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Suburban Council slams "greedy" Melbourne Archdiocese

A Melbourne mayor has accused the Catholic Archdiocese of "sheer greed" over church plans to sell a vacant land donated in 1925, for a shopping centre development.

Mayor Cr Lex de Man said yesterday: "The Catholic Church is seeking to exploit a loophole in the planning scheme to flog off some land, that was donated to it 78 years ago for religious purposes, to Coles Myer for the express purpose of raising as much cash as it possibly can."

Cr de Man estimated the church would pocket about $4 million if the deal went ahead.

The feud was sparked by a mistake in the new Nillumbik planning scheme. When the scheme was sent through to the State Government to be signed off in 2001, the land was wrongly listed as being suitable for major commercial development.

The Catholic Church then applied to the council for a permit to develop a 2ha shopping centre at the 275 Diamond Creek Rd site, with a Coles supermarket and several specialty stores.

When the council rejected the application, the church appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Then, amid public and council protests about the proposal, Planning Minister Mary Delahunty decided the issue should go before an independent panel.

The council has scrapped the church's rates exemption at the site, worth $50,000 a year, saying it applied only to properties being used for religious purposes.

Archbishop Denis Hart has been publicly rebuked for "snubbing" the shire by refusing to discuss the plan.

A letter from the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, sent to the council in April, said: "The Church will continue to pursue its right to seek a highest and best use outcome for the land."

Spokeswoman for Archbishop Hart, Geraldine Capp, told the Sunday Herald Sun: "We are acting entirely within the planning scheme, within the law, to use our asset."


Archdiocese of Melbourne
Shire of Nillumbik | Minister To Decide On Supermarket Development At Plenty | Council Seeks Urgent Talks With Catholic Church Re Supermarket Proposal

2 Jun 2003