Court clears way

ONE more legal hurdle to construction of a $120 million shopping centre in Emerald has been cleared.

In the Supreme Court last Friday, Centro - operator of the two existing retail complexes in Emerald - was refused leave to appeal the Planning and Environment Court’s earlier decision to allow Lascorp Development Group to build on land zoned Town Light Industrial Precinct, despite a ‘minor’ conflict with the Central Highlands Regional Council’s planning scheme.

The latest courtroom challenge had set the project back six frustrating months, said Lascorp’s Robert Harris.   

“We’re absolutely thrilled with the result and believe the court has made the right decision,” he said.

“It’s been a long process, and one we couldn’t understand Centro continuing with, but they have, and we’re delighted sense has prevailed and Emerald will get the shopping experience they have long deserved.

“…This has been incredible because we’ve had a litigant who has seen the town as its own, which is why they’ve held us up.

“We don’t believe that’s the Australian way – the Australian way is competition is a good thing.”

Mr Harris said while the cost of the centre had blown out five to 10 per cent in the interim, the time had been used to complete design and development work.

A Brisbane-based builder has been awarded the contract, and all being well, construction will begin in September.

“We have had some very good tenant enquiries and probably one third of the centre is committed already, with another third being discussed with interested parties,” said Mr Harris.

“It hasn’t even been put out to the market yet.

“But there are national chains that are keen to be there which will be bringing a lot more new tenants into Emerald that don’t operate in the area.

“Our intention was always to bring new players into the region.”

CHRC Mayor Peter Maguire said although the option of a High Court challenge was Centro’s last tilt at blocking Lascorp, he was keen to see the centre up and running.

“From the council’s, and I hope the community’s point of view, we welcome this court decision and I think the developers are eager to get on with the project,” he said.

“Some of the development will have an impact on smaller businesses, not only in this community, but in others, but the benefits to the region as a whole to keep escape expenditure from going to Rocky or whatever, will outweigh the negatives.”

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