Woolworths' hardware expansion receives boost

WOOLWORTHS' expansion into the hardware sector has moved ahead, following the approval of ten home improvement stores in Victoria by Planning Minister Justin Madden last month. The ten stores will be located in Melbourne and Ballarat.

Mr Madden said he had received the advice of the Independent Advisory Committee and approved planning permits for six of the developments and amended the relevant planning schemes to facilitate the other four proposals.

The applications were called-in or 'fast-tracked' by Mr Madden in February of this year, due to the significance of the proposals. An Advisory Committee was subsequently appointed to provide advice about the proposals for each site.

In its report, the Committee stated that it was generally supportive of the proposals as presented by Woolworths. It supported nine of the stores on the basis that they had "clear strategic merit and would generate positive net community benefits". The Committee took issue with the Oakleigh South proposal, stating that it did not support the proposed supermarket and specialty stores component.

A proposed eleventh store, at North Geelong, was not supported by the Committee and was refused by the Minister in September. The Committee found that it was inconsistent with the City of Greater Geelong's strategic direction and did not adequately address issues such as urban context, equitable access, public amenity and environmental sustainability.

Announcing his decision, Mr Madden said he had "reviewed the recommendations of the Advisory Committee and determined that ten stores should be supported."

Mr Madden said the developments would provide a $130 million boost to the Victorian economy, generate 1,300 ongoing full time and part-time positions and provide greater choice for consumers.

The 10 Woolworths stores that have been supported are located at:

  • 1550 Pascoe Vale Road, Coolaroo;
  • 1041-1049 Centre Road, Oakleigh South;
  • 65 Mornington-Tyabb Road, Mornington;
  • 85 Chifley Drive and 1 Gower Street, Preston;
  • 740-742 Toorak Road, Hawthorn East;
  • 25-51 Learmonth Avenue and 7-9 Grandlee Drive, Wendouree;
  • Corner of Western Highway and Westwood Drive, Burnside;
  • 1464 Ferntree Gully Road, Knoxfield;
  • 825 Plenty Road, South Morang; and
  • 574-588 Frankston-Dandenong Road, Carrum Downs.

Mr Madden said the Woolworths proposals were assessed by the independent Advisory Committee as part of a streamlined planning process and included public hearings for each proposal.

The Committee emphasised in its report that "while the projects were 'fast tracked' in terms of exhibition and timing, all were subject to a similar level of scrutiny and review that might occur under traditional planning process".

Woolworths welcomed the announcement and said that construction will commence on the first stores within weeks, with the majority expected to open in the second half of 2011.

Woolworths announced its plans to move into the $24 billion Australian hardware sector last year and acquired hardware distributor Danks Holdings Limited (Danks), in a joint venture with U.S. retailer, Lowe's. It has plans to secure 150 sites in Australia for large format hardware stores within the next five years.

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