A popular motorcycle race due to be held at Chesney Vale on August 19 and 20, the Benalla Pony Express, was cancelled after angry residents complained that no permit had been sought by organisers.
Benalla Rural City Council moved to quickly inform Diamond Valley Motorcycle Club, which promotes the event, that it could not take place, leading to its cancellation.
The Pony Express is an off-road motorcycle event that has been held in the area for the past 13 years, with the exception of last year when the landowner could not accommodate it.
Diamond Valley Motorcycle Club vice-president Paul Roche said more than 200 riders and their families from across the country were due to attend.
‘‘Quite a few people come up to stay and from what I understand some people had accommodation booked in Benalla, which they will now have to cancel,’’ Mr Roche said.
‘‘A lot of people were taking the Friday off to head to the area, you would have had hotel bookings, we hire the toilets locally, the service stations would have got business with fuel for the bikes and cars.
‘‘And everyone would have gone out for tea on the Friday and Saturday, so there would definitely have been an influx for local businesses.’’
Mr Roche said he was not sure why there had been complaints as he understood that the area around the venue was zoned for farming.
‘‘Adjoining properties were all on board 100 per cent, the property owner checks with neighbours to make sure no neighboring properties were upset. And we thought it was all okay,’’ Mr Roche said.
Local resident Steve O’Brien owns a neighboring property and disputes that claim saying he was happy the event had been cancelled.
‘‘We think that the council has made the appropriate decision,’’ Mr O’Brien said.
‘‘No planning permission was issued for that event and it was inappropriate in that location.’’
Freida Andrews was another complainant and said the event was not going to be compatible with the area being designated a biodiversity hotspot.
‘‘We are actually about 3km from the site, our property backs onto the Chesney Vale Hills and we are very concerned about the environmental impact of the proposed event,’’ Ms Andrews said.
‘‘We have regenerated the area with indigenous bushes and plant life, and our reward for that has been the return of some native wildlife.
‘‘We have had Birdlife Australia come out and have been told that we have some very rare birds in the area, and there is actually a conservation plan in place.
‘‘So our main concern was the effect this event would have had on wildlife in the Chesney Vale Hills.’’
Ms Andrews said there was a separate complaint before VCAT in respect to a planning application for a motorcycle training facility at the same address the bike race was to be held.
She said as that application was still with VCAT it seemed as if the motorbike event should not have been arranged, especially as it has no specific permission.
‘‘I understand that the Diamond Valley Motorcycle Club have held events on the site in the past without a permit,’’ she said.
‘‘We are doing everything we can through the right channels, we have made sure our objections have followed due process.’’
Ms Andrews also brought up the issue of access to the event, which she said, despite being advertised as taking place on Lake Mokoan Rd, would require access from Bowcher Rd, which was unsealed and zoned for residents’ use only.
‘‘There are a couple of crests on that road that can be dangerous,’’ she said.
‘‘Over time the top layer becomes unstable and you get rock-crests, and the ones on Bowcher Rd are particularly steep.’’
One area that the Diamond Valley Motorcycle Club and the complainants have found common ground is in the potential for Winton Motor Raceway to host this type of event.
Ms Andrews said there was a great bike facility at Winton and if an event was held on their track it would be great for the town.
Diamond Valley Motorcycle Club’s Paul Roche also feels this way.
‘‘I will say that there is one positive to come out of this,’’ Mr Roche said.
‘‘I’ve been in touch with the president of the Winton Motorcycle Club and we’re going to come up and meet them on the Sunday we would have held the event.
‘‘We might be able to do something on their track in the future.’’