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Zoo relieved as raceway approval reversed

Wednesday, 30 January 2013
Author: Kevin Naughton, Indaily

PLANS for a $15 million dollar drag race track near Monarto Zoo have been set back after a court declared previous planning approvals invalid.

Environment, Resources and Development Court Judge Susanne Cole fired a broadside at the developers, Santel, and Murray Bridge Council in a decision published this week.

"I suggest that, prior to the reconsideration of the matter by the council, Santel make a serious effort to provide the Development Assessment Panel with clear and consistent information about what is actually proposed," Judge Cole said.

"My reading of the copy documents has given rise to concerns about inconsistent information and a lack of information about what Santel is actually proposing, as distinct from what, in the opinion of Santel's advisors, should be proposed."

The decision followed an appeal to the Environment Court by the Royal Zoological Society of SA (Zoos SA), owners of Monarto Zoo which is 3km from the proposed raceway site.

The society appealed against the granting last May of development plan consent by Murray Bridge Council's Development Assessment Panel for the use of land as a motor racing facility.

Dubbed 'Cougar Raceway' by developers Terry O'Toole and Sandra David through their company Santel International Raceway Pty Ltd, the project at the junction of Maurice Rd and Old Princess Hwy west of Murray Bridge, featured a drag strip, grandstands, viewing mounds, support buildings and parking for 5500 vehicles.

"We are relieved and very pleased with the outcome," Zoos SA chief executive Elaine Bensted told Indaily.

"We're not opposed to drag racing; it just doesn't mix with the activities of a zoo.

"It wasn't an appropriate location."

Plans for the project first went to Murray Bridge Council in August 2011 and were approved - with conditions - in May 2012.

Zoos SA's appeal challenged the approval on the grounds that the conditions placed on it were so fundamental that it made the approval invalid.

The court agreed.

"A declaration will be made that the development plan consent is invalid. The matter will be remitted to the council," Judge Cole said.

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