THE Elmore Progress Association has breathed a collective sigh of relief as plans for a coffee van at Railway Place were shut down by VicTrack.
After almost two months of uncertainty and a petition with more than 300 signatures, the association's prayers have been answered and Bendigo City Council was forced to concede there are gaps in procedure which allowed part of the project to go ahead despite no formal approval.
Fairfax media reported council approved the civil works on the site, which is owned by VicTrack, based on a forwarded email without direct approval.
Council, who leases the land, gave permission for a private contractor enlisted by the coffee van owners to install underground power and water lines to the site in mid-October.
Elmore Progress Association president Jeff Crust said he first learnt of the van when his water shut off one morning in mid-October.
“When we enquired as to why we had no water we were told a contractor had pierced the main water line while putting in water and power for a coffee van that was going to be set up in Railway Square,” he said.
“We then contacted Bendigo council but they didn’t really want to talk to us about it. All they told us was that it was an application for an itinerant trader under common law and they couldn’t release any details.”
The progress association then started a petition calling for the removal of the coffee van which collected more than 300 signatures.
“There’s enough traffic and congestion there without a coffee van stuck in the middle of Railway Place creating an eye sore,” Jeff said.
“We welcome new businesses in town but there’s four empty shops just sitting there. Someone was going to lose a job because of this thing.
“We’re all very pleased about it being stopped. It would have been an eyesore in our town.”
City of Greater Bendigo safe and healthy environments manager Caroline Grylls said the application exposed a number of gaps which exist in council's procedures.
“The city is only able to enter a licence agreement for land where it has the authority to do so and VicTrack has confirmed it does not support the use of the land for a coffee van,” Ms Grylls said.
“Unfortunately VicTrack had initially provided advice that the city had the ability to approve an application for a licence agreement at the site, and because of this advice, the city gave the go ahead to the applicant to engage a contractor to supply services to the site.
“The city acknowledges the cost of installing the services to the site and has offered to pay the contractor direct for undertaking this work.”