Council to purchase Fifth Street land

An aerial map of land council aims to buy freehold from State Government - Yellow shows the Community Hub which will have its activities protected under the proposal, purple is the Belt Road reserve which will be unaffected, and green is the area proposed for possible future residential allotments.

Kathy Gandolfi

Wattle Range Council is progressing with its intention to purchase vacant land along Fifth Street in Millicent after a public consultation period ended recently with seven submissions received, many of them concerned at the potential for the land to be on sold for residential development.

Earlier this year, council decided to ask the associated State Government department to revoke the community classification over the land which would enable the council to purchase the land from the government.

This would enable the community facilities on the land including the Men’s Shed, Road Safety School, Craft Group, service groups and Community Garden to be combined on one land parcel to enable the lease arrangements with these bodies to be managed without the complexity of having to go through a government process each time one of the groups wished to alter something on the land.

The move would also enable a currently vacant portion of the land to be potentially used for future residential development.

The latter was the focus of the majority of the submissions received from the public.

Tabled at the council meeting on Tuesday, the submissions from residents across the road from the vacant land wished for the land to remain vacant as it was used for recreational activities.

“The main reason we decided on this house was because there was vacant land across the road, so we still had the feel of living in town but without being closed in with neighbours on all sides,” wrote Barb Rowland, a resident of Fifth Street, in her submission.

“I just don’t see why this land needs to be residential … surely there are other blocks of land for this purpose.

“This is a nice area and well used for people walking their dogs and kids riding their bikes, playing cricket, footy etc.”

Another Fifth Street resident, Chris Mathias supported council’s moves in relation to the community groups area but wished the remaining vacant land to be retained as parkland.

“… it is currently used frequently by the surrounding residents, and others from further afield, for outdoor recreation,” he wrote.

“The availability of this open parkland is one of the attractions in this part of the town, therefore it would be beneficial to retain at least some of this area as parkland.”

Mr Mathias wrote that there were other areas in the town that had been identified in the draft Wattle Range Strategic Land Use Plan for residential development.

“These include land surrounding the existing residential development around the high school, land near Teagle Excavations, and to the south of Fred Bolton Sports Park,” he wrote.

“Ideally, these should be the priorities for residential development rather than popular and frequently used parklands.

“If residential development was to go ahead, it would need to include a buffer zone between housing blocks and the north-west end of the Community Hub.

“Failure to include this would result in complaints about workshop noise from neighboring residences.

“A buffer zone of at least 30 metres, preferably more to leave some area of recreational parkland, would be necessary.

“If development was to be progressed, it would be best limited to the north-west of the Aberle Street road reserve …”

Tony Glowacki, President of the Men’s Shed, was in support of the consolidation of the Community Hub land but recommended that the vacant land be reserved, and possibly improved, as parkland.

“If residential development were to go ahead around the Aberle Street road reserve, the additional recreational parkland would be an attraction for potential home buyers in the vicinity,” Mr Glowacki wrote.

“Primarily, we are concerned with any residential development close to the Men’s Shed, as the northern end of the Community Hub contains workshops which run machinery during the day, creating an element of noise that may not be welcome in houses built close by.”

“In future this land may still be needed as parkland,” wrote another Fifth Street resident, Rosemary Millar.

“Why not put the land adjacent to the radio station to better use and clean it up; future residential expansion could occur (there).”

Council decided at its meeting on Tuesday to provide a copy of the submissions report to the Department for Environment and Water and advise the Department of council’s continued commitment to purchasing the land at an agreed price of $71,500.

The State Government first approached council to ascertain its interest in purchasing the land in 2020.