Woolworths in Bonner has come under fire from two supermarkets. Photo: Elesa Lee
Two Gungahlin suburban supermarkets have launched a fresh attempt to make Woolworths at Bonner comply with its lease.
Forde Friendly Grocer and IGA Ngunnawal have applied to the ACT Planning and Land Authority for a controlled activity order to force Woolworths to stay within its trading space of 1500 square metres, citing an overriding public interest.
They have included a petition from 280 residents in neighbouring suburbs worried that Woolworths Bonner's impact will cause their local supermarkets to close.
In November last year, when two other supermarkets applied for an order against Woolworths Bonner, the ACT administrative tribunal found it difficult to believe the territory's planning office was unaware the retail giant was trading in breach of its lease at Bonner.
On that occasion IGA operators Chris Haridemos, of Kaleen, and Alex Vizadis, of Evatt, said the breach gave Woolworths a larger trading area than other operators.
Having established there was a breach because the supermarket exceeded the permissible 1500 square metres by about 140 square metres, the tribunal nevertheless decided not to take any more action.
The tribunal's presiding member, Don McMichael, said given the state of flux and uncertainty about supermarket sizes in the ACT, there was no significant planning purpose to take the matter further.
In the latest action, the supermarkets say the government has changed the Territory Plan to clarify supermarket sizes, and prescribed a maximum gross floor area of 1500 square metres.
Forde and IGA Ngunnawal's solicitor says Woolworths Bonner would impact on the viability of smaller shopping centres.
''It is a well known fact that the viability of an anchor tenant is fundamental to the ongoing viability of a centre. The anchor tenant at local centre complexes is the supermarket.
''If the supermarkets at Forde and Ngunnawal close the smaller retail operators in the same shopping complex such as the hairdressers, liquor shops, cafes and pharmacies will lose business as shoppers travel to other complexes with a supermarket for the convenience of a complete shopping experience.''
Forde's owner, Matthew Farrah, said he could not understand why the officials were not acting because they knew there was a breach.
''This is not a level playing field and why should we be punished for abiding by the law, when others are not,'' he said.
''This is a significant breach of some 33 per cent.
''The government is resuming leases when someone is not conforming to their lease as reported in the Canberra Times this week, yet this is going unchecked.''
Meanwhile, the outcome of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's review of Woolworths' proposed acquisition of the Supa IGA at Hawker is expected on July 4.
Woolworths operates three supermarkets within five kilometres of the Hawker Supa IGA, at Belconnen Town Centre, Kippax Fair and Charnwood. The ACCC's preliminary view is that the proposed acquisition may result in a substantial lessening of competition among local supermarkets.