The Capes community will again fight to save Smiths Beach as Liberals Deputy Leader Libby Mettam throws her weight behind the battle. The member for Vasse has lobbied WA Planning Minister Rita Saffioti to stop a 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 on Saturday, Perth developer Adrian Fini’s Hesperia consortium has 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. In part, Mr Fini’s proposal is accepted by a reformed Smiths Beach Action Group but several components of the plan have vexed locals. Ms Mettam said the Minister would ignore her own grounds for the emergency legislation if Mr Fini was given the opportunity to use the fast-track laws at the site adjacent to Smiths Beach, 10km south-west of Dunsborough. Introduced in May last year to spur economic activity amid COVID-19 shut downs, the Planning and Development Bill received bi-partisan support to urgently bring forward 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”. “Final decisions are made by the Western Australian Planning Commission,” she said. “I have read Ms Mettam’s letter, whilst I’m yet to respond, it appears she does not understand the legislation she supported last year.” Ms Mettam said given the contentious history of the site, which had widespread ramifications, bypassing proper public scrutiny should be avoided at all costs. “Smiths Beach is an iconic part of the State and it’s essential we get this right,” Ms Mettam said. Ms Mettam said the law was supposed to be short-term to stimulate the construction industry. But she said the trades skill shortage was a clear sign it was no longer required, especially not for the Smiths Beach development. Yallingup local David Mitchell is a second-generation Smiths Beach campaigner who said he was seeking a resolution so that his children did not face the same battle his father grappled with more than a decade ago. From infants to elderly, Mr Mitchell helped gather about 400 locals at Smiths Beach for community meeting this week following the revelations. Led by a growing group of former public servants, the local action group is disputing the development’s scale across an expanded footprint, commercial and residential zoning percentages, environmental considerations, waste and emergency management. “The community group was born in the 2000s and we have re-emerged through our joint concern with Smiths Beach and the pristine coastal environment,” Mr Mitchell said. “We are not saying that development can’t occur. “Due process must be followed. The use of the short-track planning approval system is unacceptable. “I’m not sure that environmentally sensitive coastal developments that have had a chequered history … (are) the appropriate development to go through this (fast-tracked) process.” Its latest proponent still can’t reveal the full proposal because it is yet to finalised. A spokesman for Mr Fini’s Smiths Beach project assured the community a rigorous consultation process would commence when a detailed proposal was finalised in coming weeks. Already he claimed about 200 individuals had been engaged in the process across 2020-21, including Wardandi traditional owners, community associations, businesses, local government, South West tourism bodies and operators, and residents . Mr Mitchell, who is a planner, said Mr Fini’s involvement was welcomed by locals on the back of great WA developments in Perth and the South West but he urged the major developer, who he has previously worked with, to be guided by the previous planning laws. He said locals would support a proposal as long as it adhered to the Local Planning Scheme’s planning laws that determine the development of the site, the footprint approved in previous EPA recommendations and previous decisions of the WA Planning Commission and State Administrative Tribunal in regards to the development of the site. The 45ha footprint is bigger than the previous plan and sits much further west, higher on the hill and closer to the beach. The approved development footprint for the site is now proposed to be expanded by some 30 per cent out to the west on to the headland. “Surely around 12ha of prime north-facing coastal land in this location as set out on approved plans is more than sufficient for the development of a tourist node,” Mr Mitchell said. “It would be great to see it progress within the approved footprint and conditions.” New fire control regulations since the previous project’s assessment mean that more than 80 per cent of about 17ha of vegetation would need to be cleared. The previous project had a 12.8ha development area. Former Busselton town planner working in the department during the previous saga Nigel Bancroft knows too many people scarred from the Canal Rocks Pty Ltd development. He questioned the tourist to residential building ratios and said the site had been earmarked for a high-quality international tourism facility not a combination of houses under mixed management. Mr Bancroft also urged developers to commit to road upgrades or community facility contributions, saying that if they didn’t local ratepayers may be subject to funding the road upgrades for a significant site. He also said bushfire regulations as well as water and sewerage issues needed to be reviewed, with plans to treat wastewater on site through aerobic treatment units rather than install a sewer line to Dunsborough. In a statement Mr Fini said his project was of significant value to the area and would bring with it a Cape to Cape HQ and include a new “state of the art” Smiths Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. “Our vision is to create Australia’s most sensitive coastal village deeply rooted in place and culture that provides tourism, community and economic benefits,” he said. He said the concept was a private development project by the families that had owned the site since its 2014 purchase and that plans for the site were continuing to be developed with the goal of starting an approval process before 2022. While he said the currently approved structure plan for the site could accommodate for more than 500 tourism and residential dwellings, the new proposal is “far less intensive” with significantly fewer dwellings.