The planning permit of a local LiquorLand bottle-shop remains in limbo as the Boroondara council continues to debate, despite many objections from the community. As of publishing, the Union Rd development has 95 official objections received through the online planning register mostly accusing the building of tarnishing the maintained community street-scape, and unnecessarily exposing the many schoolchildren who use the train station opposite.
Given the proximity of both a number of schools and more than two liquor shops within 1km of the station, and despite the family oriented atmosphere of the suburb, this concern is not surprising. Researcher John Toumbourou of Deakin University conducted a recent study, speaking to 10,000 teenagers about their drinking habits and concluding that “there is a significant relationship between the density of alcohol outlets […] and the age at which young people start drinking.” “It’s having a particular effect on children who are between 12 and 14-years-old.”
This is a similar conclusion as reached by other international studies into the issue, which in turn prompted the ongoing instigation of the “Reducing the alcohol and drug toll – Victoria’s plan 2013–2017” which focussed around introducing new liquor regulation laws and a partnership with Vic Health. Whilst the plan is to be slowly implemented, and is firmly backed by the Victorian Liberal Party, the proposed LiquorLand construction seems contrary to the commitments detailed in the plan to reduce vulnerability and damage from alcohol abuse.
Despite the plan specifically outlining a commitment to “encourage local governments and local communities to have an effective say in liquor licensing and alcohol-related planning decisions. This will include assisting councils to better understand the liquor licence objections[…]” the dialogue between council and residents is far from perfect.
Local resident Mary Strachan described the difficulty in getting her objections through to Boroondara Council, claiming some residents opposed to the development did not feel their complaints were being heard or that they were being kept informed. “A few people were informed, but the government needs to step up its game,” she said, “surely the local council should have something to say about preserving small businesses?”
In an area already struggling with residential parking, surrounded by heritage listed houses and with a thriving community of small businesses residents are concerned about what this means for the carefully maintained family culture. “If they approve it, they are putting business decisions ahead of public needs” summarised Mary Strachan.
Neither Coles or Boroondara Council were available for direct comment. The discussion continues at www.planningalerts.org.au.