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Leasecorp shopping centre approved

Thursday, 20th August, 2009

By Stefan Delatovic

Leasecorp's shopping centre has been approved by City Council.

Council's Administrator, Ken Boyle, made the call at an extraordinary meeting of Council yesterday afternoon. The Council Chambers' public gallery was full and his decision was greeted by applause.

It was preceded by over an hour of debate and speeches both for and against the application. It marked the end of an approval process that has lasted for two years. Mr Boyle said a decision had to be made. "There will be a number of positives and a number of negatives and someone had to weigh them up. It falls to me to make the decision," he said. "I think it depends on whether you have an optimistic or conservative view of the future of the city. I have an optimistic view." Mr Boyle said it had been Council's long-term view to approve the project and that it came with 73 conditions that Leasecorp would have to meet. He said that, in his estimation, three-quarters of those present yesterday had been in favor of the centre, indicating strong community support. Leasecorp Director Steve Palyga, who stated his case yesterday, said he was obviously pleased with Council's decision. "Not just for our company but for Broken Hill," he said. "Coming to Broken Hill for the last three years, I really love the town and I love coming here." Mr Palyga said work would commence in the new year with an eye to being open for business for Easter 2011. The structure will contain a supermarket, and bulky goods store and 13 specialty shops. Mr Boyle's decision was not easy. He faced a recommendation from Bankstown City Council that the application be refused. Bankstown was asked to provide an independent assessment on advice from the State Government and because Council holds land at the proposed Globe Timber Mill site. Adam Richardson from Bankstown's Civic Services Group spoke at the meeting and clarified that Council was approving floorspace, not competition, and the ultimate occupants of the centre could not be controlled. He said that if the centre led to the closure of the Coles supermarket in South Broken Hill it would hurt nearby residents, and that if shops in the CBD were closed or moved it would impact on the city's heritage value. His concerns about South Coles were echoed by a member of the public, and a man who lives adjacent to the Globe Timber Mill flagged what he saw as a lack of consultation on Leasecorp's behalf. He sought assurances that construction would not be happening during irregular hours. Damian Ellis, a consultant speaking on behalf on Centro Properties, said the city's population would likely stagnate over the next 10 years and that the centre was untenable. On the other hand, Business Broken Hill President, John Groenendijk, reiterated the organisation's support for the project. He said statistics could be used to support either side of the argument, and that Council needed to balance them against where the community wanted to be in 10 years' time. A member of the public wanted it recorded that the "shopping centre's current monopoly" should not be fostered or encouraged. Mr Palyga said that Council did not make decisions in a vacuum and was in the position to weigh the negatives, the positives, and the city's aspirations. He said the centre would provide 100 construction jobs and then 290 full-time equivalent positions, as well as flow-on employment. He said it would be competing largely with Woolworths and Big W - which operate above the industry standard at present - with little impact on other retailers. Mr Palyga said there were no privately-owned parcels of land in the CBD big enough to accommodate the centre, but that the chosen location had been previously designated for commercial use by Council. Its position between the CBD and the Centro Plaza, he said, would serve to link them together and strengthen them all.

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