By Rowan Forster
The Berwick Pakenham Historical Society was left in the dark about plans for a transitional housing development at 6-10 Main Street because council owns the community group’s land.
Those who volunteer their time to upkeep the neighbouring Syd Earle Reserve – which houses books, paintings, photos and memorabilia – were reportedly aggrieved to have been snubbed in the consultation phase.
Cardinia Shire on Monday night confirmed it had not informed the society of the proposal.
“Under Section 52 of the Act, the society is not a recommending or determining referral authority, therefore referral was not required,” general manager of planning and development Andrew Paxton said.
Mr Paxton maintained that the applicant was required to provide a setback between the first unit and the historical building.
Under the permit, which has been signed off by the council, ten multi-storey units and an office building will be built at the entrance of Pakenham’s Main Street.
It comes as a petition, urging for the planning permit to be cancelled, has continued to gain traction – despite being labelled futile.
The petition, which has accrued more than 150 signatures, was addressed by councillors at a Cardinia Shire meeting on 19 November.
“Unfortunately this petition was lodged after council made a decision so we’re unable to consider it but I note there were numerous signatures,” Councillor Brett Owen, who initially led a motion to delay the decision, said.
“We supported the motion to lease that for a very worthy cause and I don’t have any hesitation in announcing my support,” Councillor Jeff Springfield added.
Petition header, Cardinia Ratepayers Association’s Gloria O’Connor, said the society was only made aware of the housing bid when she told them.
“They knew nothing about it and I was the one who let them know,” she said.
“I thought it was quite peculiar and I can’t help but feel it was intentional that they didn’t want the historical society knowing about it.
“It (the historical society) is a hosted, occupied locality and it was a cop out for them to say they own the land so they didn’t have to send a notice.
“It would have been a bit of courtesy.”
Councillors have even confessed to ushering the proposal through, in order to prevent funding from falling through.
“There’s a very real risk that the funding for the project would be lost if the process was to be delayed further,” Cr Ross said at a past meeting.
The Peter and Lyndy White Foundation will provide more than $2 million to facilitate the development.
The Berwick Pakenham Historical Society has been contacted for further comment.