By Kirra Grimes
LONG term residents, holidaymakers and tree changers at Inverloch are at odds on a service station development proposed for the outskirts of town, with some saying it’s exactly what the area needs, and others concerned it’s a “slippery slope” to losing what they love about living there.
The development would turn vacant zoned farm land on the corner of Inverloch-Kongwak Road and Wonthaggi Road/Bass Highway into a United Petroleum service station with seven bowsers, a convenience store, and truck and caravan parking.
The plans are currently being advertised via Bass Coast Shire Council’s website, with three objections submitted to Council so far.
Dozens of people have also taken to the Facebook group ‘Inverloch Community Voice’ to comment on the proposal.
Among them was Trevor McCorn, of Bendigo, who owns property at Inverloch and plans to move there permanently “in the near future” but says large scale developments threaten to destroy the very things that drew him to the area in the first place.
“I’d have concerns about further expansion beyond the current boundaries of the township as they stand,” Trevor told the Sentinel-Times last week.
“I’m not opposed to development happening within the township, but the service station is planned for the farmland adjacent to the town, and my opinion is that this is the thin edge of the wedge in driving further expansion and sprawl.
“I think that would spoil the character and charm of Inverloch and I would like to see the current limits kept in place.”
Hayden Tipping, who’s lived at Inverloch his whole life (29 years), has expressed a different view, saying the town has being crying out for another petrol station for years.
“We need the infrastructure to support the growth of the area,” Hayden told the Sentinel-Times last week.
“Where the current BP servo is, in town, it gets very congested over the summer holiday period, especially with all the boats and caravans needing to fill up.
“My dad has a boat about six metres long and he has trouble getting it into the servo because it’s really tight.
“Something on the outskirts would free up a lot of space, and it’d be good for farmers too, and all the people going through to Wilsons Prom.”
Other benefits highlighted by Hayden and other commentators on the Inverloch Community Voice post included increased competition, leading to lower fuel prices; and the creation of local construction jobs.
Concerns about preserving the charm and character of Inverloch needed to be balanced with providing infrastructure to support the growing tourist population, proponents said.
“You’ve got to look at convenience, especially for holiday people that bring a lot of money into the area; you’ve got to give them a second option,” Hayden said.
The Inverloch Tourism Association, which represents over 70 Inverloch businesses, does not have a stance on the proposed development, with spokesperson Gary Tayler saying the group was waiting for more information from VicRoads and Council before deciding whether or not to support it.
Decision out of Council’s hands
THE decision on whether to approve the planning permit application for the $3.5 million development has been taken out of the Bass Coast Shire Council’s hands, after it failed to respond to the applicant within the prescribed timeframe.
Delegations relating to the Planning and Environment Act 1987 require Council to determine a permit application that: attracts five objections; or has an estimated cost of development that is equal to or greater than $3 million dollars.
But failure to resolve issues related to road access within the standard 60-day timeframe for planning permit decisions, has resulted in the applicant taking the matter to VCAT for a decision.
Council’s General Manager of Place Making James Stirton told the Sentinel-Times last week Council officers had been “proactively working with” the applicant and Regional Roads Victoria to resolve issues related to access to the site but that these issues “remain unresolved and will now need to be addressed through the VCAT process”.
The VCAT hearing is scheduled for March 18, 2020, with a report formalising Council’s position expected to be presented at either the Ordinary Council Meeting scheduled for December 2019 or February 2020.
The planning permit application will remain on Council’s website until a decision is made.
If amended plans are formally submitted through the VCAT appeal, those plans will also be uploaded to the website.
A person who did not object to the original application through Council, but now wants to object, must apply directly to VCAT to lodge a ‘statement of grounds’.
A statement of grounds form can be found on VCAT’s website, www.vcat.vic.gov.au, under ‘Forms, guides and resources’.