MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire attempts to keep service stations out of its green wedge appear to have failed.
State Planning Minister Matthew Guy has ignored the council’s policy by approving twin freeway service centres on Peninsula Link at Baxter.
This is despite council’s refusal of the plan in 2011 and the state planning tribunal VCAT confirming the knock-back in mid-2013.
But the shire is not rolling over without a sound and will ask Mr Guy to reconsider his decision.
Mr Guy has disappointed councillors and the shire’s executive team by approving an amendment to the shire’s planning scheme to enable the freeway service centres (FSCs) to go ahead – all without input from the council.
This is despite new plans substantially reducing the size of the twin complexes on either side of the freeway (“Smaller servos in Baxter wedge”, The News, 18/2/14).
Cr David Gibb told The News that Mr Guy had sought council’s views on the matter but then gone ahead and approved the change before the council could comment.
Cr Gibb was among councillors strongly opposed to the FSCs in 2011 when the council knocked back the proposal.
Melbourne developer AA Holdings, which builds FSCs with the BP brand, appealed the council decision in the VCAT, which in mid-2013 confirmed the shire’s refusal.
It has twin FSCs on Calder Freeway in Keilor, Hume Freeway at Wallan, Princes Freeway at Officer, EastLink tollway between Ferntree Gully Rd and Wellington Rd, and Geelong Bypass at Lovely Banks.
A report to councillors presented on Monday night last week stated “the Minister for Roads [Terry Mulder] requested the Minister for Planning [Matthew Guy] to approve an amendment to the planning scheme”.
“The circumstances of this report are unusual [as they require] council to make a decision and advocate for a matter that would appear to have already been decided,” the report stated.
“However it is considered that the matters at stake are so important for both the local community and the wider community from a road safety perspective that it is incumbent upon council to undertake further advocacy.”
Councillors agreed to send a letter to Mr Guy expressing disappointment about the process and calling for him to “prepare, adopt and approve a different amendment” that considers the council’s views.
The council also called for investigation into the exit to the freeway from the southbound FSC, which objectors and shire officers say is not long enough for trucks and towing vehicles to attain a safe speed to rejoin the freeway.
It wants a path so pedestrians walking to McDonalds, KFC, a convenience shop and coffee kiosk are not tempted to cross the freeway.
It wants “adequate noise protection, control of litter, and security for the directly adjoining landowners”.
In 2011, the council said the twin servos would impinge on the green wedge zone, was a “commercial development of excessive scale within the green wedge”, the design and location of the development failed to adequately protect the landscape and environmental values of the Moorooduc flood plain, and it would “have an adverse impact on the amenity of the area with regard to noise, light and visual bulk”.
“The proposal will result in the loss of agriculture land in the green wedge zone, which cumulatively jeopardises the economic viability of the Mornington Peninsula in terms of agricultural productivity.”
Cr Gibb said the council’s stance had not changed since 2011.
“I don’t believe there is a need for the northbound service centre; it’s just 20 minutes from Rosebud,” he said.
The case for a southbound centre also was weak considering service centres on freeways leading to Peninsula Link, he said.
“Shire councils over many decades have sought to protect the values of green wedge including landscape values, and habitat and biodiversity values. I’m disappointed with another assault on our green wedge.”
He said the centres were against both state and local government policy.
The new proposal has generated several strong objections from residents appalled that their input will not be considered by Mr Guy.
The council has received just one submission in favour of the servos, from Peter Baulch of Baxter Residents and Traders Progress Action Committee, which has supported the FSCs from the beginning.
Supporting the project behind the scenes is Linking Melbourne Authority, the state government body formed to oversee the building of EastLink tollway and Peninsula Link.
LMA awarded the tender for the Baxter twin servos to AA Holdings in late 2010.