Claim developments ‘years away’ dismissed

DESPITE a demand for land supply to accommodate forecast population growth in Latrobe City, development could be stifled for several years to come.

Behind the scenes tensions have been brewing between developers and council over timeframes for developing rezoned land across the municipality.

It is understood a meeting was called recently, which was reportedly attended by up to 50 building industry players keen to raise their concerns with council over delays to approving development plans for large parcels of land in Latrobe.

One insider claimed the meeting was aimed at rebuilding fractured relationships between developers and council’s planning department.

Some sources claimed, to that end, it had been useful and the industry now hoped to work more collaboratively with council on proposed developments.

While council maintained it was confident of “achieving collaboration” on complex precincts, several sources claimed it had been lacking in past months.

Industry insiders said developers had in several instances, already spent hundreds of thousands on studies to support their case for development and had accepted they would bear the major cost of infrastructure, to account for “future needs”, but “would gladly pay for that in exchange for getting started”.

One source said the bar had been set to “an almost unachievable height” by council, with Development Plan Overlays on sites requiring “an almost subdivision level of detail”.

In council’s defence, Mr Wightman said once a DPO was approved “subdivision applications can come in and be approved without council having to advertise them so we are expediting things at that end”.

However, one developer predicted even if a DPO was approved “tomorrow”, any development would still be at least 18 months away with subsequent traffic management, drainage and flora and fauna technical reports still required for subdivisions.

Mr Wightman said he “could not say (development on a site) won’t be two years away” but added “if things go well, it shouldn’t be that long”.

He dismissed some suggestions that development could be up to four years away.

“We have one chance to get it right and that’s what we are aiming to do,” Mr Wightman said.

“We don’t want to be asking ratepayers in the future to fix up poor quality design.”

In response, one insider said council presumed “no-one in the development world knows what they are doing”.

He insisted preparation work undertaken by developers was “quality stuff’, prepared by “the best urban design planners we can get, based on the specifics of the project”.

Mr Wightman said it was hoped a development plan for the Marshall’s Road precinct in Traralgon would go before council by mid-2013, while a plan for Erin Park in Traralgon had already been lodged.

DPOs have not yet been lodged for many other precincts approved for rezoning by the State Government over the past 18 months.