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November 30, 2021

Council approves DA for Lismore ‘neighbourhood shop’ selling alcohol

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The site of the proposed neighbourhood shop at 426-28 Ballina Road, Lismore Heights.

When is a bottle shop not a bottle shop? When it’s a neighbourhood shop that also sells alcohol, at least, that was at the centre of the debate for Councillors at Tuesday’s meeting.

Council received a Development Application (DA) for a proposed Change of Use the decommissioned Shell/Coles Express Service Station at 426-428 Ballina Road at Lismore Heights.

The developer had previously lodged a DA for a liquor store which was knocked back by Council and he was reapplying with a new idea.

The Executive Summary concluded that the neighbourhood shop development was determined to generally be in accordance with the relevant legislation and accordingly it was recommended for approval subject to the draft conditions of consent.

Almost half of the retail floor area to allocated for the sale of alcohol 

The problem for some Councillors was not that the neighbourhood shop is intending to offer ‘general merchandise to meet the day to day needs of residents’, but that 28 per cent of the total floor area of the store would be allocated for the sale of alcohol products. The other main issue was that the proposed neighbourhood shop intended to operate from 10am to 11pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 10pm Sundays.

Will Ellis who is part of the development team, spoke to Council remotely and outlined his application for the DA as a neighbourhood shop.

Speaking to Mr Ellis, Cr Nancy Casson said she had run a number of general stores around the area and they all opened at 6.30am or 7am. ‘I note that your neighbourhood store is not open till 10am – half the day is over!

‘Who are you actually catering for here?’ she asked. ‘Because if I want milk in the morning, or bread or the local newspaper, I’m not going to get it to read or for my breakfast. I’m just a bit concerned about your opening hours.’

Mr Ellis said they were open to extending those to the morning as well. ‘I guess the theme of the shop would be that we are proposing more trade around lunchtime and into the early evening. But we would be open to extending to earlier. I guess the feedback we’ve had was that earlier opening wasn’t required.’

Cr Casson pushed the point. ‘So you’re opening later. You’re starting at 10 and opening right through to 10pm whereas all of the other general stores around the area are closing seven 8pm. I’m just a little concerned about your hours because they’re more liquor drinking hours than neighbourhood shop hours.’

Mr Ellis suggested that it was a point of difference.

Liquor store DA knocked back

Cr Lloyd pointed out that the original DA was for a liquor store and it was knocked back because liquor stores are prohibited in the neighbourhood zone. Then the DA was repackaged to sell liquor as an ancillary to the main purpose of the shop. She said she had looked at the design and 28 per cent of the shop is dedicated to liquor sales and 36 per cent to other foods. ‘When you look at the total retail space, liquor sales take up almost half of the total retail space, and that would mean it’s prohibited in the neighbourhood.’

Cr Lloyd asked to move an alternative recommendation, that the development application be refused pursuant to 4.15 of the act, because it is an unsuitable site. ‘It will have an unacceptable social impact. And it is not in the public interest.’

Cr Adam Guise also spoke against the DA. ‘I do want to touch on the alcohol issue. It’s been raised in the submissions and we are well aware that this DA was originally submitted as a bottleshop. So I do find it somewhat disingenuous that the proponents have come back with a reformulated DA to make it out as a neighbourhood shop to fit in with the requirements of a residential zoning.

We don’t need a proliferation of more alcohol outlets

‘One thing that’s well known is that we don’t need a proliferation of more alcohol outlets in our community. Our community already suffers from high alcohol harms and high alcohol density rates.

‘The idea that this is the convenience of a one-stop-shop for residents is absurd, because what it does is it exposes kids and those vulnerable to the impacts of alcohol, when they don’t need that. We need shops that don’t have alcohol in them. So if it’s a genuine attempt to provide a neighbourhood store of groceries that people in that vicinity want, then there’s doesn’t need to be alcohol there.

‘Instead, if mum or dad picking up a loaf of bread, some milk etc. your day to day groceries, they also tempt tempted by alcohol which is more readily available.

Cr Guise agreed there are other alcohol outlets in relative proximity. ‘We don’t need an alcohol outlet smack bang in this neighbourhood where there is not one already.

‘I do support this refusal. I say the proponent should come back with a true neighbourhood shop to serve that community and genuine opening hours that reflect that need.’

Not Council’s job to be deciders of alcohol licences

Cr Neil Marks spoke in favour of the development, he argued that Council is not the deciders of an alcohol licence. ‘That is not our job. We are looking at a DA that has been proposed and if it was just for the alcohol shop, I guess it would be slightly different again, but it’s not. It is for the corner store of which we have very few in our community, that has a part that will be able to sell alcohol.

‘It will be restricted as it is at IGA for access and also restricted in the way that it can be purchased because it has to be – there are the laws and there are the legislations.

‘It is an area of families it is an area of students as we’ve heard, and it is not necessarily well served in so many different ways because the little corner shop that used to be on High Street is no longer there, like so many other corner shops.

‘There is an alcohol outlet closer to the school. In fact, it’s next to the school at the bowling club, and they will do takeaways if you go in there and you’re a member as well. So there is alcohol available.

‘We have a business that yes, they asked us about having a bottle shop there, they got told “no it is not appropriate”. Like any good business operator they came back and said “okay, what can we do? How can we make this work?” because that’s what you do when you want to run a business.

‘We talk about our corner stores – the building next door where the post office is, when I first came here, it was a reasonably successful and popular corner store that did take away. It closed because it went broke. It was reopened by somebody else and again it closed because it went broke.

‘This will benefit those people who want to pick things up on their way home from work. It is on the out leg of Lismore for people travelling, not the in leg. And for those who say that we shouldn’t be driving cars, it is going to be within walking distance of that particular community – which does involve a lot of different demographics.

‘So I believe that we should pass this, we should not refuse it. It is our opportunity to look at it as a business and not be moralising on behalf of our community because that is not our job.’

Assumptions being made about the community

Cr Elly Bird spoke in favour of the DA. She said she had been listening to the comments and thought there were some assumptions being made about the community and the requirements that a community has from a neighbourhood shop. ‘I’ll speak from my own experience. I don’t often need to rush out to get the newspaper and milk for my cereal. That’s just not the way that I live my life, but for me, the convenience of having a shop that is not Big W that is not ALDI, close to where I live is something to be commended.

‘I think the thing that is missing from this debate as well, is the favour that the proponent has done us in remediating an old service station that was disused, contaminated, sitting on the main street the main road through the centre of our community, looking terrible and just completely abandoned.

‘This person has come along they’ve cleaned it up. They’ve made it meet environmental standards, and they’ve put forward a DA to recoup their money and to make it a profitable, useful site in our community. Yes, it does sell alcohol, but it is not for us to determine the choices that individuals and community members make. And there are restrictions around the use and access of alcohol in the community and those as councillor marks has pointed out applied in the provision of a liquor licence.

The proponent has said that he would consider an exchange extending his opening hours so that the newspaper-reading milk-lovers of the Lismore Heights can rush out and avail themselves of those facilities.

‘I don’t think this is the dastardly thing that it perhaps might appear to be and I think we should approve it because it makes sense to reactivate that part of our community.’

An unsuitable site to have half the shop full of alcohol

Cr Lloyd agreed with Cr Marks that the decision was not about alcohol licence. ’It is for us to determine this application and take into account the social impacts of alcohol. It is our remit. That’s what we’re elected to do to protect our community from unnecessary social impacts that this bottle shop is going to have on the vulnerable population, the school kids walking past. This is an unsuitable site to have half the shop floor full of alcohol.’

Cr Guise said he wanted to make an amendment to modify the conditions about opening hours, so instead of starting at 10am, they start at 7am for the hours of operation and the same goes for the liquor sales. And that means they’ll close up their trade by 8pm. On Monday to Saturday and on Sundays by 7pm. ‘I’m moving this amendment because if it’s genuine that they’re a neighbourhood store, and they’re there to service those primary services of groceries and day to day needs, then people won’t be needing to rush there at 11 o’clock at night to buy bottles of grog.

Councillors voted on Cr Guise’s amendment and it lost.

Cr Ekins ask the chamber to vote on the development application and the staff recommendation – the motion was carried. Those in favour were Councillors Ekins, Moorhouse, Bird, Marks and Cook – those against, Councillors, Lloyd, Casson and Guise.


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1 COMMENT

  1. Maybe all is not lost,.
    Is this statement true or untrue?
    ‘One thing that’s well known is that we don’t need a proliferation of more alcohol outlets in our community. Our community already suffers from high alcohol harms and high alcohol density rates.
    Is seems that it would be easy to prove that this statement is true.
    That means the use of the shop is against the intension, legality and morality of being a “Neighbourhood shop”.
    Consult a lawyer.

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