GREATER Bendigo's council has come out in opposition to a new Coles supermarket in spite of support from its own planning experts.
The move fuels a showdown already bound for planning umpire the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Developers took the council to VCAT after it failed to make a timely decision on the project proposed for 715-723 Calder Highway, Maiden Gully.
Nine members of the public had objected to the supermarket plans on various grounds including layout, landscaping, traffic and car parking at the site.
The supermarket would rise across the road from the site an existing IGA wants to expand into.
The Coles bid would include a car park, bottle shop and 10 retail premises.
A divided council voted on Monday night to oppose the Coles proposal. Here are some of the reasons why:
Arguments against the Coles supermarket
Cr Jen Alden opposed the supermarket, citing concerns about impact on the loss of shade and potential effects on car parking and traffic.
She said local roads were already busy and, as well as a nearby school, a community campaign was already underway for lights at the corner of the Calder Highway and Carolyn Way.
That was a point seconded by Cr Greg Penna, who said plans for road upgrades could be five years away and were not currently in transport authorities' budgets.
Cr Fagg said that as tempting as it might have been to simply "let the market be the market", projections that more than 4000 homes are destined for the area in the foreseeable future are wrong.
"I think there is reason to seriously doubt that Maiden Gully's residential growth will be as large as what is thought," he said.
That could undermine the case for two supermarkets in the suburb, Cr Fagg said.
He cited revised estimates about the amount of native vegetation that might need to be protected in Maiden Gully going forward, with larger financial costs to offset trees removed.
The upshot could be less homes in the suburb, he said.
Cr Penna argued Maiden Gully did not need the Coles supermarket complex either now or into the immediate future.
He was concerned plans for a third supermarket in Marong would "supersaturate" the area.
The council's planning department has been considering a supermarket and shopping hub bid at that suburb's most prominent intersection.
Arguments for the Coles bid
Not everyone at the council table opposed the supermarket proposal.
Cr Matthew Evans argued the supermarkets would attract other, smaller businesses to the area.
"One of the things that people in Maiden Gully have said to me is that there is a lack of these offerings, whether it's cafes, whether it's shops, whether it's other forms of retail," he said.
Cr Evans accepted there will be short term implications for traffic and some other issues in the suburb.
But he said there were medium and long term benefits to the Coles bid.
Cr Evans said councillors concerned about population projections for Maiden Gully should also factor in the opportunity for the suburb to become a shopping hub for suburbs like Bendigo West.
"I think both [supermarkets] can operate quite well and both can have the opportunity to operate side by side," he said.
Cr Margaret O'Rourke backed Cr Evans' arguments.
She said the main point for the council was not whether Maiden Gully had one, two, three or even four supermarkets. It was instead about whether the Coles proposal could comply with planning rules around land use.
On traffic concerns, she expected that a new supermarket build would prompt road authorities to reassess how cars moved around the area.
But her and Cr Evans' arguments were in the minority.
Council staff supported Coles proposal
The council voted to oppose the Coles supermarket proposal at VCAT.
That planning umpire will make a decision at a later date.
Council officers last week urged elected officials to throw their support behind the proposal.
They had aired minor concerns about one aspect of the bid - the location of a "Click and Collect" facility.
The council staff wanted it moved elsewhere on site and said that could be easily addressed with the right planning permit conditions.
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