The words on Caroline Sandstrom’s work shirt say it all: ‘Shop friendly’, a simple phrase that embodies what Caroline and her partner, David Shilling feel their Freeling Foodworks store has stood for over the past 14 years while serving the community.
Now the business, along with three other tenants including a hairdresser, cafe and chiropractor on the Hanson Road premises is under threat with a development application lodged with Light Regional Council (LRC) to demolish the existing building to make way for a new Foodland complex.
It was a sad pre-Christmas discovery for Caroline and David, who knew the building had changed ownership in September, but with several years left on their lease, had no idea that re-development was on the cards.
“It’s just a big disappointment. We work really hard here, especially David, he works seven days per week,” said Caroline.
“All we can hope for is some compensation, but as yet no one has approached us. We know as much as the community knows.”
The development application, which was received by LRC on October 20 last year, proposes the demolition of the existing supermarket and smaller retail and office tenancies, and the construction of a 1,300m2 supermarket plus associated carparking, landscaping, boundary fencing and screening.
According to LRC, the public notification period began on December 23, and had no legislative requirement to notify tenants located on the land where the new supermarket is proposed.
Nonetheless, it has left David and Caroline, along with other tenants, feeling blindsided.
“It would have been nice to have a bit of an inkling it was going to go on before everyone else knew as well,” said Caroline.
“I understand why people want a bigger shop and more choice, I understand that side of it, but it still hurts, the way they went around us.”
News of the development has divided the Freeling community, with many pleased by the proposal of a larger, more modern supermarket, while others feel it may threaten the ‘country’ values of the township.
Freeling resident, Sherinne Schuster, who’s lived in the town for 30 years, said while progress is necessary, it’s important to recognise the contribution and generosity of Freeling’s existing business owners.
“We’re not going to stop development, that’s just what happens in life, however I think it’s really important in a small community that people appreciate what we’ve had,” she said.
“They’re open when other supermarkets aren’t open, they’ll help carry stuff to your car, or if you don’t have enough money you can bring your payment tomorrow.
“When the shops go, which they probably will, I don’t want that to be lost. We have been very blessed by the shopkeepers we have had over the years.”
Seven representations and a petition were received by Council in response to the public notification, which closed last Wednesday.
Only one submission was deemed valid as per the Development Act 1993.
The application is likely to be presented at the March 2021 Council Assessment Panel meeting.
In the meantime, Caroline and David will begin to plan for an alternate future without the Freeling store.
“I just get the vibe that it’s already been decided,” said Caroline.
“There’s no point in relocating. Dave is 72, we were hoping to sell and retire.
“I will miss the people probably more than anything.”