Back to the future for Orange Grove

MORE than 400 people lost their jobs when it was closed nearly a decade ago and the scandal contributed to Liverpool Council being sacked; now the stage is set for the next twist in the Orange Grove saga.

The council will debate at its meeting tonight whether or not to allow a discount outlets centre to be opened on the site again, after the state government’s gazettal of changes to the area’s zoning for retail use earlier this year.

Council officers have recommended that the council approve the application for the centre which includes 62 shops, one food kiosk and three non-food kiosks.

Liverpool mayor Ned Mannoun said he couldn’t comment on whether the application would be approved, but this was an opportunity for the council to potentially right a historical wrong.

‘‘Council supported the rezoning of the land and now there is a development application before council and the recommendation is to approve,’’ Cr Mannoun said.

‘‘If it is approved that would be a positive thing for the area because it brings jobs here and provides a variety of shopping for residents close to the central business district.’’

Nabil Gazal, of Gazcorp, the company that owns the site, said he is hopeful that the council will approve the development tonight.

‘‘Everyone wanted the markets to stay open last time; it was a big disappointment, but we’re grateful we’ve got this opportunity to reopen again,’’ Mr Gazal said.

The original centre was closed in 2004 following an Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation into its approval by Liverpool Council under delegated authority.

It was found that the development should not have been approved because the area was not appropriately zoned for the site.

Shopping centre giant Westfield had also protested that the site would unfairly impact on its business.

There was a community outcry about the centre closing, because of  the hundreds of jobs that were lost.

Labor councillor Wendy Waller, who was on the council when the  centre was approved, said the first approval was a mistake.

‘‘I knew nothing about it, because it was all done under delegated authority, but it was illegal to approve it there,’’ Cr Waller said. ‘‘Now that it’s been rezoned we have the opportunity to fix it and get it right this time.

‘‘I think it would be a positive if it were to be approved. It would complement — not compete with — Westfield and the other shops that we already have because it’s a very different thing.’’

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