MEANDER VALLEY Council will submit a planning application to provide camping at Westbury recreation ground.
Moving the motion, Cllr John Temple said he had initiated the move following the council’s March closure of three free campgrounds on council land.
“This is simply a planning application to see if we can use the Westbury location for that purpose,” he said.
“The loss of the three campgrounds has meant a loss of business and vibrancy.”
Cllr Susie Bower said that during her recent election campaign, the campground closures had been one of the biggest issues.
“The campers bring a lot of business and currently those people are driving through the town and not spending money,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Michael Kelly said the community misses the campers and wants them back: “We are obliged to get them back.”
Council manager Martin Gill closed down free campgrounds in Westbury, Bracknell and Deloraine last year, saying he had no choice because they did not have the appropriate planning approvals.
“Because no permits were in place council had to stop the activity,” he said.
In addition, some neighbouring residents were fed up with campers’ poor behaviour: noise, camp fires, public urination and public safety issues.
But others are frustrated and angry about the closures as local businesses, many of them on tight margins, have lost camping customers.
However, it is also against the Federal Government’s national competition principals for local government to offer free camping in competition with local businesses.
A State Government inquiry into the impact of camping on local council land on national competition principles has dragged on for months.
Mr Gill said in December he anticipated a government statement on the issue in the new year.
Photo | Mike Moores