It was meant to be the day a group of young Bendigo skateboarders triumphed in its bid to convert an abandoned government building into a skate park.
Instead, it has proved another frustrating setback for a project called ‘The Neighbourhood’.
The group was evicted in July from the Bendigo State Government Battery in Golden Square – a large, abandoned shed in which they had built several skate ramps.
Its push to keep using the site received a wave of community support in Bendigo and beyond and the project is now the subject of a documentary.
Last Monday, ‘The Neighbourhood’ crew took to social media to celebrate after signing a license to occupy agreement with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
“On this day, 133 days after being evicted from The Neighbourhood shed we are legally able to occupy the building and fulfill our vision of creating a DIY skatepark,” a post on their Facebook page read.
But that sense of triumph was cut short after a meeting with City of Greater Bendigo town planners yesterday.
Toby Gujer – who has spearheaded the group’s struggle to keep using the space – said they had left previous meetings with the city and DWELP under the impression the license to occupy was all that was required for them to use the space.
Now they have been told they need to go through council’s planning department for approval to build their skatepark.
“It was a kick in the guts,” Mr Gujer said.
“According to the planning department we’re not able to do anything there without a planning permit … unless we’re building a railway station. We’re not.
“This is a huge setback.”
The 21-year-old registered nurse said the group had put a call out to the community to donate building materials.
“We were very excited when we got the license document and in that first week we went into the site, took donated building materials down, cleaned out the rubbish and swept it out,” he said.
“But we wouldn’t have asked the community for materials if we knew we couldn’t build – we wouldn’t have signed the agreement if we knew that.
“Now we’ve got to go through and plan every part without letting it organically grow with the materials which are donated to us.”
Mr Gujer said the group had been left frustrated in its efforts to create something positive but would keep pushing on.
“Skateboarding should be encouraged – especially now that it is an Oympic sport – it shouldn’t be this hard,” he said.
"Right now, we're spewing, because we just found out ... but that’s the facts of it, that’s what we need to do to keep moving forward.
“But I would like to not be a nursing home by the time this happens.”
What next for skatepark plans?
City of Greater Bendigo statutory planning manager Ross Douglas said the group had been advised that both a planning permit and a building permit would be required for the use and development of land
“As the land is crown, consent is required from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to lodge a planning application,” Mr Douglas said.
“An application including supporting information will be required to be prepared and lodged with the City of Greater Bendigo for assessment.
“The standard planning process will apply, including notification to nearby owners and occupiers once an initial assessment of the application has been undertaken.
“A building permit will also be required.”
Building permits are normally issued by private building surveyors not the City of Greater Bendigo.
There is a statutory planning timeframe of 60 days from the time a planning permit is lodged, but Mr Douglas said it could vary.
“For example if further information is required or if the application has to be reported to a formal council meeting,” he said.
“A planning report and accompanying documentation (e.g. plans) will need to be provided for the planning application.
“The cost of this work is unknown as there may be people within the group or known to the party who can assist.”
DELWP environmental planning program manager Calum Walker confirmed a licence is in the process of being issued to The Neighbourhood Project Inc. giving permission to the group to informally occupy the land.
“The license has stringent conditions related to the use of the site and will be monitored by DELWP,” Mr Walker said.
“DELWP is committed to ensuring public land is used safely and recognises the needs of the community.
“Obtaining this license is the first step for The Neighbourhood Project Inc. in their journey to developing a community hub and skateboard park.
“From here they will need to apply for a council planning permit and possibly other permits and plans for approval. The community will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposal.
“DELWP’s aim is to achieve a suitable outcome for both the group and the community.”