Fight refuelled – Petrol station plans resurface with bid for restaurant

*Published: Midland Express, September 4, 2017

Controversial plans have reemerged for a service station at the southern gateway to Woodend – this time with a 23-seat convenience restaurant in tow.

Reminiscent of 2015 plans, the design incorporates illuminated signage and four double-sided petrol bowsers with canopy, but also includes a double-storey shopfront and what could translate as a fast food outlet, such as McDonalds, under the Macedon Ranges Planning Scheme.

The application lodged last week already has residents on high alert following a lengthy battle over a petrol station development at the same High Street site two years ago.

At the time concerns surrounded visual appearance of the town entry, neighbourhood character, overdevelopment and “unacceptable traffic risks”, and little has been done to address this according to BikeSafe Macedon Ranges vice-president Sue Blakey.

“This development, whatever it offers, whatever it looks like, is simply in an inappropriate location. Its visual impact is even greater. Its potential to disrupt traffic flows is far greater,” she said.

“It’s dangerous for pedestrians, for cyclists, for mobility scooter disabled operators. It’s dangerous for the Woodend township needing to travel north or south dealing with slow or turning traffic.”

It was argued that such a proposal would not increase traffic or safety issues for pedestrians and road users as “service stations by their nature tend to ‘catch passing trade’ rather than generate specific vehicle trips”.

The proposed convenience restaurant has been oriented to the west in a bid to “further enhance the active frontage” along the train station’s access road and towards the station’s car par, but not all are convinced of the overall configuration and location.

Woodend’s Judith-Ann Robertson said the stretch of road between Urquhart Street and Quarry Road was already fraught with dangerous traffic issues, particularly during peak school hours and peak commuter hours.

“Add to that mix a petrol station and convenience restaurant with access between the two roads and directly across from the eastern access road and we are looking at the perfect configuration for this becoming the most active blackspot in Woodend,” she said.

Ms Robertson also noted the proposal ignored the significance of impact such a development would have on the gateway to the town that prides itself on its village-like look and feel.

“It’s not really the way we want to welcome people into Woodend,” agreed fellow Woodend resident, Maxwell Winchester.

“It’s not a safe or suitable site for the petrol station. There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed – I think this application is way off the mark.”

Like several other residents, Mr Winchester believes the application is in breach of state planning policy, Macedon Ranges Planning Scheme and the town structure plan.

Council unanimously rejected a Coles petrol station/convenience store proposal back in 2015 against officer recommendation.

The latest application is likely to again come before the council, however, residents already fear it may not end there.

“The community dug deep to afford VCAT (in 2015). Will the community be able to afford to do it all over again? And if we do, if we afford VCAT, where it will no doubt end again…will they be back in another two years?” Ms Blakey asked.

“Does the community need to find a bottomless bucket of money just to protect its safety, its character and its will?”