Residents concerned about a proposed disability housing project earmarked for private land long used as a dog exercise area in Riverslea have lodged a petition with the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River.
Public comment closed on September 1 after provider Habilitas lodged a development application on the Tingle Avenue site which has been mooted for housing of one form or another for more than 15 years.
Residents told the Times the space within the bigger public open space was a valued community recreation area and the project should go elsewhere.
Local Beth Ross said neighbours wanted the Shire to buy the land to enshrine its existing use.
“It is privately owned and we realise we probably have no chance of the council doing a land swap or buying the land,” Ms Ross told the Times.
“But it is worth the time and effort to try so the park can continue to be as perceived for all these years as open space.”
The developer said the project would help people living with a disability access the town centre more easily.
“Lot 752 Tingle Avenue is located a short 1km away from the Margaret River town centre, affording it great access to a variety of services, schools, as well as local amenity within an established neighbourhood,” Habilitas said.
“Privately held since 2008, this modest land parcel is now an opportunity to create a small but high-quality specialist disability accommodation facility.
“Specifically, the owners are looking to fill a much-needed local gap in service for specialist disability accommodation affording necessary medical care, respite and security for those living with a disability.”
Principal planner Daniel Lees said the group continued working with the Shire for the best outcome.
“We support the Shire and community goals where ‘no one is left behind’,” he said.
In pushing the petition online, campaigners received plenty of negative feedback from other residents — including parents of children with disabilities — about the need for the complex.
In a letter to the council, petition author Marian Rowe said in the early days of Riverslea the site was slated as tennis courts and community recreation.
“Since then, the block has been sold between the developers of this area and left as a public open space that the community could and should enjoy,” Ms Rowe said.
“It has never been fenced, so many people buying in the area perceived this as a park as it is the only public open space of significance in this development.”
While the disability facility might be needed, the intention for the Tingle lot was as a community facility, Ms Rowe said, and a land swap for a vacant site close to Margaret River Hospital was a better option.
“I understand that there may be a need for this in the South West,” she said.
“However, this block was meant to be improved for the use of local people of this area not for people outside this area.”
A 300-signature petition would go before councillors at their meeting in Augusta next week.