Tribunal rules over large subdivision next to Longford historic racecourse

A final attempt to stop a large subdivision on the edge of a historic racecourse has been rejected by the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Developers spent four years trying to create 44 residential lots on a 6.2-acre site adjacent to the historic Longford Racecourse.

Opponents argued that squeezing 1,200 square feet of rural property would ruin the streetscape and viability of what they said was the country’s oldest continuously running racetrack.

However, the Northern Midlands Council granted a permit for the subdivision in November and an appeal to the court was rejected this week.

Developers Carlton and Peter Dixon said the tribunal’s decision was a “demonstration that this is a good development taking into account location and housing demand”.

“It really would have been a bitter blow if a few anti-progress people had held it back for the city,” said Peter Dixon.

“So, thank goodness, common sense prevailed.”

The Dixons said the appeals had delayed the project by six months and they wanted to complete it as soon as possible.

An aerial view of the historic Longford Racecourse.ABC News: Craig Heerey

Opponents are silent about defeat

The Longford Cup has been an urban tradition since 1845 and was where the Tasmanian racehorse Piping Lane claimed victory in 1972 before winning the Melbourne Cup later that year.

Some locals were concerned that the subdivision would swallow up land used for stables and feared that the racecourse would eventually be forced to close, like others across Australia that had been hemmed in by houses.

The two residents who appealed to the tribunal declined to comment on their defeat as they evaluated their options.

Mary Knowles smiles at the camera.
Mayor Mary Knowles believes the development and the racecourse can coexist.ABC News: Lachlan Bennett

Northern Midlands mayor Mary Knowles said she could “put a full focus” on those “passionate about the history of the racecourse” but said there was a clear need for residential blocks.

“We don’t have enough houses for the families [who] are looking for housing. So it definitely has to be done, but in a fun way,” she said.

The council believes the racecourse could coexist with housing and have developed a master plan for the site in conjunction with TasRacing.

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The multi-million dollar plan includes 84 stables with day care centers, a polo field, a horse pool, an arena, an indoor riding arena with parking facilities and four large event pavilions.

While the project has not been fully funded, TasRacing said it wanted to “ensure the continued viability of the Longford race center” and would continue to work on the redevelopment.

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Racing enthusiasts at the helm

Dennis Pettyfor has raced horses for three decades and was one of the local residents concerned about the potential impact of the subdivision on the racecourse.

“I wasn’t against the development. I was against the size of the blocks. I thought the blocks were too small,” he said.

“The circuit will survive and development will obviously survive and so they will have to work together.”

Peter Pettyfor leans on a fence.
Dennis Pettyfor has been racing horses for decades.ABC News: Lachlan Bennett

Now that the tribunal has cleared the way for the subdivision, Mr. Pettyfor wants to ensure that the proposed upgrades to the racecourse become a reality.

“To me, [the master plan] looks fantastic and the information I get from jockeys and trainers and people around, they’re all excited about it too,” he said.

“But it hasn’t started yet and when it will start, we need to know.”

The developers believe that both racing and home builders have a bright future in Longford.

“It won’t impact the racetrack at all and we certainly wouldn’t if we thought it would have any impact,” said Peter Dixon.

“My brother and I grew up on a farm here. Our family has been here for 100 years and we have very fond memories of the Longford races.”

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