By VINNIE RODI

A GROUP of Irymple residents are hoping ‘people power’ will be enough to stop construction of an “ugly” permanent advertising billboard on the corner of Fifteenth Street and Karadoc Avenue.

The group, led by local residents Tracey Meyer and Andy Schmidt, have launched a social media and letter campaign calling on nearby residents to lend their support to oppose the billboard’s construction.

The application to construct the billboard has been made by Melbourne-based advertising company Total Outdoor Media Pty Ltd, and will be 12.66 metres wide and six metres high once complete.

Irymple residents have cited a scheduled Mildura Rural City Council Planning Forum next Monday, April 16, as a deadline to make their objections known. Council’s planning department hears cases for and against proposed planning and permit applications at these forums, which are open to the public.

However, if enough objections are received, applications are automatically referred to a Council meeting, where it is ultimately up to Mildura Councillors to decide whether to approve the application or not.

According to an open letter penned to residents by Ms Meyer and Mr Schmidt, the pair feel the proposed billboard will have “no benefit” to the community.

They also cited several negative effects to the local area, including the signage being “a major distraction” to drivers passing through the intersection, and the billboard being “a climbing hazard” to school children cutting through the vacant block of land.

“If this billboard goes ahead this corner site will be unusable for any future development which could benefit the community,” a letter distributed to nearby residents reads.

According to Total Outdoor Media’s initial application to Council, dated September 5, 2017, the billboard will form part of its regional outdoor advertising portfolio if allowed to go ahead.

“The sign will provide for a variety of advertisements and community service messages,” the application reads. “We are aware that TAC (Transport Accident Commission) is particularly keen to advertise in regional towns given the disproportion number of accidents in such locations.

“(We) believe that this sign, in conjunction with its rationalisation strategy, will deliver considerable benefits to local communities and to the State as a whole.”

Ms Meyer and Mr Schmidt, however, have labelled the move as nothing more than “a cash-grab”, and are calling for a show of strength from the community at next Monday’s planning forum, which will commence at 5pm at Council’s Deakin Avenue offices.

According to a Council Planning Delegation report dated March 21, Council’s planning staff have already assessed the application against “the relevant provisions of the Mildura Planning Scheme”, describing the application as “an example of orderly planning subject to minor changes to the current proposal.”

According to that March 21 report, it was Council’s intention that A Notice of Decision to Grant a Planning Permit be recommended subject to repositioning changes and VicRoads conditions.