Lease bungle delays skatepark

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MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire is considering revoking its lease with Mt Martha Tennis Club because of the club’s objection to a skatepark being built near its courts.

In an embarrassing gaffe, the shire has earmarked the site for the $800,000 skatepark within the boundaries of land it leases to the tennis club.

After first being held up by Heritage Victoria because of the site’s historic use as a military parade ground, the shire now appears to have been aced by the tennis club.

Cr Andrew Dixon says the club is “effectively holding the rest of the community to ransom”.

“The club, having extracted every last cent possible from the shire [for a new clubhouse and extra courts in Watsons Rd], are now flat out refusing to negotiate any co-location of the skate park within their lease area,” Cr Dixon told The News. “As such, councillors are considering revoking the club’s lease so we can get on with the job.

“It’s the most selfish behaviour we’ve witnessed by a community group since the council term began in 2012.”

Tennis club president Ken Davis said the club backed the plan for a skatepark on the parade ground but not close to the courts.

“We’re waiting for the shire’s take on it to see what possibilities are available,” he said.

Mr Davis said the club would like to build a new court on the site earmarked for the skatepark but “understands that may not be possible”.

Club members had agreed there would be a conflict of use if a skatepark abutted the tennis courts. “We voted to work with council, but would like it further away. We’ve no objection to it being on the parade ground.”

The shire’s chief operating officer Alison Leighton has not responded to several request from The News for her to answer specific questions about the lease.

Instead of confirming or denying the problem faced by the skatepark as outlined by Cr Dixon, Ms Leighton said “shire officers have been working through the delivery aspects with the Mt Martha Tennis Club”.

Money for the skatepark had been allocated in shire’s 2015/16 budget and “council will be building the skate park on the location approved by Heritage Victoria.

Cr Dixon’s two Briars Ward colleague, Cr Anne Shaw said she was looking forward to “seeing the skate park delivered … it can’t happen soon enough”.

The ward’s third councillor, Bev Colomb, did not respond to an email from The News.

Council adopted the skatepark project in 2012, to be built on the former parade ground bounded by The Esplanade, Dominion Rd and Kilburn grove.

Mt Martha resident David Elbourne said the shire had “only just become aware” that it did not have access to site earmarked for the skatepark.

“I just can’t believe that after almost four years, extensive community consultation, application and approval from Heritage Victoria and the completion and approval of the skatepark design concept, that it is only now that the shire has realised that the site that they selected almost four years ago cannot be used,” Mr Elbourne said.

“It is simply absurd to consider all the time, resources and ratepayer funds that have been spent on this project, only to realise that the shire does not have access to this site.”

Mr Elbourne, a building designer, said it should have been part of the shire’s due diligence four years ago to find out if the site was available.

He said the shire had been incompetent and had let the community down.

“It is just such a shame that the kids that were involved in community consultation back in 2013 possibly could have been at primary school at that time, yet when – or if – the project ever eventuates those kids will be in secondary school by the time the project is realised.”

First published in the Mornington News – 7 June 2016

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