IRREWARRA Sourdough’s John and Bronwynne Calvert say they are shocked and disappointed that councillors rejected their application to expand their business at Irrewarra.
The business owners are confident the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal will overturn Colac Otway Shire Council’s decision which will eventually allow them to build an 37.5-metre-by-80-metre bakery on their property fronting Warrowie and Irrewarra School roads.
But Mr and Mrs Calvert said, after this week’s planning meeting, that the councillors’ rejection of their planning application had jeopardised almost $400,000 in Federal Government funding and delayed the creation of an extra 20 Colac district jobs.
The council’s planning department recommended the councillors grant planning approval, subject to conditions which officers believed addressed a majority of objectors’ concerns.
The councillors disagreed with the recommendation, encouraging the Calverts to find a block in an industrial zone in Colac for their expansion, and suggesting the $384,467 Geelong Regional Innovation and Investment Fund grant was not subject to them building at their Irrewarra property.
But Mrs Calvert said the grant required them to have completed their project by June next year which was now unlikely because their appeal would not go to VCAT until September.
Mr Calvert said the council’s suggestion of building a factory in an industrial site in Colac also missed the point of creating a bakery which could also be a tourist attraction for the district.
“Our site is zoned permitted use bakery so we will not be moving to an industrial site in Colac as the council suggested, as we cannot have a tourism component in an industrial site,” he said.
“Our whole brand is based on Irrewarra and the council in 1999 was so excited with what we proposed but this council is almost archaic,” Mrs Calvert said.
“All we can do is think positively, based on the fantastic recommendation of the professional and rational officers and based on what other regions are doing,” she said.
“We have been advised that due to the very strong council planning officer’s recommendation that the proposal go ahead, we have a very good chance of being successful at VCAT so all the council has done is delay the project at the expense of the grant,” Mr Calvert said.
“The council is living in the 1950s, change is happening in society and the council is letting the community down by being so parochial and behind the times,” he said.
“All other rural shires surrounding Melbourne have vibrant modern food tourism businesses in rural zones and the Colac region is being left behind due to the attitudes of the council.”