August 27, 2006
To some it's a backwater - to the trucking magnate it's ripe for development, writes Mark Russell.
IT'S BIG, bold and expensive a bit like the man himself. But Lindsay Fox's audacious $300 million plan to revamp Phillip Island is running into a storm of controversy.
Detailed plans seen for the first time show the scale of Mr Fox's grand design, which includes 506 luxury holiday suites split into three villages and a cliff-top 18-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman next to the motorcycle grand prix racing circuit.
Mr Fox bought the site, which includes the 106-hectare racing circuit, with its 4.4-kilometre track, for $10 million in 2004.
No stranger to controversy on planning issues, Mr Fox was involved in a protracted dispute with locals seven years ago when he wanted to build a house-size boatshed on Portsea beach. It was rejected.
Bass Coast Shire Council has delayed a final decision on Mr Fox's Phillip Island development project until next month but its planning and environment department has recommended it be rejected unless 68 conditions are met.
In a damning submission to councillors obtained by The Sunday Age, the department said the project would "result in an inappropriately located, ad hoc tourist development".
The department said the development was proposed for a prominent coastal location visible from beaches and townships along the southern coast of Phillip Island from Smiths Beach and south-east to Cape Woolamai.
The department said that of particular concern were the buildings contained within the Heath and Crest villages, which would occupy particularly exposed sites.
"The number of buildings is considered excessive and the creation of villages inappropriate for the highly visible location.
"The buildings fail to respond to the coastal landscape and the undulating nature of the land.
"The design is considered more appropriate for an urban inner-city location."
The department pointed out that there had been 38 objections lodged with council over the development.
And the proposed location of the golf course would also restrict the construction of a public walkway.
The Linfox Property Group claims that the golf course will attract between 30,000 and 40,000 players annually.
The council's planning department also revealed that the land earmarked for the development was home to 55 species of native fauna, including five bird species the Cape Barron goose, sooty oyster catcher, Pacific gull, pied cormorant, and the musk duck, which had all been identified as having state significance.
The other 50 fauna species included five reptiles, three amphibians, six mammals and 36 bird species. Some marine species under threat from stray golf balls, polluted run-off and litter were the little penguin (fairy penguin), seals, fish, whales, sharks and crustaceans, and also sea grasses.
Margaret Hancock, president of the Phillip Island Preservation Society said: "It's just plain wrong, it goes against every strategy and plan of the State Government and the local shire and it just shouldn't happen."
Society secretary Margaret Johnson said a public meeting opposing the development would be held next Saturday night at Cowes. She said it was a "dreadful proposition".
"This is beautiful land on the south coast and it doesn't have to be carved up to make a buck. This is just pure greed," Mrs Johnson said.
The Linfox project had initially appeared doomed in May when the council voted unanimously to release only 90 hectares of the 370-hectare site for development next to the racing circuit to allow the continued operation of the current camping and car-parking arrangements associated with the motorcycle grand prix.
The council wanted the rest of the site zoned for farming, blocking any future development.
But Planning Minister Rob Hulls stepped in last month and announced the land would be classified as a rural activity zone, opening the door for the area to still be developed. Mr Hulls said the race circuit's future was a matter of state significance.
As a result of Mr Hulls' intervention he was accused of doing favours for a powerful mate, but he denied the claim.
Bass Coast shire chief executive Allan Bawden said he was disappointed with Mr Hulls' decision, which appeared to be at odds with the Government's Coastal Spaces Initiative, released in April, aimed at limiting development on Victoria's coast.
The Government announced early this month that Phillip Island would host the
Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix until 2011.
THE FOX PLAN
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