Bermagui Woolworths slated for approval

THE controversial application to build a Woolworths in Bermagui is sure to raise the temperature of the gallery at tomorrow’s council meeting.

The Bega Valley Shire Council’s agenda for tomorrow lists the Woolies DA as its first order of business – likely after numerous petitions by members of the public.

One of those petitioners is going to be local property owner Neil McPherson, who has spoken out against the Woolworths development since it first came to light early last year.

“It was always going to be a battle, especially when the land’s zoning was changed,” Mr McPherson said of the council staff’s recommendation to approve the development, with conditions.

“Under the previous mayor, the council accommodated everything Woolworths wanted.”

Woolworths submitted a development application early last year to build a 1513sqm supermarket in the town (BDN, 17/4/12).

It would be situated in Young St – behind the main shopping area on

Lamont St – and have a liquor outlet, specialty trader and 90 parking spaces attached.

The Young St site was previously set aside as land to be used for senior accommodation in conjunction with related commercial ventures.

However, according to the council papers the site is proposed to be zoned B2 (Local Centre) under the draft 2012 Local Environmental Plan – in essence for commercial use only.

There is specification for “other land uses that are complementary to…the viability of commercial uses within the zone”, however the seniors housing option the council agreed to allow as an additional use is not being put forward as part of the Woolworths development.

Mr McPherson said with the zoning now essentially changed to commercial only, “the cat’s out of the bag”.

“Now we just have to make sure the building does not detract from the rest of the village’s amenities,” he said.

“The important thing now is we have to make sure the whole backdrop up the hill is not dominated by an industrial-looking shed.

The council agenda for tomorrow’s meeting includes a long list of conditions placed on the development, including many that were raised as concerns by Mr McPherson and others during the public consultation process.

 “I think the council staff have carried out due process, but I don’t think they fully understand what impact it will have on the community – and competition is not accounted for in their town planning strategies,” Mr McPherson said.

“I think the council has said ‘we can’t stop them, but we can get Woolworths to do as much as possible’.

“That saves the council, but not necessarily the community.

“What we have to do as a community is maintain the conditions the council has implemented and even add to it what we can.”

Mr McPherson said while competitive prices would help families and the elderly in particular, he felt for the community and its youth with the potential access to cheaper alcohol and cigarettes.

“At the end of the day I still believe it will have an impact on the rest of the shops,” he said.

“It will be an eyesore and people like me will have to live with it.

“But it’s sad to say it won’t be long before the rest of the town suffers commercially – how do you compete?”

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