A controversial planning permit application for a proposed Woolworths supermarket in Castlemaine’s Forest Street is headed to VCAT with a mediation session set for next month to be followed by a hearing in November.
Lascorp Development Group, developers proposing plans for the site, lodged the application on April 1 citing failure by Mount Alexander Shire Council to grant the permit within the prescribed time.
Size Matters, a community action group opposing the size and location of the proposed supermarket, has confirmed it is also preparing to attend the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing.
The group last week told the Express it was encouraging all objectors to the proposed development to register to be heard at the five-day hearing set down for November following the mediation session set for July.
Size Matters spokesperson Mark Koehne said there had been more than 200 official objections to the proposal so far.
He said there were “many more” awaiting a VicRoads traffic report before submitting their formal objection.
VicRoads lodged its report to the council on May 3.
“A lot of people were waiting on the VicRoads report before writing their formal objection,” Mr Koehne said.
“Now they may be unable to do so because the developer lodged with VCAT in April, well before the report was submitted to council.
“The developer has bypassed council’s role in the process, limiting any further notices of objection from the local community, despite the fact that council had not yet received advice from VicRoads, the EPA or any other authorities it relies upon to make an informed decision.
“A key concern of council is the soil contamination of the site, yet the developer has refused to address this issue in its correspondence with council or VCAT.
“Groundwater leaching analysis shows abnormally high levels of arsenic, copper, lead, zinc and mercury.
“These contaminant plumes are migrating southward from the site towards the nearby Forest Creek,” Mr Koehne said.
“The site continues to have serious category A toxicity yet the developer has taken no remedial action and continues to ignore the impact of this on the creek and the nearby primary school opposite the site.
“We’ve got a committee of eight people and we’re encouraging all objectors to register to be heard at VCAT.
“When we had a public meeting we had over 100 people attend.”
Size Matters is also concerned about potential traffic issues that it believes the proposed development would create along Forest and Duke Streets.
Other issues of concern it lists are the visual impact of a large-scale supermarket on the gateway to the heritage township and economic impacts on locally owned and operated food retail outlets.