The City of Busselton has quietly backed calls for the contentious Smiths Beach development to slow down and adhere to local government planning laws. The request follows Vasse MP Libby Mettam lobbying WA Planning Minister Rita Saffioti to stop the renewed push for development at the popular South West beach to go through COVID-prompted fast-track planning laws. As revealed by The West Australian this month, Perth developer Adrian Fini’s Hesperia consortium had plans to deliver a 65-room hotel and 61 residences — similar to the previous failed plan 15 years ago — with a 36-platform camping ground for Cape to Cape Track walkers. While Mayor Grant Henley said the City was unable to comment further until the application had been lodged with the WA Planning Committee, it is understood he, too, wrote to Ms Saffioti about it. “While I understand that the community and particularly the Save Smiths Beach group, are concerned that the proponent is bypassing the City, the new alternate assessment pathway is, under current State legislation, an option the proponent is entitled to pursue,” Cr Henley said last week. However, in a letter to Ms Saffioti, Mr Henley reflected the concerns raised by the Smiths Beach Action Group and Ms Mettam, calling for the development process to revert to the local planning process. He raised concerns about the fast track “bypassing proper public scrutiny”. “Due to the sensitive nature of this development, transparency is of the utmost importance,” he wrote. Smiths Beach Action Group spokesman David Mitchell applauded the City’s action, saying it validated community concern. “We welcome the mayor’s actions and his acknowledgement of our community’s concerns about Hesperia’s development,” he said. “As we have made it clear, we share the council’s concerns about the need for transparency, community consultation and for the City of Busselton to decide on any development at Smiths Beach. We call upon the minister to respect the council’s request. Hesperia’s development should not be allowed to bypass local democracy and bypass local planning laws.” The Planning and Development Bill was introduced in May last year to spur economic activity amid COVID-19 shutdowns, received bi-partisan support to bring forward urgently shovel-ready projects to create new jobs. Ms Saffioti, however, said no development application had been received to date, and nevertheless she “would not be the decision maker”. Ms Mettam said given the contentious history of the site, which had widespread ramifications, bypassing proper public scrutiny should be avoided at all costs, adding the trades skill shortage was a clear sign it was no longer required, especially not for the Smiths Beach development.