By Roger Simms
A 2.4km MOTOCROSS training track built without approval on farmland in Wattening is now in limbo and may have to be closed down or removed following a decision by the Toodyay Shire Council.
The dirt track, with banks, turns and jump points, covers an area 450m by 250m on an 818-acre property in Bull Road near the border of the Toodyay and Victoria Plains shires, about 4km south of Bolgart.Read more
Steve Walsh and Karene Quinn applied for retrospective approval of the track which is used by Mr Walsh’s son Darren, a state motocross champion.
The track has drawn strong community opposition over concerns about noise and dust pollution and possible contamination of a water source.
Landowners, the Water Corporation, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and The Victoria Plains Shire all opposed the application in submissions to the council or urged more checks, especially about water.
The recommendation to council at last week’s meeting, however, was that the application be approved.
Planning officer Hugo de Vos said in his report that a thorough examination of the proposal made it difficult to justify refusal.
Many of the concerns raised were related to potential future development, which went beyond the scope of the application.
Conditions could be applied to control noise, dust and the number of riders who would use the track, how often and at what time of the day.
The applicants had said that main user of the track would be Mr Walsh’s son. Other riders would be limited to family and friends.
But the recommendation did not go to a vote.
Shire Deputy President Therese Chitty moved instead that the application be rejected, and this was adopted six votes to one.
She said it was hard not to have in mind the full intentions of what the applicants wanted. There was already a building on the site without approval.
Shire President Brian Rayner questioned how the council would be able to enforce regulations about the track and said there was not enough information about the noise and dust risks.
Cr Eric Twine said: “I’ve never heard a quiet motocross bike.”
Cr Ben Bell was the lone supporter of the application.
Farmers were free to ride motorbikes anywhere on their land, he said. “Why shouldn’t such freedom be extended to this family?”
Cr Bell said mining activity in the shire was more difficult to control for noise and dust than motocross bikes.
Mr Walsh and Ms Quinn were represented in their application by Gary Fitzgerald of town planning consultants Tecon WA.
Mr Fitzgerald urged the council to vote on what he called the reality, not the perception. This was not a motor sports complex.
In Mr De Vos’s report it was noted that the applicants had advised that details of camping grounds had been included on the plans by mistake. They were not being considered as part of the application.
Mr Fitzgerald told The Herald this week that the applicants were considering all their options.
The Herald’s understanding is that it is open to the applicants to appeal to the State Administrative Tribunal and if that failed the council would have to decide whether to order the track closed down or removed.
(Additional reporting by Peter Ruthven and Allan Gregory.)