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No intervention in golfing dispute

ACT Planning Minister Simon Corbell will not use his ''call-in'' powers to determine the fate of Woden's pitch and putt course.

Mr Corbell said yesterday that the controversial planning application by the site's owner, the Southern Cross Club, did not meet the criteria for the ministerial powers to be used.

The club's plan for a large-scale redevelopment of the site has provoked a fierce backlash from the pitch and putt club's 169 members, who have been orchestrating a public campaign against the proposal.

The Minister asked to examine the application in August after a petition against the proposal attracted 1500 signatures and 200 people, mostly against the plan, attended a public meeting to voice their opposition.

But Mr Corbell said yesterday that despite the controversy surrounding the change-of-use application by the Southern Cross Club, he had handed the file back to the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) with instructions to process the application in the usual way.

Southern Cross chief executive officer Greg Mitchell said yesterday that the minister's decision would have little bearing on the club's plans for the site.


''Our position in the first place was to put the application in and to follow the usual processes and it was always up to the minister whether he would use his call-in powers or not,'' Mr Mitchell said.

''We still have a strategy and our strategy continues.''

The club has applied to have the zoning of the land changed to allow various uses, including a hotel and gym, but Mr Mitchell said that no final decisions on the ultimate shape of the development had been made.

''It was only ever a change-of-use application,'' he said.

''We put a number of uses down there that may be applicable in the future, but it was never a fait accompli, although everybody assumed that way.''

The club has argued that it needs the change-of-use to relocate its club's two gyms under one roof when the lease on current health club building runs out in 2015.

Southern Cross Club management says that there 7000 members of the gym with 30,000 visits per month, while the pitch and putt site is recording between 30 and 40 visitors per day and is financially unviable, with losses of more than $140,000 in 2010-2011.

But pitch and putt club spokesman Luc Lombardo reiterated his group's opposition to the proposed changes yesterday. ''If approved, the public interest in this site, which is currently protected under the single use approved by the ACT Government as a pitch and putt course, would be extinguished,'' Mr Lombardo said.

''That public interest includes a beautiful and mature-treed environment, entertainment for our youth, school sports and activities for the ageing community and people with disabilities. The course is now open to the public and is providing sporting and recreational facilities benefiting people of all ages.

''Approval of the change of purpose would be disappointing, because just two years ago the then minister responsible for planning matters indicated that the pitch and putt course was protected.''