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Thursday, September 3, 2015

VCAT orders DCSCA to pay $5,500 legal bill

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has ordered the Drysdale & Clifton Springs Community Association (DCSCA) to pay $5,500 in legal costs to Caltex franchisee Milemaker Petroleum by 7 December 2015.

The service station being built
Milemaker Petroleum had asked VCAT for $26,000 in legal costs. It is building a service station at the junction of Jetty Road and High Street, Drysdale, having received planning permission by the City of Greater Geelong council.

DCSCA's case
DCSCA had asked VCAT to overturn Milemaker’s planning permission for two reasons.

First, the association argued that the council had ignored local opposition to the proposal. When the council invited public comment on Milemaker’s proposal in January 2014, every submission opposed it, arguing that a service station was inappropriate at that location, which is zoned Rural Living. Prior to the VCAT hearing in May 2015, more than 400 people signed a DCSCA petition opposing the service station, most saying that they hadn’t heard of it.

Second, the association argued that planning permission for the service station was inconsistent with the council’s refusal of planning permission for a child care centre in the same Rural Living zone, deeming a commercial development inappropriate.

The site as it was
At the VCAT hearing, the association wasn’t allowed to put its case. Milemaker’s lawyers argued that the association’s application should be dismissed, as it had been submitted after the due date for such applications. The chair of the hearing agreed, dismissed the application and invited Milemaker to apply for its legal costs.

DCSCA's costs alternative gains wide support
DCSCA asked VCAT not to award legal costs against it and, instead, to make each side pay its own costs. The request received widespread support, including representatives from each level of government: local federal MPs Richard Marles and Sarah Henderson, local state MP and Environment Minister Lisa Neville and local councillor Rod Macdonald. Support also came from local community groups, including the Bellarine Catchment Network, Bike Safe and the Clifton Springs Tennis Club.

Further, an online petition (organised independently of DCSCA) asking VCAT not to make DCSCA pay Milemaker’s legal costs has gathered 349 signatures.

Nonetheless, VCAT ordered the community association to pay Milemaker $5,500 in legal costs.

The association plans to ask Milemaker to write off the $5,500 as a gesture of good will to the local community.

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