western site boundary, and planting more than 1300 indigenous plants.

“We would prefer not to undertake the works, but unfortunately we are governed by planning and legal requirements which we need to adhere to, in order to complete the development,” he said.

“We are a proud resident of Scarborough who also love the reserve area and are determined to leave the area in a substantially better condition than what it currently is after all the mandatory works and revegetation has occurred.

“Norup + Wilson has been in consultation with a number of government agencies over the last 16 months including Department of Planning Lands and Heritage, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, City of Stirling, Department of Fire and Emergency Services and Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority. The City of Stirling and the MRA have placed strict conditions to ensure limit the impact to the adjacent reserve.

“Although several Authorities were required to be contacted through the process (DPLH, DFES, etc), the ultimate Authorities whom are authorised to legally approve the works were the City of Silting and the MRA. Both these Authorities have confirmed their support for the current design.”

City of Stirling infrastructure director Michael Littleton said the plans were only approved after extensive discussions with state government departments, the developer and conservation and engineering officers.

“Public assets such as parks, reserves, roads, paths and lighting are commonly built or improved by developers with approval, where the private development generates the need or demand,” he said.

“By working together with the developer a solution has been secured that will provide a public benefit (pedestrian access) and improve conservation values to the A Class reserve at no expense to the State or the City.”

The Beach Shack is part of the MRA's overall $100 million Scarborough Beach redevelopment and consists of 99 apartments as well as residential amenities.

See Sydney Morning Herald article . . .