A new club is actively backing Maryborough Highland Society’s plan to convert Castlemaine’s old railway goods shed into a community club and gaming machine venue as the battle enters a new phase.
The Castlemaine Sports and Community Club has attracted more than 400 members since it formed last month Highland Society manager Malcolm Blandthorn said.
He said the new, incorporated club has an elected board and has been established with the intention of ultimately running the club in Castlemaine’s historic goods shed in Kennedy Street.
“This group was formed at the instigation of local citizens who can really see the value of what we are trying to do and really want to get this set up and running,” Mr Blandthorn said.
“Our intention is to redistribute all surpluses raised in Castlemaine into the sports and wider community.
“We consider there is a bit of a groundswell of support happening there because the Castlemaine Sports and Community Club Inc attracted more than 400 members within two weeks of forming.”
Mr Blandthorn said that, at the request of the group’s instigators, he has become a member of the new club’s board, but would resign from that position once the new group was established in running the club.
The Society this week started publicly advertising its application seeking planning approval from Mount Alexander Shire to develop the historic shed as a club venue containing up to 65 electronic gaming machines.
Mr Blandthorn said residents wishing to lodge a submission responding to the application have until June 8 to do so.
Mount Alexander Shire mayor Cr Janet Cropley told The Advertiser the council would meet to decide whether to grant planning approval “not before June 26 at the earliest”.
“From our point of view it won’t matter what we decide, it’s likely to end up in VCAT,” Cr Cropley said.
“If we say yes EPIC (Enough Pokies for Castlemaine) will probably appeal and if we say no the Society will probably appeal.”
EPIC president Erin Sales said the group will formally object to the Society’s planning application and has formed its own planning committee made up of local planners and architects.
“We’re expecting there will be hundreds of objections within the shire,” Ms Sales said.
But gaining planning approval from the council is just one hurdle the Society must leap if its vision for the new club is to become reality.
It must also emerge successfully from a five-day VCAT hearing set to start on August 20.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) will hear the council’s appeal seeking to overturn the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation’s February decision to grant a gaming licence for the proposed club.
Ms Sales said EPIC is also applying to VCAT to be joined to that appeal.
“We expect to know whether we’ve been successful with that in the next two weeks to a month,” she said.
“We’re in this for the long haul.”
Ms Sales said EPIC has 1700 members on its database and about 95 percent of them are Mount Alexander Shire residents.
Secretary of the newly formed Castlemaine Sports and Community Club, Campbells Creek resident Jenny Rixon believes the proposed club would deliver significant benefits for the Castlemaine community.
“I don’t believe people realise that we’ll have such wonderful facilities,” she said.
“There’s a huge function room with dining area on the mezzanine floor and a spacious bistro, café, bar, gaming lounge, meeting rooms and more on the ground floor.”