It’s Maccas for New Norfolk

A DEVELOPMENT application for a McDonalds Family Restaurant in New Norfolk was approved at tonight’s Derwent Valley Council meeting at Maydena.

The meeting started in an orderly fashion, with the presentation of petitions for and against the development. Councillor Damian Bester tabled a petition signed by 330 people opposing the then unspecified fast food restaurant and asked for the details to be recorded in the minutes of the meeting. Deputy mayor Craig Farrell then presented a petition signed by more than 1000 people supporting the development. Public question time drew a number of queries on the development and these were largely deferred until the item came up on the agenda later in the meeting.

It was moved by Cr Jim Elliott and seconded by Cr Farrell that the development be approved on the terms recommended by planner Martin McCance. Mr McCance addressed the meeting and announced that he had made a mistake in his report. He said he had been wrong to write that the development did not comply with heritage provisions of the New Norfolk Planning Scheme. He retracted the statement and apologised for the error, saying the development did in fact comply with the scheme. When questioned about employment figures at the proposed business, Mr McCance deferred to a representative of the developer present in the public gallery, who said there would be eight to 10 people on each shift.

Cr Bester asked the developer’s representative if he would like to say who would operate the proposed fast food joint. The representative said he did not believe it was relevant to the development application, but confirmed that the restaurant would be a McDonald’s.

Cr Judy Bromfield asked about signage and was advised that a separate application may be required, depending on the type proposed. Cr Bromfield then said she was appalled by an informal submission received from the Tasmanian Heritage Council. “It tells us nothing,” she said. Cr Barry Lathey asked the planner whether the development would have an adverse impact on its environment and Mr McCance said there would be an impact but this could be addressed.

With the preliminary discussion out of the way, Cr Elliott was first to speak when the debate began in earnest, remarking that he had listened to a well organised campaign against the development. The meeting was soon in uproar, with Cr Bester alleging that Cr Elliott was verbally attacking people who had expressed their opposition to the fast food proposal. Cr Elliott said he had been bombarded with phone calls and emails and thought the objectors would be better off helping to develop Willow Court instead of opposing business development. The public gallery erupted and Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID) spokesman Simon Rolfe stormed out of the meeting. Mr Rolfe is also a member of the Willow Court Working Party.

Cr Bester was next to speak, expressing his regret that the meeting had degenerated to such an extent. He said this was a reflection of the way the development proposal had divided New Norfolk, with unfortunate personal attacks between the opposing camps. He said the developer had not helped by keeping the exact type of restaurant a secret until that point. He said this had caused division and controversy in the local community.

Cr Bester then proposed an additional condition to be included in the proposed approval: “that prior to development commencing, the applicant work with council and community to design a building that is appropriate to the site, taking into account the neighbouring heritage areas.”

Cr Bromfield endorsed Cr Bester’s suggestion and said it provided a great chance to do something good with the site. She hoped young local people would be given preference for employment at the restaurant and suggested that a training program could be developed with the local high school. Cr Barry Lathey remarked that this issue had created more interest than any other in his time as a councillor. He expressed concern about the potential impact on the adjacent Willow Court historic site noted that the Port Arthur authority had recently created a buffer zone to prevent inappropriate development nearby. However, he was quite sure the developer would do its utmost to provide a building that would compliment the adjacent Willow Court site.

Cr James Graham spoke about the council’s responsibilities under the Land Use Planning Act and was followed by Cr Narelle Hill who said she had relied on the planner’s advice and feedback from the public in reaching her decision. Cr Farrell said the proposal had the town talking and he valued the input of the public. He thanked everyone who had commented by phone and email and noted that every point raised had a counter-argument.

Closing the debate, Cr Elliott acknowledged his initial remarks had not been taken very well. He repeated his assertion that objectors would be better off helping with practical projects such as painting the Willow Court gates (note: this is not advisable as the gates are subject to a heritage order – Ed). Cr Elliott said he had answered all emails received.  He noted that if the council refused the application and did not provide solid reasons, the matter would go to the planning appeal tribunal and this would cost the community money. He said he accepted Cr Bester’s excellent suggestion regarding community input into the design of the proposed restaurant.

The matter was then put to the vote with all councillors except Cr Lathey endorsing the planner’s recommendation to approve the development, including the addition of the Bester proposal on the building’s design, and a proposal by the planner to combine 52 and 54 Burnett St on a single title.

Cr Scott Shaw was absent from the meeting.

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