Last shop in Woodford?

When is a Blue Mountains village not a village?

It sounds like the start of a riddle, but it’s no joke to a retailer in the heart of Woodford.

A glitch in council’s current and proposed planning instruments means one of the region’s oldest town centres — with highway-facing shopfronts and the historic Woodford Academy — could remain zoned for “low impact residential” use only.

It was only when thumbing through the map sheets part of council’s new Draft Local Environment Plan (LEP) 2013 (on public exhibition until March 5) that owner of Woodford businesses Transit Espresso and Blue Mountain Bikes, Damian Baker, noticed the anomaly.

Mr Baker penned a submission on February 16 requesting the zoning be changed to ‘B1 Neighbourhood Centre’ in the final version of LEP 2013 and more than 80 people have already signed it.

“Most people had no idea about this and were gobsmacked when they found out,” he said.

Mr Baker said while his business will continue to enjoy existing use for retailing, he worries that nearby retail spaces that closed down or became vacant when the highway widening works began in the second half of 2013 could lose their existing use rights — and that could lead to the end of village life as locals knew it.

“I really don’t want to be the only shop in Woodford,” Mr Baker said.

His submission letter points out that council’s “planning staff confirmed that this zoning (E4 Environmental Living) is inconsistent with historic, existing and any community desired future retail, business and community uses” and had advised that existing use rights that remaining businesses in Woodford village centre operate under  “will expire” if existing uses are not maintained for a period of 12 months.

“I’m pretty sure it’s [the zoning] an oversight by council but I just want to make them aware that there is a strong show of support from the community for a zoning that provides some certainty for retailers,” Mr Baker said.

“The roadworks here will be finished in the next six months, so we want to encourage people to invest in Woodford, which has always had retail shops since the 1800s.

“The zoning situation could also affect residents’ property values, if residents don’t have access to local amenities and conveniences.”

Woodford Academy staff member and committee member of the Woodford branch of the Hazelbrook Association, Libby Burgess, said “most people didn’t have any idea about this residential zoning in place — I discovered it when I was researching something for the Woodford Academy.”

Ward 2 councillor Romola Hollywood encouraged people to make a submission while Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill told the Gazette “as elected councillors we will do what we can to make sure we don’t see an end to the shops at Woodford.

“We will interrogate all options possible.”

Council’s DLEP 2013 remains on public exhibition until March 5.

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