Court refuses developer’s controversial servo plan
AFTER a four year battle a controversial plan from Gowings Bros to build a $3.5 million petrol station next to a child care centre has been refused by the Land and Environment Court.
Commissioner Peter Walsh has this week handed down his findings on the Moonee Beach proposal, after the three month long court proceedings between developers Gowings and Coffs Harbour City Council wrapped up in October.
The Commissioner concluded the development did not “exhibit design excellence.”
Gowings had lodged a development application with Coffs Harbour City Council back in 2016 to construct a 24-hour service station and fast food outlet on the corner of Moonee Beach and Settlers roads.
The plan drew the ire of residents due to its proximity to Goodstart Early Learning childcare and the potential effect on traffic in the area.
The council then refused the DA in 2017, and Gowings appealed the decision to the Land and Environment Court.
A conciliation hearing at the proposed site was held in November 2018, and saw hundreds of Moonee Beach residents don red as part of the newly formed Moonee Beach Action Group. Group members has also made oral presentations during court proceedings.
In a submission to the court, a representative from the nearby childcare centre raised concerns over the health and safety risks to the children, and the reduced opportunities they would have for ‘free play’.
They said chemical fumes, odours, ground water and run-off effects from the service operations would increase the risk of children getting in contact with chemicals and waste products, with the direction of sea breeze exacerbating the problem.
As outlined in the Judgment, Commissioner Walsh shared concerns on the potential impact a petrol station would have on the childcare centre next door.
“Service station developments are not without risk and the fact that there is an existing congregation of young and very young children quite adjacent raises the question of whether there is sufficient likelihood of an increase in child safety risk to warrant and preventative approach,” the Commissioner said.
Commissioner Walsh ultimately based his decision on the potential impact the development would have on traffic flow and road safety in the area.
He described the vehicle access design as “substandard” and said he did not believe the area was in a dire need for a service station.
Vehicle access was proposed to be via an entry-only driveway off Sullivans Rd, and exit-only driveway off Moonee Beach Rd.
“The design works well in optimising the development as a commercial service station prospect … but this comes at a cost to a factor more significant in planning terms in the circumstances.
“This is in regard to site access arrangements which are substandard and bring a negative effect in regard to local traffic management.”
This comes after Gowings, who had also owned Moonee Marketplace just next door to the proposed service station site, sold the shopping centre to Perth-based property fund manager Primewest in November.
Gowings chief executive John Gowing said the proceeds from the sale would be used for other development opportunities and to retire debt.