Woolworths Limited’s plans for a $40m shopping centre in the heart of Mt Barker is the town’s biggest retail development.
With a Big W department store and 11 smaller shops, the three-storey complex has the potential to create over 200 new jobs.
It would also bring to life the undeveloped block in the town centre bordered by Hutchinson, Morphett and Stephen streets and Druids Avenue, which has long been an eyesore.
But while the Mt Barker Council acknowledges the development would bring its share of benefits, the supermarket giant’s initial plan has been met with wide ranging concerns.
The council’s own planning staff have listed a litany of “fundamental planning issues” which they say “cannot be ignored” and have asked its Development Assessment Panel to refuse the application.
In its assessment the planning department hasn’t minced its words, labelling some aspects of the proposal as “substandard”, “poor”, “insufficient” and “excessive”.
It is a mighty opening salvo that appears to be aimed squarely at securing the region with a better quality development for the only remaining vacant block in the CBD.
This is prime real estate and the wider community expressed a strong interest in its future during the recent consultation for the council’s town centre plan.
No-one is suggesting that, if it meets the relevant criteria, a shopping centre should not go ahead on the site.
It would be a boon for the district and cement Mt Barker’s standing as a regional centre for the Hills, which would in turn attract more businesses and shoppers here. But the current situation is certainly not a good start for either Woolworths or the council.
One can only hope both parties can negotiate a better outcome and secure a development for the site of which the community can be proud.
Town on the map
At last there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel for Nairne residents.
After years of arguing they were the Mt Barker Council district’s poorer cousins – losing out to Mt Barker and Hahndorf – the town is now on the council’s radar.
The draft Nairne Township Master Plan, to be released for comment this month, comes after ongoing community consultation.
It identifies many of the town’s problem areas that residents have lobbied to have fixed and recommends ways they can be solved.
While it will be some months before a final plan is adopted, Nairne locals should have faith that their voices are being heard.