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Bikies win battle over home


THE Gypsy Jokers bikie club has won a lengthy battle to establish new headquarters in West Wodonga.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last week overturned an earlier decision by Wodonga Council to refuse the bikies a planning permit to build their replacement clubrooms in the Enterprise Park industrial area.

Last July, the Gypsy Jokers submitted plans for a new base in Elkington Road after selling its headquarters of 14 years to allow for the expansion of Arnold’s Fruit Market.

Six months later the council rejected the application and the Gypsy Jokers immediately appealed to VCAT.

Tribunal chairwoman Megan Carew handed down her decision in favour of the bikie club last Thursday following a full-day hearing last month.

The clubrooms will be about 200 metres from homes and a retirement village being built.

North East Investments, which made the application on behalf of the bikie club, submitted revised plans after the original council decision and Ms Carew ruled they complied with the design guidelines for the estate.

“The proposed building has a high quality finish to the street,” she said.

“It places the car parking to the side and rear boundaries and incorporates landscaping and setbacks consistent with the existing development to the north.

“While it may be that the presence of the club may have an impact on the market, there was no substantiated evidence about loss of property values or the deterrent effect of the proposed occupant.

“I can only give limited weight to this assertion.”

The Gypsy Jokers plan a workshop for the premises.

They also plan to transfer its liquor licence, with approval granted to operate between 6pm and 10pm on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and 6pm to 1am on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The VCAT findings show no demerit points exist on the present liquor licence.

“The council did not provide any evidence of complaints made to council or its enforcement officers about the existing clubrooms which have existed in Wodonga for many years,” she said.

On average about 60 people will use the facility on a regular basis.

But the club will need to apply for a patron management plan to have up to 138 people on site for events including the annual Christmas party.

North East Investments engaged the services of solicitor Colin Taylor and town planner James Laycock to support its bid.

The parties agreed to pay their own costs.

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