Coles' great southern plan suffers a blow

RETAIL giant Coles appears to have suffered another major setback in its plans to ring the fast-growing southern end of the shire with three new supermarkets.

The latest blow to the company's expansion plans follow Tweed Council's deemed refusal of a large shopping centre on the new Seabreeze estate near Pottsville where Coles are negotiating to be the anchor tenant.

Developer Metricon and the Peninsula Development Group in a joint venture had sought approval for the "Seabreeze Central" shopping centre, including the 3250sq m supermarket and almost 1600sq m of speciality shops.

The deemed refusal arose after the council failed to determine the application in the required 40 days, triggering an immediate appeal by the joint venture partners in the Land and Environment Court.

The council's refusal to give the green light has been welcomed by Pottsville's business sector but residents are said to be split over the need for a major supermarket just one kilometre from their village.

A council spokesman said planning staff were concerned with its bulk and density and felt it failed to comply with its retail strategy which envisages a series of neighbourhood-style centres serving southern villages with regional-style centres located at Tweed Heads.

The supermarket chain also appears to have hit a dead-end after failing to win a rezoning of a large slice of prime agricultural land at Cudgen which was bought by Coles-Meyer and joint venture partner KLC in a deal said to be worth $5 million.

But it seems it may be on the brink of securing a guernsey if the long-awaited Casuarina Beach town centre which will include plans for restaurants, cafes, a supermarket, retail shops and resort facilities gets council approval.

Developer Don O'Rorke said project planning applications, incorporating the first stage DA for the site's infrastructure and the Coles supermarket, were currently being finalised.

He said subject to approvals, including requirements to meet the Department of Planning's assessment criteria, work was expected to start on the $25.6 million first stage later this year.

Mr O'Rorke said the finalisation of the town centre concept plan was a major milestone in the evolution of Casuarina Beach and the new Tweed Coast.

"Casuarina village will create a new heart for residents and visitors to the New Tweed Coast, providing much needed shopping and service facilities, together with quality restaurants, cafes and parkland," he said.

But the developers are said to be concerned that sections of the community and council planners may raise objections similar to those which have cast doubts about the future of the proposed Seabreeze project.

Pottsville Chamber of Commerce president Tania Murdock said the village had a viable commercial centre, including two medium-sized supermarkets, to service its 4000-plus population.

She said the council had received 90 submissions to the development, including concerns that if a new and massive retail centre was allowed nearby it would decimate existing businesses in the town.

"It will destroy the unique character of Pottsville's town centre because some businesses will struggle to survive. I can see shops closing down and others being boarded up," she said.

"The centre's catchment is as far south as Byron Bay which in itself will generate a lot of extra traffic along the Pottsville-Mooball Road and through the village."

She said the chamber was also concerned that unsightly loading docks would be positioned along the road, creating potential traffic safety issues.

Long-time Pottsville resident Kathy Parker said locals were split about the need for a retail centre, including a Coles supermarket, nearby.

"Some believe it is unnecessary and will affect the amenity of the village but others would be happy to no longer have to travel to Tweed Heads every week or fortnight for their major shopping needs," she said.

A Coles representative declined to return calls to answer questions about its Seabreeze plans but last week confirmed they were planning to become the anchor tenant at Casuarina.

The spokesman said it was hoped the store would be operating by late 2009 but declined to say whether it had yet entered into any contractual agreements.

Lawyers on both sides will take part in a telephone hook-up as part of a call-over of the Seabreeze case in the Land and Environment Court tomorrow while a full report on the saga will be presented to next week's council meeting.

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