Is Mosman Council Setting Up Woolworths To Fail?
They say that the devil is in the detail, which in the case of the of the battle between Mosman Council and Woolworths over a proposed new local store, the detail is the amount of information Woolworth has to supply the Council in just 14 days is contained in the below letter to Woolworths.
After spending months preparing detailed information requests, for a 17 point letter Mosman Council has given Woolworths just two weeks to respond, a strategy which some claim is deliberate after the Council voted against the proposal for a brand new store in Mosman, which currently has a main street full of for sale or for lease signs up outside existing retailers.
This is the same Council who also objected to another Woolworths Dan Murphy project, which is now one of the most popular stores on Military Road.
The Dan Murphy objection by Mosman Council, saw the issue taken to the Land & Environment Court which eventually approved the store costing Mosman Council over $600,000 in legal costs.Back in August 2019 Current Mayor Carolyn Corrigan along with several other Councillors sided against the proposal to replace the local RSL club and several shops acquired by Woolworths along Military Road with a new Woolworths.
The project has generated an outpouring of support for and against the concept, with an anti-development group called Mosman Village Community getting their supporters to spend $10 signing up as members of the RSL believing that they would have a vote in any decision involving the RSL.Currently the RSL is playing a wait and see game according to one member of the RSL board with the organisation in a position to possibly gain a brand-new club on top of the Woolworths development.
“The committee makes the decision not members of the Mosman Village Community group” said one committee member.
Peter Abelson the former Mayor of Mosman Council and a member of the MVC group said the letter was “well drafted”.
Even he admits the matter could end up in the Land & Environment Court.
One Mosman Councillor said “There is a lot at stake with this proposal. When did you last see Mosman Council write a 17-page letter to any retail developer in Mosman, it’s unprecedented”?
Recently Chemist Warehouse opened up a store in Mosman after several people objected.
The Melbourne based retailer got around objections by making their store windows large display locations for their Chemist Warehouse branding a process that the local Council could not object to as they had no jurisdiction inside the store.
Since the store opened the business has been packed with local residents who in the past have had to go to Neutral Bay to get discounted cosmetics and pharmacy.
When ChannelNews showed this letter to a former General Manager of a local Council they said “This is a deliberate letter designed and written to give Woolworths the minimum amount of time to respond, it’s a tactic that will allow Council to deny the proposal due to what they could deem a lack of information. This will trigger Woolworths having to go to the Land & Environment Court”.
Despite the majority opposition in the council, Woolworths has pushed ahead to try to convince the community it can make a positive contribution to the neighbourhood similar to what they have done in several suburbs where new stores have been built.
Opposition in Kirribilli where Woolworth built a small format corner store after a lot of opposition evaporated when the store was finally opened, with local residents now praising what Woolworths delivered.
In Mosman Woolworths already owns most of the land on the site, and if the local Council does oppose the development as tipped the company can appeal the council’s final decision to an independent planning body.
What’s not known is how local residents will react to the prospect of their local Council being forced to spend tens of thousands on legal costs opposing a project which many in the local community support.
A big plus for local Councillors claims one insider is that the local Council elections scheduled for late this year have been suspended till 20201 due to COVID-19. “This would have been an election issue” they said.
The Financial Review wrote late last year that the opponents’ prevailing attitude is we should decide who does business in our suburb.
“There is no need to denigrate the residents of Mosman who also hard working and decent people are,” wrote Chris Pedersen, one of several expressing similar sentiments. “Just because their average income is higher does not mean they do not have the same values and respect for others as all Australians.”
The AFR said that the Woolworths hostility reflects a disregard for property rights that stretches from Mosman Village’s overpriced grocery stores all the way to the hallowed cabinet room in Parliament House, Canberra.
Currently Mosman residents are forced to pay high prices for goods if they want to shop locally in Mosman.
A visit to the local IGA stores which have two stores in Mosman shows sugarless ice cream being sold at $12.99 a visit to a Coles supermarket shows the same product being sold at $8.50 which at full price takes it to $10.65 some $3.00 cheaper than what Mosman stores sell the same product for.
We are still waiting for a comment from Woolworths and Mosman Council when we get one it will be inserted into this story.