Fight over old mill

Fight over old mill

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Rodney Croft at the old saw mill in Jarrahdale. Photograph – Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne.

Martin resident Rodney Croft and the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale are locked in a legal battle over the old saw mill in Jarrahdale.

The issue was set to be resolved in court on April 18 but traces its origins back to November 2014 when Mr Croft met with then-shire chief executive officer Richard Gorbunow.

Mr Croft said the meeting was about a business he proposed to operate from the sawmill site.

He said his proposal fit clearly within the existing use rights of the site and did not require approval from the shire to be requested in the form of a development approval.

“This opinion was reinforced with the facts that the previous 18 businesses that operated from the site before my proposal over the last 90-odd years had not required a developmental approval from the shire to operate from the site,” he said.

“At the meeting Mr Gorbunow agreed to my proposal of not needing a development approval from the shire and he gave permission to the National Trust to proceed to grant me a lease in regards to my proposed use of the site.”

Mr Croft said after proceeding to operate the business he was informed by the National Trust and shire that he had to withdraw his permission to operate the site.

Mr Croft has alleged the shire also denied giving him permission in the first place.

“The National Trust and I signed a binding heads of agreement so I could lease the site for 10 years with an option of another 10 years,” he said.

“I was even given the keys to the site and I had outlaid hundreds of thousands of dollars in the setup of the site and purchased machinery for the business operation totalling close to $2 million.”

Mr Croft said he has recordings of the meeting, which he took to protect his business interests.

The shire took legal action against Mr Croft in April 2016 and Mr Gorbunow swore an affidavit in the case against him.

In his statement Mr Gorbunow said at the meeting Mr Croft proposed to use the land for the purpose of a sawmill.

“He asked whether that use was able to be carried out on the land,” he said.

“I said to Croft that if the use was the same as what was there previously then I could not see why it couldn’t be carried on.

“I added that there may be an issue with the use and as the previous saw mill use had ceased he should check that the time limit of six months under the Town Planning Scheme relating to discontinuance of use had not expired.

“I also said they would need to put in a management plan that the shire wanted in relation to the proposed use.”

Shire president John Erren said he could not comment on the matter because it was still in court.

He said the shire would comment after the matter had been resolved.