Arthur Cox says it’s time for the development company to start building on this empty block where Gracemere Shoppingworld is planned to go.
Arthur Cox says it’s time for the development company to start building on this empty block where Gracemere Shoppingworld is planned to go. ALLAN REINIKKA AR

Gracemere complex drags

IT hasn’t yet stopped a bus, but the proposed location of a bus stop has held up Gracemere’s long-awaited shopping centre.

While negotiations continue over electricity for Gracemere Shoppingworld, it’s been revealed that the only planning hiccup is a council bus stop on the site.

Almost two years after the $30 million development was approved, Rockhampton Regional Council yesterday said most disagreements had been ironed out except for a disputed bus stop.

The council wants one on the site, but the developer, McConaghy Group, has refused to budge on its plans that exclude it.

A council spokesman said if the issue couldn’t be resolved, a full council meeting would decide if there should be a bus stop.

The delayed development, which promised to boost Gracemere’s appeal when it was first approved in 2007, has outraged residents like Arthur Cox.

Mr Cox, who has lived in the area for nine years, said the developer needed to tell people “what the hell is going on with the shopping centre”.

“A lot of people are upset that it’s not going ahead and there’s no real urgency about it.

“I think we need a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer as to whether it’s going ahead ... that’s what most people want.”

Robert McConaghy, the managing director of the development group, yesterday again declined to comment to The Morning Bulletin.

It is understood that McConaghy Group is still in negotiations with Ergon Energy about the cost to provide enough power to run a commercial shopping centre.

Offers have been made for the cost of an express high-voltage feeder line, 6.5km from the nearest available substation, but no deals have been finalised.

The council said the two-stage development was first approved on November 23, 2007.

That approval was amended a year later.

A new application to develop the site in three stages was lodged in 2008, which was then approved in March 2009.

McConaghy Group submitted in late March to negotiate a number of conditions. All issues were resolved except for the bus stop.

There have been talks involving the developer, Queensland Transport, the site owner and council engineers about the proposed bus stop.

The council has made it clear it wants a bus stop on the site, integrated within the development.

Mr Cox, who drives to Rockhampton once or twice a week to buy his groceries, said Gracemere residents deserved the new centre or at least an answer about what was going on.

Three years in the creation

March 30, 2007: The last home is removed from the site where the shopping centre is planned to be built.

November 23, 2007: Fitzroy Shire Council approves a $30 million development at the northern entrance of Gracemere, on the land bordering Capricorn Highway, McLaughlin Street and O’Shanesy Street.

September 26, 2007: McConaghy Group tells Gracemere residents that initial work on the site is close. Stage one is said to include a major supermarket, specialty stores and 360 car parking spaces. Stage two will add a second supermarket, discount department store, additional specialty stores, food court and underground car park.

February 7, 2008: Robert McConaghy, the development company’s managing director, appears at the official sod-turning, which was reported to have put an end to critics who said Gracemere would never see a shopping centre. “There has always been the plan to build a shopping centre in Gracemere and in less than a year we will see that plan come to life,” Mr McConaghy told The Morning Bulletin.

February 23, 2009: Member for Fitzroy Jim Pearce calls on the developer to let the community know what’s happening with the shopping centre. The site has been cleared but no other work has started.

March 20, 2009: McConaghy Group is in discussions with Ergon Energy over who is to pay for extra electricity to the site, which will be needed to power the shopping centre once it’s completed. Rockhampton MP Robert Schwarten rules out using taxpayers’ money to solve the stalemate between the developers and Ergon.

June 15, 2009: Reports that Gracemere Shoppingworld developers are still negotiating with Ergon Energy.

August 29, 2009: The Morning Bulletin reports there is renewed speculation among business leaders that work is soon to begin on the site.

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