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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Council rebuffs service station objectors

Last night, objectors to a planning application heard that they were lucky to get a hearing.

A City of Greater Geelong Development Hearings Panel deferred its decision on an application by Caltex franchisee Milemaker Petroleum to build a third service station in Drysdsale.

The original Caltex application had skipped over basic issues such as safety, pollution and congestion. A council planning officer had effectively rewritten the application, spending considerable time and expertise adding 6 pages of amendments and conditions to make it more likely to be accepted. Nonetheless, the Panel judged the application incomplete, as it said nothing about the effects on neighbouring households of the increased noise and light that a service station open 24 hours a day would generate.
Objectors at the Panel argued that the officer’s rewritten application still left many risks of congestion and pollution unresolved and asked whether and how they would be addressed in the interim. Panel chairperson Melissa Garrett replied, ‘We don’t have to hold these Panels at all, you know. They’re not in the legislation. It’s something that Geelong council has decided to do.’

Depend on the developers
Panel member John Bryce, from the council’s Infrastructure Management department, told the objectors that they needn’t worry about increased traffic congestion in Jetty Road, because a new North-South road in the adjacent Development area would take some traffic off Jetty Road. When asked when the new road would be built, Mr. Bryce said, ‘I don’t know. You can’t know. It depends on the developers.’

That phrase ‘It depends on the developers’ puts the council’s philosophy about the urbanisation of the Bellarine Peninsula in a nutshell. If all the council can do is depend on the developers, Mr. Bryce’s Infrastructure Management department seems unnecessary. Indeed, if all the council can do is depend on the developers, it might as well close its whole Planning Department.

Tests for light and noise
The next stage in this saga is that Milemaker will arrange to have tests done to establish the likely noise and light effects of a 24-hour service station at this location; and the results of those tests will be examined by council experts. The Development Hearings Panel will then reconsider the Caltex application, but hasn't decided when, leaving objectors unable to plan for the event.

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