Petrol power

The news that Agostino Always AM/PM has planning approval to build a petrol station on the old Shell site in Stirling’s main street means something can finally be done with a high profile location that has become an eyesore in the past five years.
Not that businessman Frank Agostino could do much about the delay after he bought the site more than four years ago.
He had to wait on Shell to finish its rehabilitation work and then he had to go through the planning process – first with the Adelaide Hills Council and then the State Government.
It’s been a long haul and while Mr Agostino might be pleased his battle with bureaucracy is finally approaching the end, others in the community are not so pleased about the process itself.
It is galling that yet another service station proposal has been “called in” by the State Government as a major project of “economic significance”, bypassing the assessment of the independent planning authorities of local councils.
A single petrol station is not a project of significant economic importance to SA.
However, a staggering number of them have been called in by the State Co-ordinator-General and then passed by the Development Assessment Commission (DAC).
A fuel business was inevitable at this site and its existing use rights have always been acknowledged by planning authorities, and a neighbor.
What has been in question is the design and operation of the larger, modern development, which is not the same as the old petrol station.
The reasons why the council’s Development Assessment Panel deferred the original application twice and then knocked it back was not because it was a “service station” but because members wanted the applicant to tweak the design to better fit the development plan and get a better result for the community.
The applicants made some concessions  before heading to the State Government and the DAC for the result they wanted.
This all goes to show that the development plan in itself is not sufficient protection for community interests.
But get used to it because the way Planning Minister John Rau is streamlining the planning process, community input will be further eroded.