THE last-minute backflip from Dan Murphy’s that saw the Land and Environment Court approve an outlet at East Nowra has left Shoalhaven City Council looking at how it can recover some of its $500,000 in legal costs fighting the proposal.
During final submissions to the court Dan Murphy’s made a number of concessions, including closing the BWS outlet on the Archer Resort grounds where it wanted to build an outlet, not selling four-litre casks, and providing a one-off $50,000 payment to community groups followed by $5000 a year.
Council’s Development and Environmental Services director Tim Fletcher said the number of outlets was critical, yet the applicant had pushed in the application and appeal to retain the BWS outlet while building the new Dan Murphy’s store.
That factor had contributed to council rejecting the application, and the Land and Environment Court appeal.
“I think the most significant mitigation factor was the offer by the applicant to close BWS,” Mr Fletcher said.
He said the timing was “really interesting” because the closure was not offered until final submissions on the hearing’s last day.
Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash said council might have been able to mediate a solution and avoid the huge legal costs had the applicant been willing to offer the BWS closure at an earlier stage.
Because the closure was not offered until the last minute, Cr Gash said council should look at whether it could recoup some of its legal costs from Dan Murphy’s and its parent company, Woolworths.
“I will be asking that question,” she said.
Cr Gash was “very disappointed” at the discount liquor outlet being given the go-ahead in “an area that’s well-known for alcohol-fuelled domestic violence”.
While she was pro-business, “sometimes you’ve got to weigh up the economic benefits against the social issues”, she said.
Also expressing concern about the approval was the East Nowra Forum Group, which said it was “extremely disappointed”.
“ENFG continues to hold grave concerns that placing a Dan Murphy’s outlet at this site will be detrimental to residents living near the site by providing increased and easier access to discounted alcohol in a community with high rates of alcohol-related incidents and impacting on an existing traffic problem,” the organisation said.
“The case that Shoalhaven City Council put to the court to stop the development was strongly supported by ENFG.”
The group said measures put in place by the court to mitigate community issues “will have little or no impact in reducing the social harm caused by an increased ease of access to alcohol and consider the one-off payment of $50,000 and $5000 a year thereafter to community groups to be paradoxical.”