Wollongong Liberal councillor Bede Crasnich is hoping for a case of ‘‘third time lucky’’ when he resurrects a controversial proposal to build a factory outlet centre at Kembla Grange at this evening’s council meeting.
Developer Leda Holdings’ zoning proposal to make way for a 35,000-square-metre complex on Wyllie Road was twice rejected by Wollongong City Council last year, amid concerns it did not comply with the city’s planning rules. Those against the proposal also raised concerns it would undermine other retail hubs across the city, which were facing major struggles to survive, and reduce the availability of prime industrial land.
However, Cr Crasnich is hoping to convince his fellow councillors to vote in favour of the proposed zoning changes at tonight’s meeting, saying he firmly believed the project would benefit the region.
Leda Holdings sought to have the council alter the site’s current light industrial zoning to include provisions for bulky goods and retail uses.
Cr Crasnich said making the zoning changes would allow Leda to resubmit its application.
He acknowledged the previous concerns from fellow councillors, but said it was time the council moved with the economic climate.
‘‘Let’s face it, I’ll be older than [Lord Mayor] Gordon Bradbery when manufacturing returns to the Illawarra,’’ he said, in suggesting the council was placing too much emphasis on retaining land dedicated solely for industrial use.
‘‘Meanwhile, the land is sitting there doing nothing.
‘‘My general view of the industrial zonings is they should be allowed additional uses, such as retail and business,’’ Cr Crasnich said.
He supported Leda’s $110million proposal based on its projected economic and employment benefits.
‘‘We have an estimated $150million in escape expenditure each year, and this development has the potential to reduce that figure,’’ he said.
He rejected suggestions the complex would take business from established retail centres.
‘‘A factory outlet isn’t designed for everyday shopping. People are only going to visit it sporadically.’’
Cr Crasnich said the projected 1200 jobs associated with both the initial construction and the ongoing retail shops would be welcome in the Illawarra’s scarce job market.
‘‘When we were elected as councillors, we all promised to help boost employment opportunities in the Illawarra,’’ he said.
‘‘We can’t create those jobs, but we can certainly create an environment where employment can flourish.’’