By Colin MacGillivray
MITCHELL Shire Council will work to define the future of Kilmore’s equine precinct after an independent planning panel recommended abandoning a Kilmore Racing Club application to rezone land on East Street.
The club had applied to rezone 2.2 hectares of land at 15-35 East Street from public use to general residential under the Mitchell Planning Scheme, with plans to use the proceeds from the future sale of the land to fund upgrades at the racecourse reserve.
The club had argued the land, which was gifted by the former Shire of Kilmore to racecourse trustees in the 1980s and then from the trustees to the club, was surplus to its requirements as its operations were based entirely at the racecourse reserve.
The land, currently an undeveloped open field, has been used for overflow parking during racing meetings and other events such as the Kilmore Show, as well as informally for recreation and horse float parking.
Council had previously indicated its support for rezoning the land but opted to take a neutral position during the planning panel hearing.
Members of the Kilmore and District Residents and Ratepayers Association, KADRRA, have opposed the rezoning, claiming the land was initially transferred from private ownership to the Shire of Kilmore on the condition that it remained for public use.
The planning panel said such considerations were beyond its purview, and council produced advice from law firm Maddocks that there was no evidence of any restrictions or conditions on the land.
The planning panel found that while a public use zoning was inappropriate for the land, its inclusion as part of an equine precinct on a map in the 2016 Kilmore Structure Plan meant an amendment was not strategically justified.
The panel said council needed to better define its plans for the future of equine activity in Kilmore before making any changes to the land’s zoning.
At last month’s meeting councillors elected to follow the panel’s recommendations and shelve plans to rezone the land.
Cr Nathan Clark said council would examine the future of the racecourse and surrounding land more thoroughly.
“This is an interesting part of town, there is history there next to the racecourse, it’s a useful area for servicing the equine industry and there is some homework for council to undertake here,” he said.
Kilmore Racing Club chief executive Ben Murphy said the club was prepared to work with council to map out the future of the equine precinct.
He said the character of other properties included in the Kilmore Structure Plan’s equine precinct had changed in recent years.
“The equine precinct is only referenced once in the structure plan on one map, so it’s not a gazetted precinct and it hasn’t been adopted by council,” he said.
“There have been multiple planning and building permits for former horse properties in that area. I think the largest horse property in George Street settles in the next four or six weeks, and it’s not to horse people.
“I think part of the story is to understand who has purchased the other properties and what their intent for the properties are as well. I’m sure there are hundreds of examples of the gentrification of this sort of land in Melbourne, and that’s what we’re dealing with here in some sense.
“There are a lot of old equine properties that aren’t being used for equine purposes anymore.”
Mr Murphy said he believed the rezoning of the land to be in the long-term interests of the club and the broader racing industry.
“The club is looking to continue developing the racecourse reserve with better horse infrastructure. We’re looking at the Trackside building, which is over 20 years old now, and it does a great job but as the population continues to grow it’s not going to be suitable in size,” he said.
“It’s bigger than Kilmore. You’ve got a large racing centre at Seymour in the northern end of the shire.
“There has been heavy investment in that facility by Racing Victoria … so it would be a really good conversation to have with … the community to understand what Racing Victoria and Harness Racing Victoria’s view of the future is for horse racing in Mitchell Shire.”