TWO developers have wasted four years of planning and about $1.5 million on a proposed Merrivale subdivision they now find has been blocked by the Environment Protection Authority and Warrnambool City Council.
Brian Hancock and Dan Carey have warned of legal action unless the council allows an alternative use or buys their 1.6-hectare site which had been earmarked for a 16-lot residential development.
The council on Monday night voted 4-2 to refuse the planning application because it fell within the EPA’s 500-metre buffer zone around the Midfield abattoir precinct.
“It’s been a botch-up right through,” said Mr Hancock, who is co-director of the development company 92 Liebig Street Pty Ltd.
“We purchased it in good faith in 2009 after consulting with council officers and proceeded with drawing up plans for drainage and sewerage.
“We even had approval for street names.
“Then in March we were told about EPA recommendations and an objection by Midfield.
“We’ve been treated poorly by the council’s planning process.”
He alleged Midfield had been allowed to lodge a late objection, but city growth director Bill Millard explained that objections could be lodged “up until council decide on a matter”.
Mr Hancock warned of wider repercussions for the Merrivale community with other vacant residential lots likely to face the same outcome.
“It’s like opening a Pandora’s box — it’s a huge issue for the spare residential land in Merrivale,” he said.
“There now must be a 500-metre buffer off all boundaries of the abattoir.
“Our development would have provided about $8m in construction work and affordable housing land with good views only a few minutes from the CBD.”
He also raised questions about long-term viability of the Midfield rendering plant off Swinton Street considering recent new housing developments.
“Perhaps it’s time for the knackery to be moved outside of Warrnambool,” Mr Hancock said.
Mr Millard said yesterday a 500m buffer around the abattoir and 1000m around the rendering plant had applied since the late 1990s, but EPA assessments had tightened this year.
Mayor Michael Neoh said the tightened EPA guidelines were like a “grenade thrown into the water”.
“It could set up the prospect for future liability,” he said.
Cr Brian Kelson also said there would be consequences for the council.
“I don’t understand how a developer has been allowed to get as far down the track then the door closes,” he said.
Cr Peter Sycopoulis said the rug had been pulled from under the developers, while Cr Jacinta Ermacora called for a review of the council’s policy on interface between industry and residential areas.
“There needs to be policy direction in businesses having the right to exist and residents having the right to live in peace.”