Business owner and developer Matthew Latus says he is frustrated by a lack of communication from Horsham Rural City Council.
Mr Latus lodged a permit to subdivide land at the top of Stockton Drive, in the city's east, into 52 blocks at the end of 2019. He says he is yet to hear from the council how or when issues preventing its approval will be resolved.
It comes at a time when Horsham is facing a shortage of residential building allotments.
Mr Latus, who owns Latus Family Jewellers in Horsham and Ararat, has been selling off land his family owns between Williams Road and the Wimmera River for the past 25 years. His grandfather Frank purchased the land around 40 years ago.
This parcel is set to be the final piece of land he will sell.
Mr Latus said he had heard the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority's flood levels for the Williams Road bridges over Burnt Creek were the sticking point.
"It's an issue with emergency vehicles getting in here through floodwaters," he said. "It's something that has to be dealt with by the Catchment Management Authority and the council coming together and working out how to get the permits through.
"I've made a lot of phone calls (to the council) and never got a reply.
"You've got all these first home owners grants and the wind farm north of Horsham, and nothing seems to be being done about this subdivision. I expect it to be signed off on sooner or later."
Mr Latus said he had not had any issues getting developments approved by the council until now.
"We have a design we've drawn up and we've spent about twenty or thirty thousand dollars. We'd try to have it all finished and sold within a couple of years (of getting approval). If things had been right, we could have been building on it now."
Horsham council chief executive Sunil Bhalla said in a statement the Council had met with Mr Latus and the applicant on a number of occasions.
"It was agreed that a meeting would be set up by the applicant with the CMA to progress discussions regarding the issues raised by the CMA," he said.
"It is understood that this meeting has occurred. The CMA is working with a number of parties to resolve a number of complexities as a result of the new flood guidelines which apply to the proposed subdivision."
Wimmera CMA chief executive David Brennan said the organisation had had numerous discussions with the council on the subdivision.
"After the 2011 floods, there were a series of inquiries in regards to the flood response," he said. "One of the recommendations from that was around driving through floodwaters, which is where most of the deaths occur during flooding.
"The flooding also restricts access from people's properties to essential services such as hospitals and supermarkets. What we've seen since 2011 is a change in the guidelines for assessing development on floodplains.
"What we've got here is the scenario where there has been a lot of building going on throughout that Stockton Drive area. During the flood it was for around three days residents there didn't have access into town out of Williams Road and the Burnt Creek Bridge.
"In a 50-year flood event, we're looking at 22 centimetres of water over the bridge and 32 centimeres at the intersection... the road is essentially cut off."
Mr Brennan said the CMA was seeking a "retrofit" solution. He said this could involve the proposed second footbridge across the Wimmera River, which would give residents more access to the CBD.
"There is no cheap and easy fix," he said. "We are also looking at different vehicles that could be used by emergency services during that time, so we are literally brainstorming every option you can think of."
Mr Latus said his blocks had "no issue" during the 2011 flood.
Mr Brennan said the council made the decision on determining flood levels, based on advice the CMA provided.
"The pandemic has had very little influence on this. It's more about the guidelines," he said.
"It presents us with a challenge because Horsham loves living on the river. We've had other people who have had aspirations of building on the floodplain, but this would be the most major."
Mr Bhalla said the pandemic had slowed council's ability to process planning applications due to an increased workload and the constraints on working from home.
"Council is working closely with a number of developers in relation to new residential developments including ensuring timely processing of these enquiries and/or planning applications," he said. "Council is also undertaking strategic planning i.e. Horsham South Structure Plan work and the development of a Housing Strategy being led by Wimmera Development Association."
In the year to August 31, the council has approved 13 development applications worth a collective $5,244,85. That is ten fewer than the same month in 2019, but the overall value is $2.1 million greater.
It has also issued 11 building permits in 2020, three of them for commercial premises. There has been a total of $12.25 million worth of building permits issued in Horsham Rural City in 2020, according to the council's monthly economic development report.
The council's 2020-21 budget includes $184,000 for reconstructing rural bridges and $1,876,582 on urban roads. It will see $100,000 spent on detail designs for a pedestrian bridge at Hamilton Street.
Horsham's western, southern expansion continues
Coller Rathgeber Property Group principal Tim Coller said state and federal government programs had caused a surge in vacant land sales in Horsham.
"This has created a short term shortage of residential building allotments in the City of Horsham," he said.
Mr Coller said 56 blocks in the city's west and south would be ready to build on by early 2021. These included 20 in each of the Jenkinson and Southbank estates, and 16 at the De Castella estate
"There is currently construction work happening at both the Jenkinson (Horsham West) and Southbank Estate and works scheduled to commence in the De Castella Estate immediately after Christmas," he said.
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