THE State Administrative Tribunal has ruled that Bayswater council acted “unreasonably” in opposing a proposed concrete batching plant on Collier Road.
The SAT has ordered the council to pay $112,000 in legal costs and consultation fees to the applicant by August 11.
The SAT usually doesn’t award legal costs and the move could deter other councils who side with angry residents and refuse point-blank to approve developments, despite them complying with regulations.
The city’s prolonged and unsuccessful fight against the proposed concrete batching plant dates back to 2011, and by 2014 the council had already spent $170,000 on its own lawyers. The total cost to ratepayers is now at least $282,000.
The SAT finding said Bayswater council, “took the view it would always oppose a concrete batching plant at the subject site regardless of any professional advice or previous decision of the tribunal.
“The Tribunal found, whilst the respondent may oppose a concrete batching plant at the subject site, the respondent was still obliged to consider the proposal on its merits”.
It said the council “acted unreasonably in refusing to approve the superior design” in 2016.
“…cost orders are generally only made in review proceedings where a party has acted unreasonably” and not made a decision on its merits.
The finding says that when Bayswater mayor Barry McKenna gave evidence at the SAT hearing he “appeared to have little substance underpinning his own reasons for refusing the proposed development beyond stating a number of times in different ways what the tribunal finds to be implausible statements to the effect that the decision ‘… was for valid planning reasons’.”
“The mayor’s evidence and an examination of the reasons for decision of the respondent in the reconsideration appear to the tribunal to be clearly incongruous when set against all of the professional advice that was before the respondent and appear to be contrived in an attempt to appear to genuinely decide the proposal on its merits.”
Bayswater council has not said if it will appeal the SAT’s decision.
In 2011 Bayswater council initially rejected the proposed batching plant, but the SAT overturned the decision and approved the application in 2014, subject to conditions.
There was still community concern about the dust and health risks, and in 2015 the plant made further modifications and presented the new version to Bayswater for approval.
But the council knocked it back, meaning the applicant, Ransberg, had to go back to SAT in 2016, pushing for costs because of its own mounting legal bills.
by DAVID BELL