Taree Masters store proposal a step closer

A MASTERS development for Taree South is hopefully a step closer with Greater Taree City Council now preparing a final report on its development application.

The green light for the giant retailer’s plans for Taree will not rest with the city council however, but with the Joint Regional Planning Panel, a State government-appointed committee which assesses applications of regional significance.

It is now exactly 12 months since Masters - the new Woolworths-owned hardware megamarket chain to rival Bunnings - announced its plans to develop a giant homemakers’ store at Taree South, with access off Manning River Drive between Stitts Creek and Purfleet.

The ‘home improvement store’ would contain hardware, homewares, garden and trade sections, as well as extensive carparks.

The 14,000 square metre proposal puts it in the same league as Taree’s Bunnings, and is expected to be the catalyst for an all-new home improvement and bulky goods ‘suburb’ on what is now farmland, on the western side of Manning River Drive (the old Pacific Highway).

The Masters proposal went on public exhibition in July last year, but before it could be approved a host of issues needed to be worked through, involving council and Masters.

Not the least of them was creation of a new access road, to be called Enterprise Drive, off a proposed roundabout on Manning River Drive, which hopefully will be extended in the future to the Bucketts Way.

Council’s senior leader strategic planning, Richard Pamplin, said this week all “outstanding issues” had now been resolved with Masters, and a final council report was being prepared.

“This will go to the Hunter and Central Coast Joint Regional Planning Panel for assessment and approval,” Mr Pamplin said. While no date has been set, he expects this could occur in June or July.

He said both council and Masters were happy that the plans were now progressing, “although council can’t determine the matter, only make recommendations.”

“Everybody is very keen to get this going,” he said, adding that both the development applications for the land’s subdivision and the Masters’ complex need to be assessed by the regional panel.

The six regional planning panels across NSW began operation in July 2009 to provide independent, merit based decision making on regional development. Each of the six panels is comprised of five members - three appointed by the state’s planning minister and two by the relevant local council.

The panels determine the classes of regional development including projects in certain multi-million dollar categories, eco-tourist facilities, extractive industries, waste facilities and marinas, and certain coastal subdivisions.

Local councils have the prior responsibility of carrying out proper and professional assessment of a proposal for the panel’s determination of the development application.

Masters, which early last year announced its intentions to open stores across the eastern states, has this month opened a store at Rutherford, near Maitland.