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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Service station proposal challenges planning laws and practices

A proposal to build a Caltex service station in Drydale would introduce an industrial-scale development into a Rural Living Zone, contradicting many planning policies and raising questions about others.
Blue arrow on right points to site.

The site of the proposed service station is the junction of Jetty Road and Portarlington Road. (See ''Council restricts public comment on proposed new service station in Drysdale" [29/1/14] on this blog.) 

The major elements of the proposal are:
  • Access roads into the site from both Jetty Road and Portarlington Road
  • A car refuelling area with 6 double-sided pumps
  • A truck refuelling area with 2 pumps
  • Parking for seven cars
  • A service station building approximately 400 square metres
  • Landscaping, including removal of trees along the property's Jetty Road and Portarlington Road frontages.

Conforming to planning policies?
Caltex franchisee Milemaker Petroleum p/l is applying to the City of Greater Geelong (CoGG)  for planning permission to build the service station. The company's application asserts that the proposal fits within existing planning policies, but there are several instances when it can be argued that this isn't the case.

The application states that:
"The subject site is located within the Rural living Zone (RLZ), the purpose of which is:
* To implement the State Planning Policy Framework and the Local Planning Policy Framework including the Municipal Strategic Development and local planning policies
* To provide for residential use in a rural environment
* To provide for agricultural land uses which do not adversely affect the amenity of surrounding land uses
* To protect and enhance the natural resources, biodiversity and landscape and heritage values of the area
* To encourage use and development of land based on comprehensive and sustainable land management practices and infrastructure provision."

The proposed service station clearly conflicts with several key phrases there:
"To provide for residential use". The proposal is for a business development, not a residental one.
"To provide for agricultural land uses". The proposal is for a service industry land use, not an agricultural one.
"To protect and enhance the natural resources, biodiversity and landscape and heritage values of the area". On the face of it, the proposal will neither protect nor enhance those features of the area; it is more likely that it will reduce them

Milemaker Petroleum p/l may be able to argue that those conflicts don't exist. Unless and until it makes those arguments as part of its application, the application clearly shouldn't proceed. 

Planning objectives
The application states that:
"There are various references with the State and Local Planning Policy Frameworks section of the Greater Geelong Planning Scheme that are relevant to the proposal, including but not limited to the following:
* Clause 11 (Settlement) aims to ensure that planning is required to anticipate and respond to the needs of existing and future communities through the provision of a range of services and facilities.
* Clause 15.01 (Urban Environment) aims to create urban environments that are safe, functional and provide good quality environments with a sense of place and cultural identity.
* Clause 17.01 (Business) which refers to the need to encourage developments that meet community's (sic) needs for retail, entertainment, office and other commercial services and provide net community benefit in relation to accessibility (sic), efficient infrastructure and facilities.
* Clause 22.04 (Discretionary Uses in Rural Living and Low Density Residential Areas) recognises the importance of protecting the rural living and low density residential locations through discouraging uses which are likely to have a negative impact on the character of the area and residential amenity."

Here, the problem isn't that the proposed service station conflicts with any of those clauses; rather, the application merely asserts that the proposal conforms with those policies, rather than showing that it does so by providing concrete evidence. Thus:
* Clause 11 (Settlement). Drysdale has two service stations already; where is the statistical and demographic evidence to show that three service stations would be economically viable? If the proposal succeeds in the absence of such evidence, the result could be that one of the three service stations fails economically or that all three see reduced profits.
* Clause 15.01 (Urban Environment). The site of the proposed service station isn't in an 'Urban Environment'; as the proposal states, "The subject site is located within the Rural living Zone (RLZ)"
* Clause 17.01 (Business). Where is the statistical and demographic evidence, to show that the Drysdale community 'needs' a third service station and to show that a third service station would 'provide net community benefit'? Further, if  CoGG has given approval for the forthcoming supermarket in the Jetty Road estate to include a service station (selling reduced-price petrol), this will place even greater economic pressure on other service stations in the area.
* Clause 22.04 (Discretionary Uses in Rural Living and Low Density Residential Areas). Where is the evidence to show that a service station in a Rural Living Zone wouldn't have a "negative impact on the character ... and residential amenity" of the area? A service station is an industrial development and, as such, is completely inappropriate in a Rural Living Zone.
Milemaker Petroleum p/l may well be able to assemble and present such evidence as part of its application. Unless and until it does so, the application clearly shouldn't proceed. 

Getting the arguments right
To highlight those shortcomings in Milemaker's application for planning permission to build a service station is not, of course, to oppose it on principle - although several local people are likely to do so. Instead, it shows that this particular application does not conform to established planning laws and principles and, as such, should not proceed. A second application, amended to take account of those planning laws and procedures, may well make a convincing case for a service station on this site.

CoGG's planning officers can guide Milemaker on how to write such an application; it's strange that they didn't use their professional expertise to highlight the weaknesses of the current one. CoGG's planning officers can also guide anyone who wishes to support or oppose the current proposal - the first stop is CoGG Planner Grant Logan (

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