The Mirror News

Council considering permit for Leongatha Aldi supermarket

THE development of an Aldi Stores supermarket in the centre of Leongatha is likely to move a step closer at today’s (Wednesday July 24) meeting of South Gippsland Shire Council.

Council will vote on granting a planning permit for the supermarket, proposed to be located on the corner of Bruce and Church Streets, in a block bounded by Gawdion and Roberts lanes.

After a lengthy period of community consultation, the application is being referred to Council with eleven objections remaining. There are objections to the likely increase in traffic, the loss of existing car parking spaces and the fact that the supermarket will not have a public toilet.

The shire’s planning department, however, has concluded that the application is in accordance with the requirements of the South Gippsland Planning Scheme, the development is a positive outcome for Leongatha and the municipality, and it recommends that approval be given.

In a presentation to Council last Wednesday, Jarrah Lukjanov, Principal Planner with Select Planners, the consultancy working on the venture for Aldi Stores, addressed some of the issues the development proposal has raised.

“We see Aldi’s involvement in this community as a long one,” he said. Research has shown, he said, that not only are grocery prices cheaper at Aldi but the presence of an Aldi store tends to have a flow-on effect at neighbouring supermarkets, which are encouraged to bring their prices down, too. “It’s a win for the communities Aldi enters.”

He said that Aldi engineers and council traffic engineers were of the opinion that the streets in the vicinity of the proposed development would be able to cope comfortably with any extra traffic. “Yes, there will be an increase in traffic movements, but that’s what towns need to grow.”

Mr Lukjanov said that although the development will entail the loss of five parking spaces on the street, the number of parking spaces being provided at the new supermarket will be, at 84, excess to requirements.

Also on Wednesday there were a couple of presentations made by people with objections to the development. Chris Heazlewood, who has a property in nearby Ritchie Street, asserted that the development was being rushed through and suggested there were preferable sites. He said that even though his property is within 100 metres of the proposed Aldi site, he was not advised of the proposal and given the opportunity to voice his opinion until very recently. He expressed concerns about the additional traffic and, in particular, the impact of the development on public safety, envisaging cars hurtling down Church Street and crashing into his front fence.

He wondered aloud if Aldi had put enough detail into their application. “I think it’s unacceptable,” he said.

In a joint presentation to Council, Thelma Arnup and Richard Lester expressed their support for the Aldi supermarket but asked for council consideration of the historic flame tree threatened by the development. Back in 2001 Mr Lester helped draw up a register of significant trees in the shire. He asked for the Planning Scheme to be amended and protection given to significant trees, such as the flame tree, with inclusion of a Vegetation Protection Overlay.

“This would be a great opportunity for our council and Aldi to show they’re listening to the public,” said Mrs Arnup, describing the flame tree as “a thing of beauty, shade, and, most importantly, a piece of Leongatha history, worth fighting for”. She suggested if the supermarket could not be built around the tree, perhaps the tree could be transplanted.

Councillors Jim Fawcett and Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks expressed sympathy for Mrs Arnup’s position, but said it would not be possible to save the tree. Cr Fawcett said there was no planning justification on the books. Cr Hutchinson-Brooks said that the tree was in the wrong spot for the development to go ahead as planned. He cautioned that it would be unwise to spend too much on a solution when the tree, already of a great age, might not survive for much longer anyway.

“We’ve made representations to the developers and it’s just not practical to preserve the tree, but they do plan to propagate seedlings from the flame tree,” Shire’s director of development services, Phil Stone, commented.

Around 25 trees, including some flame trees, will be planted on the site to add visual appeal.

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