Shopping centre faces millions in fence fines

A Colorbond fence could end up costing Morley’s Coventry Village shopping centre more than $20 million in fines and backpayments.

Bayswater city council launched legal action last year after Coventry failed to remove the temporary fence at the rear of the village and replace it with concrete.

Approved plans stipulated concrete, with the council agreeing to a temporary three-month trial of Colorbond only after the builders reported problems recycling cement earmarked for the project.

After the trial the council voted to not allow the Colorbend to remain.

The centre submitted an application seeking formal permission to keep it.

A few days before the item was to come before the council—with a recommendation to reject—the council launched legal action under the WA planning and development act.

A magistrate found in the council’s favour, exposing the centre to the possibility of a $1 million fine plus $25,000 daily penalties stretching back to 2012.

All up, that’s nearly $10 million the centre is potentially exposed to.

However, the magistrate won’t set a penalty until a separate state administrative tribunal appeal, filed by the village, is heard.

The unelected but powerful SAT presides over planning disputes.

Village shareholder Mike Holtham is disappointed the council decided to prosecute before even voting on the new application.

“The prosecutor for the city actually suggested that we shut the development down until we complied,” he said.

“So we were supposed to shut down 150 tenants and their businesses?

“We’ve had no complaints from residents about the fence and most of the other fences in the area are Colorbond, so it doesn’t detract from the amenity—it doesn’t make sense.

“This kind of red tape could dissuade other developers from planning projects in the city.”

Morley Liberal MP Ian Britza says he wants common sense to apply and for the village to be treated fairly.

A SAT mediation is scheduled for August 28. Coventry Village is appealing the magistrate’s original ruling.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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