The Bonlac Factory. Photo: Author.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has upheld a decision by the Baw Baw Shire Council to not extend a planning permit for a retail precinct on the Petersville Milk Factory site in Warragul.
VCAT found that sufficient time had been granted to redevelop the site and inaction by the site’s owners, Warren and Diane Turner, was causing delays for the project.
The planning permit was valid for five years.
The order, issued on Monday by VCAT Member Geoffrey Code, found the permit holders have not complied with the conditions of the permit.
“No development started before the permit expired. The requirements of the permit, particularly the submission of amended plans, have not been met so as to allow development to start. The applicants have not advanced preparation for the project with significant vigour,” Mr Code said.
The applicants had however prepared and obtained VicRoads approval for Queen Street road treatment plans, commissioned a recording of the factory’s industrial history and removed the butter factory equipment from buildings in preparation for demolition.
The applicants also told VCAT they have been talking with national retail chains about possible tenancy agreements.
Reasons given for the extension request were that the floor area exceeds that of a five year project, the site is complex and requires acquisition of Council and Crown land, and underground fuel storage tanks require removal and other approval issues.
Crown land discussions regarding the development have been a recurring issue in negotiations with the council, but Mr Code stated preparatory issues for the project are no greater than many larger retail developments.
The Baw Baw Shire Council’s reason for blocking the permit extension was that the project is no longer relevant to the town’s needs.
Mayor of the Baw Baw Shire Council Councillor Diane Blackwood said in a media release today the Warragul Town Centre Masterplan had changed the needs of the community.
“The development that the permit related to was conceived eight years ago, and no longer constitutes the best outcome or meets the needs of the town,” Cr Blackwood said.
“The Council wants to see the site developed sensibly and as quickly as possible; complementing the Warragul Town Centre Masterplan, providing linkages between retail spaces and exploiting the site to its maximum potential.”
Cr Blackwood also said the applicants were being unfair to the community by delaying development.
“The community is being unfairly penalised because of this site remaining undeveloped, and it is unacceptable for it to remain dormant,” Cr Blackwood said.
“Investor confidence in the area has dropped due to the uncertain future of the site, and we are missing out on escaped revenue that really belongs to our community.”
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