Midfield Merrivale milk factory off the boil

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How the proposed milk processing factory at Merrivale would have appeared on the skyline near the Warrnambool Showgrounds. Image: Warrnambool City Council.

The Terrier – Carol Altmann

[dropcap style=”font-size: 35px; color: #8cc7d0;”] T [/dropcap]wo of the most controversial projects to be approved in Warrnambool in recent times – the milk processing factory in Merrivale and a nine-storey apartment block on Merri St – have been put on the backburner by their developer, the Midfield Group.

It is now two years since both projects received planning approval, but not much has happened at either site since.

The milk factory was expected to be up and running within 12 to 18 months of being given the green light from an independent planning panel in May 2015.


It is a similar story with the proposed nine-storey apartment block on the corner of Merri and Gillies streets, which – despite arguments to save it – saw the 1940s Madden’s/Sandilands building demolished within weeks after the development was approved in early 2015.

When the planning application was lodged by Tract Consultants, acting on behalf of Baybern Developments/Midfield, it urged the Warrnambool City Council to approve the project as quickly as possible because its client was keen to get started.

The prominent corner block remains vacant and wire fenced, joining the Criterion Hotel site, the former Caltex petrol station on Raglan Parade, and the former Warrnambool gas works near Harris Reserve as “frozen” projects that have sat untouched.

The proposed nine-storey apartment block on the corner of Gilles and Merri streets, Warrnambool. While approved in early 2015, little has happened.

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he Midfield Group and Baybern Developments are owned by one of Warrnambool’s most successful businessmen, Colin McKenna.

A spokesman for Midfield and Baybern, Daniel Aarons, said today that the company’s priorities had changed for both projects since it bought a former potato processing plant in Penola, South Australia, that it is now converting into a $60 million milk processing plant.

On the Merrivale milk processing plant:

“Our intention is to still build in Warrnambool, but works have commenced in Penola and that is our priority at the moment,” he said.

The South Australian Government gave Midfield a $2 million grant toward the $60 million Penola project, which is close to completion.

“Penola needs to be completed, commissioned, bedded down and we need to learn how to run the plant and that is all going to come on line in the next couple of months,” Mr Aarons said.

“Penola takes precedence and then we will focus on Warrnambool,” he said.

When asked if a start on the Warrnambool plant was at least two years away, Mr Aarons said it was more likely to be 12 months.

A fenced, vacant block is what remains after the original 1940s building was demolished to make way for the apartment complex.

On the Merri St apartments:

“There is not much to say, but it is still our intention to proceed,” Mr Aarons said.

“Things are moving, things are progressing, admittedly they are progressing slowly, but they are moving”.

While potential buyers can still lodge expressions of interest with Wilson Real Estate, Mr Aarons said it was not known when construction would actually begin.

I know of at least one potential investor who lodged an expression of interest, but then heard nothing more. They have since invested elsewhere in Warrnambool.

“We haven’t confirmed a start date, but we are moving along gently, gently. It is not something we need to push quickly, but it is progressing,” Mr Aarons said.

“We have our hands full with multiple projects at the moment and we have to get a couple of key priorities out of the way.”

The former Madden’s building, once the Sandilands guest house, was demolished within weeks of the planning approval being granted for a nine-storey apartment block.

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he slow-down on the Merrivale milk plant, if it goes ahead at all, will be a sigh of relief to those who fought passionately to stop a project that would be 35m in height and operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Scott St plant, unlike the Penola plant which is several miles out of town, is in the heart of Merrivale and would be less than 100m from houses.

At the time of the approval process, the Midfield Group said the processing plant and an adjacent cold storage facility would create up to 200 jobs, but this was later wound back to 22 full time jobs.

The $70 million project received a $1.5 million grant from the former Napthine State Government and the Warrnambool City Council also sold a portion of its depot land to Midfield for the expansion.

One question I did not get time to ask the council today is how long planning permits are valid for before they need to be updated or expire?

I will let you know the answer as soon as I do.

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5 thoughts on “Midfield Merrivale milk factory off the boil”

  1. Planning Permits expire where works have not started within two years of the granting of the permit or where projects are not completed within 4 years. Although, an extension of time can be granted with good reason before the permit expires.

    Demolishing the Sandilands building could be considered as starting works. I’m unsure if anything has started on the other milk plant site.

    If the Planning Permit lapses, a new planning submission would be required.
    I would imagine though, with specialised out of town planning consultants, a lapsed permit would be unlikely unfortunately.

    1. Thankyou so much for this information. I will see if I can find out more from the WCC on where both permits stand, but I suspect, as you do, a lapse is unlikely.

  2. Warrnambool needs much tighter guidelines on height requirements and appropriate building design. The RSL construction case in point. Why would they not have utilised the sea side of building to increase floor space with glass wall over looking sea scape?What we have now can only be described as a monstrosity. Who on WCC approves designs such as these. Aropos Sandilands site,Midfield is a business operator which means money bottom line. Mostly money making and aesthetics are different planets. The Sandilands building was hideous so Midfield did Warrnambool a favour by demolishing it but to propose replacing it with something more tasteless is a concern for everyone who owns property in Warrnambool. Design and planning need to be considered wholistically not title by title. It’s called peripheral and lateral approach. Planners take you blinkers off and look at how constructions add value to our investments. Warrnambool is heading toward the dark ages of design and planning.

  3. Looks like companies who have money to spend have every right to do as they please, not as they promise. Having a connection to the Criterion Hotel site for me it is depressing to think that those young cretons who set fire to the place have created a situation where there is still a massive hole in the ground.

  4. enjoy revisiting [via the DV set] the brilliant Geoffrey Atherden script of ABCTV’s Grass Roots – Arcadia Waters mayor Col Dunkley and the planned highrise development of a derelict coastal cemetery.
    amusement and enlightenment come together. all councils the same.
    This vegetarian animal sook has only 2 words for Midfield and all of this – bobby calves.

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