A bridge project dubbed “Midland’s Juukan Gorge” moment will proceed despite desperate pleas from Traditional Owners to alter the design which they say will devastate Aboriginal heritage sites and biodiversity.

On Wednesday evening the City of Swan council voted to approve the Lloyd Street Bridge concept design, which will cross the Helena River.

Cr Ian Johnson, who moved one of five motions against the design, said the bridge was a threat to an “extraordinary” ancient Aboriginal rock shelter less than 1km from Midland.

“Our Reconciliation Action Plan acknowledges that the Whadjuk Noongar people are the Traditional Owners of the land and acknowledges the significance of their cultural heritage and beliefs and connection to the land and water,” he said.

“If we really believed that…. we would not be proposing a design that they have clearly said they do not want.

“The bridge has a Section 18 approval – so did the destruction of Juukan Gorge.”

WA Senator and Yamatji-Noongar woman Dorinda Cox read a statement from three Traditional Owners at the meeting claiming they had been forced into choosing the bridge design.

“We feel this bridge has been forced on us without consideration of how much destruction it will cause,” the statement said.

“None of our recommendations were listened to and we were left out of the final design.

“We want Main Roads to work with us and other Noongar Traditional Owners and the Helena River Alliance to redesign a better bridge that does not destroy a cultural heritage site.”

The statement said the Traditional Owners had not been told the floodplain would be buried, and had not been told more than 150 pylons would be driven into the embankments.

After the council meeting, Senator Cox said 29 heritage sites and biodiversity in the area would be ruined.

During the meeting City of Swan Mayor David Lucas said delaying the project could see it scrapped entirely.

“In my view you have two options tonight, you approve this design or you have no bridge at all,” he said.

“(WA Planning Minister) Minister Saffioti was very clear in her response: if the City of Swan does not endorse the concept plan, she will take it back.”

Mr Lucas said an improved plan could cost an additional 20 to 30 million dollars.

Prior to the council meeting the Helena River Alliance held a protest outside Midland Town Hall to rally against the bridge.

Protestor Marilena Stimpfl said the design of the bridge was appalling.

“Main Roads has to consult with Traditional Owners,” she said. “During these consultations Traditional Owners continually said they did not want a bridge at that location.”

A State Government spokesperson said the City had chosen the Lloyd Street Bridge location, and the project had Aboriginal Heritage approval.

“The concept design that was provided to the State by the City of Swan was amended significantly in direct response to Traditional Owners’ concerns.

“If the City of Swan wants to walk away from decades of proper planning, and expose its ratepayers to significant cost that is up to them.”

The spokesperson said the City would have to start the approvals process from scratch should the current design be scrapped.