A longtime bid to establish a major highway service centre catering for northbound traffic off the Pacific Highway at Chinderah moved a step closer last night when Tweed Shire Council gave the green light to a plan for the facility on land next to Melaleuca Station.
The proposed Shell highway centre is to be built on a triangular 3.9-hectare block of former sugarcane land between the highway and Tweed Valley Way interchange.
Access to the 1,270-square-metre, single-storey centre, which will include five food outlets (two of which will be drive-through), will be via an offramp from the northbound highway lanes and a new roundabout to be built on the Tweed Valley Way side of the block.
It will also include an outdoor dining area and playground, truckers lounge, public amenities and parking spaces for over 100 cars, 25 trucks and five caravans or buses.
The multi-million dollar proposal will be sent to the state planning department and the eventual development application will be determined by the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (NJRPP).
The proposal involves rezoning of agricultural land to permit the new use and boundary adjustments between three existing rural allotments, with dedication of land to enable road widening and the new roundabout.
The flood-prone site will be filled in parts so the building and refuelling areas are above the regulated design flood level of RL (Reduced Level) 3.5 metres AHD (Australian Height Datum), with around 62,000 cubic metres of fill to be imported.
Surrounding land use is mainly sugar cane and ti-tree production. The site is bounded by the highway and ti-tree growing to the east, Tweed Valley Way to the west and the highway off-ramp to/from Murwillumbah to the north.
A proposed lobster acquaculture farm is being established on the eastern side of the highway opposite the service centre site, which also adjoins the Melaleuca Station Crematorium to its south, with farming sheds and a dam near it.
Council planners say the proposed development on rural land is currently prohibited and needs an amendment to the Tweed Local Environment Plan (LEP), and that the parcel of land has limited agricultural value.
Planning director Vince Connell said in his report there was limited opportunity for locating a northbound service centre within the Tweed region, which is presently only serviced by the current southbound BP service centre at Chinderah nearer to Tweed Heads.
Mr Connell said council had previously supported a service centre for the Melaleuca Station area site when Tweed Valley Way was the old highway route and before the new motorway was opened, but the Roads and Maritime Service did not support it at the time and it did not proceed.
He said circumstances had since changed with the opening of the new highway and Tweed Valley Way was now ‘more amenable to new access and greater variability in its design speed’.
Mr Connell said many Tweed residents and tourists alike relied on the highway to travel routinely around the Tweed and the proposed service centre ‘is likely to have a community net benefit in several ways’ by ‘providing convenience to Tweed commuters, the possibility of competitive fuel prices and access to other related convenience stores’.
A report on the proposal by consultants Jim Glazebrook and Associates says the existing BP service centre at Chinderah only catered for southbound traffic and the need for a northbound facility in the Chinderah area had long been recognised, with an extensive history in the search for a suitable site.
The Chinderah-to-Yelgun upgrade of the Pacific Highway was completed in 2002.
Cr Warren Polglase told council last night there had been many attempts to establish such a service centre in the past and the current plan was much better prepared than one proposed for another site at Chinderah (not far from the current BP servo) and should go forward for state government determination.
Mr Connell said detailed plans to be prepared by the proponent/landowner, P Guinane Pty Ltd, would be eventually publicly exhibited and should be ready in about three to four months.
The vote to send the proposal to the planning department was 5-2 (Crs Gary Bagnall and Katie Milne against).