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VCAT to decide CFA site

Hearing scheduled: the VCAT hearing to decide whether to allow a new fire station to be built in Bair Street in Leongatha, replacing the current station, will be heard on January 21 and 22.

THE VCAT hearing into the Country Fire Authority’s wish to build a multi-million dollar new fire station in Bair Street, Leongatha will be heard on January 21 and 22.

The hearings will be at VCAT’s King Street offices in Melbourne.

That doesn’t please some Leongatha business owners who would prefer a local setting.

A VCAT spokesperson said the hearing has been listed for Melbourne due to an earlier date being available there.

But she said any party to a proceeding could write to the tribunal and request a change of venue.

The CFA has taken the matter to VCAT after South Gippsland Shire Council refused a planning permit in May, on the grounds the new station would be better sited away from the central business district.

Council is interested in pursuing the idea of an emergency services precinct for Leongatha.

The planning application was lodged in December 2010 and came before a council meeting in late March this year. A decision was deferred twice to allow talks between the council and the CFA.

The authority wants to build on land it owns next to the BP Service Station.

Council’s manager of strategic planning and development Paul Stampton told The Star council would have legal representation at the VCAT hearing and a number of council officers would also attend.

CFA district 9 acting operations manager David Chugg said the authority’s building and property staff were coordinating the case and would be part of the CFA team at the VCAT hearing. District 9 will be represented by its operations manager Mark Jones.

Asked if the CFA has a history of winning at VCAT, Mr Chugg said Beechworth CFA had taken a matter to VCAT in July 2011 and the finding was in their favour.

A number of Leongatha business owners have lodged submissions with VCAT and plan to attend the hearing.

All stress they are very grateful for the work done by CFA volunteers but hold strong views that Bair Street is not the setting for a new fire station. The CFA begs to differ.

Shirleyanne Wright who owns Shan’s Lingerie and Leisure in Bair Street, lodged a submission with VCAT.

She is unhappy the hearing is in Melbourne, but will nevertheless attend the two days.

“I very definitely will go,” she said. “I can’t fight this all the way and not continue.

“My basic objection is that (Bair Street) is prime real estate.

“Who knows in 10 or 20 years what retail will be like? I can’t see the sense in taking up prime retail space for an essential service.”

Mrs Wright cited as an example Wonthaggi CFA’s new station which will be built in White Road outside the CBD.

She sees the CFA’s insistence on Bair Street as “city people telling country people what they can do”.

That view was underscored, she said, when CFA representatives from Melbourne stated their case at a council meeting “and left without hearing our point of view”.

Alan Steenholdt of Henriettas echoed that sentiment. He spoke at council on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and expects to do so again at the VCAT hearing.

“No one is anti CFA,” he stressed, “they do an incredible task.”

Mr Steenholdt knows that better than most; the original Henriettas burnt down in May 2010.

Complications resulted in the chamber’s submission to VCAT being turned down because it was late.

But the VCAT spokesperson said the VCAT tribunal may “grant leave for persons to be joined as a party under section 60 of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 or to be heard without being joined as a party”.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=5659

Posted by on Nov 27 2012. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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