By Brendan Rees
Harkaway residents have sounded the alarm over plans for a 150-seat restaurant and art gallery they fear would damage the green wedge and is “entirely out of character for the area”.
Under the plans, which are currently being assessed by the Planning Minister, the site would accommodate about 600 patrons and feature a function centre and two dwellings known as the ‘Rosemaur Gallery’ at 193-209 King Road, Harkaway.
Several opponents have vowed to fight the proposal, which they believe was kept “secret” with just four weeks to become informed and write a submission.
Philip Battye, convenor of the Friends of Harkaway Association, said residents were in disbelief there had been no community consultation.
He said if approved, the development would “forever change the amenity of Harkaway not only for the residents but also for thewider Casey community”.
Casey Council director of city planning and infrastructure James Collins said the plans were a State Government-led planning scheme amendment process.
“Council is a stakeholder in the process and will have an opportunity to make a submission to the advisory committee that has been appointed by the Planning Minister,” Mr Collins said.
He said council was reviewing the exhibited plans and preparing a submission, which would be considered by council at the 20 October meeting.
“The proponent for Rosemaur has approached council to discuss aspects of this project in the past; however this state-led advisory committee is the first time the project has proceeded to a public planning process.”
Casey Council also confirmed the land in question is within a green wedge zone and the proponent had requested the State Government to consider an amendment to the Casey Planning Scheme to allow this specific project.
The Planning Minister has established an advisory committee to consider this amendment and any submissions before making a recommendation to the Minister who will decide on the planning scheme amendment, council said in a statement.
However, in questions sent to council it declined to say whether the plan had been presented to Casey councillors before their dismissal in February.
Neighbour Luke Crantock said there had not been an “open and transparent process” and expressed concerns of increased traffic and “major damaging changes to the beautiful country road (that) would have to be made, destroying forever the region’s character”.
“There is not easy public access to this area. It is a tranquil, peaceful, bucolic area,” he said.
“We are there for a very good reason. We love horses, we love the quiet, and we don’t really want to be disturbed by that.
Rosalie Counsell, convenor of Save the Casey Foothills Association, said this development “in the middle of a high value, environmentally sensitive green wedge area” would “further erode what little confidence the public has in the planning process”.
A Government spokesperson said: “We are taking the time to assess this proposal thoroughly and consult with the community.
“The proposal has been referred to an independent advisory committee with public consultation open until late October.”
Public submissions are open until Friday 23 October.
The applicant Rose and Maurice Hogg Pty Ltd has been contacted for comment.