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Romsey residents press for pause on draft Structure Plan

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By Colin MacGillivray

ROMSEY residents have implored Macedon Ranges Shire Council to go ‘back to the drawing board’ on a draft Romsey Structure Plan, sharing concerns the town’s infrastructure was incapable of supporting planned development.

An estimated group of between 80 and 100 residents met with council officials including Mayor Jennifer Anderson and several other councillors at Romsey Mechanics Institute earlier this month to provide feedback on the draft plan.

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The structure plan, when finalised, will guide the development of Romsey until 2050, setting a long-term settlement boundary and other objectives.

Romsey resident David Robertson, who helped organise the meeting with council, said many residents had misgivings about the draft plan.

He said there were ‘a multitude of problems’ with what he described as a ‘desperate desire to put more people into Romsey by developing the town’.

“Someone in government somewhere has made a decision that Romsey is going to be a large country town with 10,000 people living there,” he said.

“As Romsey stands with its current population, there is not enough water, there is not enough sewerage, there is not enough electricity and there is not enough gas.

“Even the telecommunication infrastructure is faulty. People can’t get a decent NBN connection even though the NBN says everything is fine out here.

“The council’s own paper says the [electricity] supply into Romsey is at capacity and that to increase the size of the town Powercor will need to bring more supply into town.

“There is already a truck taking sewage away from the town because the sewage plant can’t cope.”

Mr Robertson said other community infrastructure projects like a swimming pool or secondary college were also lacking.

He said he and most of the town’s residents were not opposed to development, but it had to be done slowly so accompanying infrastructure could keep pace.

“There are no timelines on anything [in the plan] and developers have already got their eyes on a 100-acre block of land to put 400 to 600 houses on depending on the block sizes they can get away with,” he said.

“If you pack another 400 to 600 houses in Romsey, we’ll be having brownouts and problems with the gas and sewerage.”

“They’re trying to grow the town onto rich agricultural land. If this is a plan for the future, then it’s a plan to fail.”

Mr Robertson called for council to pause its structure plan process until the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS, released data from last year’s census.

“We may be at 7000 people already because there has been a huge influx of people over the past few years,” he said.

“The people of Romsey are disgruntled. We don’t want uncontrolled development, we want a plan for development. It’s got to be done in such a way that the things required to support development are there, otherwise we’re going to be the ones who suffer,” he said.

“What’s going to happen in 10 years if the council don’t put any more sports grounds in or a swimming pool and the kids have nothing to do and end up going around smashing letterboxes?

“Let’s take a breather, stop the development and really talk to the town, not just a consultant who does the minimum they have to do under the legislation.

“Find out what the town wants and needs and then move forward. We want to make sure when development does happen it’s not a catastrophe.”

Macedon Ranges Shire Council officers praised the Romsey community’s willingness to offer feedback to the emerging options paper.

Council planning and environment director Rebecca Stockfeld said it had been ‘great to see strong community interest in [an] important project’.

“Councillors and officers benefitted from hearing first hand a range of issues and ideas to be considered as part of the next phase of the project which is to develop a draft structure plan for Romsey,” she said.

She said council expected to release a draft structure plan for comment later this year and would again consult with the community.

People can view plans and information on making a submission on council’s website.

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