A WAR of words has broken out between state Planning Minister Matthew Guy and Mornington Peninsula Shire Council over the proposed Peninsula Link freeway twin service centres at Baxter.
The council has complained about Mr Guy approving the servos without input from the council but Mr Guy says he wrote to the council on 31 August last year and received no reply.
Mr Guy approved the scaled-down version of the so-called freeway service centres (FSC) in February, just days before the council discussed the matter at its 24 February meeting.
The original proposal was knocked back by the council in December 2011.
Councillors said at the time it 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”.
Proponent AA Holdings, which builds freeway service centres under the BP brand, went to the state planning tribunal in June 2012 seeking to have the decision overturned, but the tribunal agreed with the shire.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal said key reasons for the refusal included insufficient traffic to justify the twin servos, loss of green wedge farmland, and the project’s potential impact on breeding grounds of the threatened dwarf galaxia native fish.
VCAT members Rachel Naylor and Greg Sharpley stated there was a lack of identified need for the freeway service centres.
The centres were meant to start operating when Peninsula Link opened in January last year.
Late last month, the council voted to tell Mr Guy that it was “disappointed that contrary to previously indicated intentions, the minister did not obtain the council’s views before making his decision to approve Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme Amendment C195”.
Led by councillors David Gibb and Anne Shaw, the council called on Mr Guy to cancel his approval and start a new process that would allow input from the council as well as residents affected by the proposed servos.
But a spokeswoman for Mr Guy said the council had had since August to comment and that the scaled-down proposal “had the support of shire officers”.
She said the minister had dealt with the matter under a planning law known as A20 part 5 intervention.
Mr Guy reportedly said the council had held three meetings at which it could have discussed his action.
Rules prohibiting service centres in green wedge zones had been introduced after AA Holdings made its application, he said.
The council told Mr Guy the “strategic justification provided by the Linking Melbourne Authority to support this proposal has not been adequately established particularly in the green wedge and having regard to the recent changes to the green wedge zone, which prohibits a freeway service centre”.
“Consistent with the VCAT hearing on the same matter, the need for a rest stop has not been established for the northbound site only 20 minutes after entering the freeway at Rosebud. The proposed southbound site is similarly less than an hour from Melbourne and the West Gate Bridge route; less time again from the EastLink route”.
“Other sites may exist that would provide a greater level of service, greater safety, less impact on adjoining owners, and greater consistency with the planning policy framework.”
The council said the servos would “adversely impact the economic vitality of other activity centres on the Mornington Peninsula” as the proposed retail part of the servos was “equivalent to the size of a local activity centre [that] would typically serve a population up to 5000 people”.
Mr Guy’s approval has also attracted criticism from conservationists and others. Rosemary West of Green Wedges Coalition said it was bad enough that the peninsula green wedge had been scarred by Peninsula Link without twin service centres going in the green wedge at Baxter.
“If the state government supports this, there will be consequences at the upcoming election.”
The twin servos will take about a year to build.