Move over Murwillumbah, giant food retailer Woolworths wants a piece of the action, but around 11 existing businesses will have to close shop.
That’s what an economic assessment reckons, but Tweed Shire Council planners have recommended it go ahead and many shop owners in town are not happy.
A packed public gallery is expected tonight for council’s decision on the contentious proposal, which was debated this week at a public meeting in Murwillumbah.
At that meeting, angry business owners railed against the plans by the retailer to build a 4,000-square-metre full-line supermarket at the town’s former old bowls club in Brisbane Street.
If approved, the new Woolies supermarket will compete will Coles in Sunnyside Mall and two smaller supermarkets in the CBD, plus a new one opened recently on the northern outskirts of town.
The move requires the rezoning of the site of the defunct Murwillumbah Bowls and Sports Club, which amalgamated with Murwillumbah Services Club four years ago.
But the bowls club ceased trading two years ago and other plans were made for the site.
In his report to council, chief planner Vince Connell said there were pros and cons for extending the commercial core precinct of Murwillumbah into Brisbane Street, a mainly residential area.
Mr Connell said ‘whether there is broad community support for the proposal is as yet unknown’ and that anecdotal evidence repeatedly indicated ‘a demand within the broader community for a second full-line supermarket’ in Murwillumbah.
He said he had considered ‘the very limited potential for higher housing density opportunities owing to flooding constraints’ in the area, and ‘the proposal, which is essentially an extension of the Town’s current “core commercial precinct”, is considered worthy of further investigation’.
The retailer’s report says there is a sufficient and growing population of around 22,000 people, rising to 24,000 persons by 2026, ‘which, based on their industry benchmark of full-line supermarket viability every 8,000-9,000 persons, places Murwillumbah Town Centre well within a serviceable category’.
‘Of the 126 retail shop-fronts within the town centre, it is estimated that the new supermarket would only compete directly with the 11 specialty businesses comprising of: butchers, bakeries and fruit shop, as well as other existing supermarkets,’ the report said.
‘It is further estimated the new supermarket would contribute about $17m of additional supermarket spend within the trade area, and that during and post construction phases upward of 609 jobs are likely to be generated both directly and indirectly.’
For those reasons, the report said, the benefits would outweigh the impact in the shorter term on a small number of businesses.
Tweed mayor Gary Bagnall, a former Murwillumbah cafe owner, told Tuesday’s public meeting that he won’t support the supermarket because of its impact on local businesses.
Cr Bagnall told Echonetdaily he was disappointed to see business owners in town had not backed him trying to stop a new McDonalds takeaway eatery which opened last year, which he estimates has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars out of town.
He said it was also ‘bad planning’ to put a major supermarket in a predominantly residential area.
The McDonalds issue motivated Cr Bagnall to stand for council election.