Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne has written to the Warrnambool City Council to request it change its planning scheme to allow the return of commercial horse training at Levys Beach.
After two years of fiery debate and impassioned community pleas councillors will once again return to the chambers at a special meeting on Friday night, after Mr Wynne’s letter requested a decision be made by the end of the week.
The letter, seen by The Standard, was addressed to mayor Tony Herbert and received by the council on Monday.
“I am writing to advise your council that I recently received correspondence from Racing Victoria, Country Racing Victoria and the Warrnambool Racing Club requesting that I expedite an amendment to the Warrnambool Planning Scheme to remove the land use planning prohibition on animal/racehorse training in the public conservation and resource zone at Levys Beach in Warrnambool,” it says.
“This is a complex issue and there appears to be a need to consider in more detail exactly where on the beach racehorse training occurs and the point at which access is provided. … The long-term use of Levys Beach car park and the eastern end of the Levys Beach for racehorse training seems undesirable due to conflicts with other beach users.
“A safety audit covering the movement of large numbers of horses is needed to achieve safer outcomes for fishing, surfing and other beach activities at Levys.”
Mr Wynne proposed that approvals are negotiated for the access point to the beach be relocated to the existing Spookys beach car park and the horse training area to be 200 metres west of Levys Beach and the the cultural heritage management plan be amended to allow horses to train from Spookys.
He requested confirmation of the council’s views by Friday, so an amendment could be published in the Victorian Government Gazette by January 7.
The council has placed an advertisement in The Standard advising the special meeting will be held at 5pm.
The Local Government Act states a council must give least seven days’ public notice before a special council meeting, except in “urgent or extraordinary circumstances”.
Warrnambool City Council chief executive officer Bruce Anson said the council could not respond to the racing club’s call for change as it had resolved at its October 26 meeting that it would not take any action in relation to commercial training at Levys Beach.
“The council couldn’t but the state government can act,” he said.
“The racing club went to the minister and he has looked at what can and can’t be done. The letter (from Mr Wynne) is now proposing there be an overlay that operates for four to six months which gives access to trainers to Levys Beach through to Hoon Hill. During that time the state government will do a cultural heritage management plan for access via Spookys Beach, west of Levys. The minister is asking for council opinion. Someone was always going to go to the minister.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Wynne said he was seeking advice from the council on its position regarding the implementation of the Belfast Coast Management Plan.
It is understood in response to community concerns it is proposed not to approve the use of Levy’s beach car park beyond the short term and within six months to relocate access to the Spookys hardstand area.
The state government said moving training further down the beach to avoid contact with people and reduce impact on the beach is an appropriate response.
It said the council were responsible for managing the coastal reserve and had included provisions about environmental protection.
The minister is awaiting advice from the council.
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