CBD development hangs in the balance

FIVE-STAR apartments proposed for Bendigo's Shamrock Hotel will not go ahead unless council withdraws its opposition to extra poker machines at the site, owner Jim Hogan says. 

City of Greater Bendigo councillors are recommended to approve the partial demolition and redevelopment of the historic hotel at this week's meeting. 

If approved, the apartments will feature two bedrooms, open plan living area, a bathroom and private open space. 

However Mr Hogan says funding for the redevelopment is dependent on approval of a separate plan for 20 new poker machines at the site, which councillors have opposed.

The matter is currently before the Victorian planning tribunal but Mr Hogan is calling on council to withdraw their opposition to ensure the development goes ahead.

He has flagged $4 million in tax breaks and revenue from the machines. 

"I am happy the council has recommended the permit issue but it would be nice if they took back their opposition because it's a waste of time and money for everyone," he said. 

Mr Hogan is confident VCAT will approve the extra poker machines, but says the hearing just delayed development.

"This project is ready to go ahead immediately - I'm ready to sign the cheque ," he said.

"I'm trying to get on with economic development in Bendigo but the months are flying by." 

The additional 20 electronic gaming machines would bring the total number of machines at the venue to 65.

The council bases its opposition on research and consultation, including an online survey where 86.4 per cent of respondents indicated they did not support additional electronic gaming machines at the Shamrock Hotel.

A council report said the extra machines would be "detrimental to the municipality".

Meanwhile the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation has just approved an additional 20 poker machines at the Foundry Hotel.

Council planning director Prue Mansfield said last week the Foundry Hotel proposal fit state government regulations and the local government planning scheme.

She said the two hotels were completely different cases.

"The Shamrock Hotel got permission for 100 machines many years ago,” she said.

“Since then, state government legislation has changed to not allow poker machines in strip shopping.

"The VCAT decision concerns whether the old or new rules apply."

Ms Mansfield also said the Foundry Hotel's designated pokies area was deeper within the complex and an extra 20 machines would not directly encourage passing pedestrians to enter.

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