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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Can 47 people be wrong about a service station?

The City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) has granted Caltex franchisee Milemaker Petroleum planning permission to build the service station in a Rural Living zone of Drysdale, despite having received 47 objections from local people.

The objections to the proposal are summarised below. They fall into four broad categories: environmental, aesthetic, economic and democratic.

1. Environmental objections

The site of the proposed service station is the junction of Jetty Road and High Street, Drysdale. This junction is the only route into and out of the north of the Bellarine Peninsula and regularly sees traffic jams that frustrate motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. A service station at this site will increase traffic congestion, increasing travel times, wasting fuel, increasing air pollution and heightening the risk to cyclists and pedestrians.

Any service station poses significant risks to its environs, because it stores large volumes of fuels and other chemicals, Spillage or leaks from tankers, leaks from storage tanks and spillage from customers will be washed into the storm water system, threatening the underground water system, the nearby Lake Lorne and the permanent spring just across Jetty Road (and downhill) from the site.

Finally, the proposed service station will be open 24 hours a day, filling the area around it with light and noise at levels normally associated  with the centre of a city, not the entrance to a rural town.

2. Aesthetic objections

The proposed service station would severely compromise the rural ambience of the approach to Drysdale and Clifton Springs. This ambience exists because areas close to the town centre - including the site of the proposed service station - are Rural Living zones. These zones allow homes in a rural environment and are meant to protect and enhance the area’s natural resources, biodiversity and landscape and heritage.

Siting a service station in a Rural Living Zone would threaten local 'green space', already under threat from massive new housing estates approved already by the council, contradicting its own Structure Plan for Drysdale and Clifton Springs, which requires the towns’ rural ambience to be maintained.

Council officers told people who objected to this industrial use of a Rural Living zone that a service station is a 'discretionary' development in a Rural Living Zone. Consequently, objections that the proposal would be inappropriate were simply wrong in legal terms.

However, subsequent to approving the Service Station, the council rejected a planning permit for a Child Care Centre in Jetty Road on the grounds that it was inappropriate in a Rural Living Zone and inconsistent with the Drysdale Clifton Springs Structure Plan! In this case, the council agreed with the 15 submissions objecting to the proposal; yet it approved the service station proposal despite 47 objections to it!

3. Economic objections

Objectors were concerned that Milemaker's proposed service station would be just a few hundred metres from the two existing ones; and that an application is likely for a service station at the Woolworths-led shopping centre in the new Curlewis estate, bringing the local total to four.

Objectors were concerned that an over-supply of service stations in the area could reduce profitability for all of them or even force one out of business. Either result would be bad for the local economy; and closure would bring all the environmental problems associated with ‘decommissioning’ a service station.

In reply, council officers said that economic considerations such as these were irrelevant to decisions on applications for planning permits – which perhaps helps to explain the current state of central Geelong’s economy!

4. Democratic objections

The council’s handling of this application has been inept in three ways. First, it gave people a shorter time (17 days) to comment than it took to process the application (22 days). Secondly, CoGG invited public comment at a time when a lot of local people were away on holiday and, therefore, unable to comment. Finally, the council displayed two A4 notices about the proposal on the property itself, but access to them was virtually impossible for many people, including those with prams/pushchairs and anyone with limited mobility.

Despite all those problems, 47 people made submissions to the council about the proposal. All of them opposed it, saying clearly that the community does not want a Service Station at that location.

For years, community associations (including those on the Bellarine) and individuals have criticised the council’s ‘consultations’ and proposed improvements, but with no effect.

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