The independent group hopes to have a majority of “like-minded” candidates elected to the nine-seat council at the election next month.
They want an impact study to investigate the implications of development on the Surf Coast and surrounding areas.
Council figures show the Surf Coast Shire’s population is forecast to grow from 32,651 last year to 45,717 by 2036.
Mr Cole said the proposal for a raised 60-metre platform at Winkipop at Bells Beach reserve had come to symbolise fears about development on the coastline.
He said surfers and residents were angry about the proposal and believed there should only be temporary infrastructure installed for the annual Rip Curl Pro surfing contest.
Mr Cole has accused the council of attempting to appease the World Surfing League by agreeing to build the platform at the community’s expense.
But Surf Coast Shire mayor Rose Hodge, who is seeking a fifth term, disputed criticisms the council had ignored community concerns about the proposed platform.
She said the council had taken those concerns into account and decided to pause the project.
However, Mr Cole said a funding application submitted by the Surf Coast Shire in 2017 before surveys were conducted about upgrades at Bells Beach, including the proposed viewing platform, showed the council was not genuine about asking the community for its views.
The funding application, seen by The Age, asks for $183,000 to build the viewing platform, which was to be completed by June 2018.
In one survey, published last year, nearly 55 per cent of the 379 respondents said they would loathe an elevated pathway compared to about 36 per cent who said they would love it or like it.
Cr Hodge said she was unsure of the exact chronology of the funding application and surveys but insisted the council had tried to balance the needs of everyone who used the beach.
A state government spokeswoman said Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio referred the platform and proposed walkway to an independent committee before making a decision on the Surf Coast Shire’s broader plan for the Bells reserve.
Population was growing fast in Torquay, Cr Hodge said, because people were attracted to the beaches.
She said access to health, education and other services had improved vastly in recent years.
“Years ago we didn’t have a full-time dentist. You had to go to Geelong for X-ray services,” she said. “Sometimes with development you do get services that can keep the community in the area.”
The government has declared Torquay and Jan Juc as “distinctive areas and landscapes” and is drawing up a 50-year plan to guide development controls and residential boundaries.
Real estate agents across regional Victoria have observed rising interest from Melburnians, posing challenges for local councils in catering to growing populations.
Anglesea resident Mike Bodsworth, who is aligned with Mr Cole, is running in his local ward to protect Anglesea’s natural environment and “unspoiled character”.
“I want to help protect and nurture those qualities, so they continue to inspire locals and visitors alike, long into the future,” he said.
But the aspiring councillor said transparency was also a major issue and too often residents were forced to seek access to government documents via freedom of information requests.
Benjamin is The Age’s regional editor. He was previously state rounds reporter and has also covered education for The Age.