Shepparton's

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THE GREEN LIGHT HAS BEEN GIVEN FOR THE RED LIGHT

so take a drive down Apollo drive

The Victorian Civil and Administrative tribunal handed down its finding May 25 affirming Greater Shepparton City Council's October 12 decision to grant a permit for a brothel at 45 Apollo Dve.

 

Bookmark - Please check back for updates
Last Updated November 4, 2011

Council grants brothel extension

Wednesday, 21st September 2011

Although highly critical of the project’s management, City of Greater Shepparton councilors have granted a four-month time extension so the Apollo 45 brothel can finish construction.

Several councilors made it clear at yesterday’s Greater Shepparton City Council meeting they had little confidence the latest commitment to open in December would be met by the brothel developers.

During the six-year lifespan of the project, several self-imposed deadlines have not been met.

Cr Jenny Houlihan, the only councilor to formally oppose the granting of the extension, went further, saying the application was another in a series of stunts to milk publicity for the brothel and the developer had been given too much attention for too long.

Cr Houlihan called it an ‘‘unorganised development’’ and the list of excuses for not completing the project was ‘‘creative, contradictory and bordering on the verge of unbelievable’’.

Cr Houlihan said since the original decision key planning decisions in higher jurisdictions had given added weight to consideration of social impacts of developments and she urged the council to test whether those decisions provided grounds to stop the project.

Cr Houlihan said after so many years every excuse in the book had been used to explain delays and it was hard to believe further issues had intervened this time. ‘‘This is just incompetent planning and management,’’ she said.

Cr Chris Hazelman supported the permit extension, but also wondered aloud whether the application was an ‘‘abuse of process’’ to gain publicity.

Under planning rules, the developer has until the end of November to apply for an extension, which is just 10 days before the date now set for the grand opening. ‘‘It could easily have been reserved for much later,’’ he said.

Cr Michael Polan said the nature of the business was irrelevant and if it was ‘‘any other business’’ the permit extension would probably have been decided without going to council.

Cr Kevin Ryan said on planning issues alone there was little choice but to support the extension.

Councilors voted 5-1 to grant the extension and the brothel now has until December 31 to be finished.

William Albon, spokesman for developer Robert Russell, said the brothel would open on December 10 despite real and substantial problems to date.

‘‘You have to remember this is an owner-builder project,’’ Mr. Albon said yesterday.

Briefing on brothel

Wednesday, 14th September 2011

City of Greater Shepparton councilors were briefed yesterday about the Apollo 45 brothel situation.

At next week’s meeting councilors will decide whether to grant another extension to the brothel permit which expired on August 31.

While substantial progress has been made on the building in Apollo Drive, the brothel was not completed and operating by the permit deadline.

Instead, an application was made for a further extension to December 31.

Brothel developer Robert Russell and his representative William Albon addressed councilors yesterday afternoon in support of their application.

After the meeting, Mr. Albon said the six councilors present gave them a ‘‘good hearing’’, but again raised concerns about warehousing.

The developer flatly denied attempting to cash in on the value of a permit to operate a brothel without proceeding with the actual development.

‘‘Mr Russell denied that it was ever an option and he gave an undertaking to the council that he would not be selling,’’ Mr. Albon said.

While councilors were in possession of advice from the planning department on the application, Mr. Albon said they would not reveal the details, which was ‘‘mildly disappointing’’.

A 12-week schedule for completion of the brothel was outlined during the briefing and Mr. Albon said the appeal options to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal were also openly discussed.

However, Mr. Albon said: ‘‘This is a socially progressive council, which is a far cry from the conservatism of the past, which is most welcome. Enlightened people make enlightened decisions.’’

Greater Shepparton City Council did not make a decision within the statutory time frame last time the brothel developer applied for a time extension and the matter was taken directly to VCAT, which ultimately granted the permit extension.

Councilors formally resolved at the time to advise VCAT that had they been called on to make a decision they would have refused the application.

The issue will be determined at next Tuesday’s council meeting.

Brothel alarm deters offender

Thursday, 8th September 2011

Police are investigating a break-in at the incomplete Apollo 45 brothel.

Nothing was stolen in the raid, but police believe the burglar used tools from the construction site to smash open the front door of the brothel about 2.30 am yesterday.

The break-in triggered the alarm system and the offender fled empty-handed.

After more than six years of planning disputes the brothel was set to open by August 31, but before the deadline the owner Robert Russell applied for an extension, which if granted would set a new deadline of December 31 for the project to be completed.

Spokesman for Mr. Russell, William Albon, said he didn’t believe the break-in was related to the controversial nature of the business.

‘‘I don’t see it as targeting the project,’’ he said

2 People have been summons to appear in court on numerous charges regarding the break in.

Councilors defer on brothel

Wednesday, 24th August 2011

City of Greater Shepparton councilors won’t make a decision until the council’s planning department has assessed an application for an extension to the Apollo 45 brothel permit.

Councilors discussed the application at yesterday’s briefing session, but Mayor Geoff Dobson said at this stage the matter would not be brought before a special meeting.

‘‘We’ve left it in the hands of the planning officers at this stage to assess it,’’ Cr Dobson said.

The permit for the brothel is set to expire next Wednesday, the date set for the building to be completed and for the brothel to be operating in line with its permit conditions.

If the permit lapses, the building, which the developers say is 90 per cent complete, would not be able to operate as a six-room brothel and the developer Robert Russell would have to either reapply or find another use.

Last week, Mr. Russell applied for a permit extension until December 31.

The application detailed progress at the near-complete building, but also difficulties and delays encountered as a result of recent rain.

Mr Russell said the aim was to have the brothel completed and operating sooner rather than later.

Cr Dobson said councilors would wait for a full assessment of the application, but the matter would be brought to the full Greater Shepparton City Council for a decision, because of the community’s interest.

Cr Dobson said the matter would most likely be considered at next month’s ordinary meeting. Although the permit will have lapsed by then, an application for an extension can be made and considered at any time within three months of the end of the permit.

If the council rejects the extension application a spokesman for Mr. Russell, William Albon, has already indicated he will head back to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to appeal the decision.

It was VCAT that granted the last permit extension — an extension councilors said they would have refused had they been called on to make a decision.

Mr Albon yesterday said he was happy with the treatment of the application and he would seek to address councilors at the meeting before the application was debated.

‘‘I’m happy with the prospect of common sense being applied and democracy at work,’’ Mr. Albon said.

Too little too late for brothel

Friday, 19th August 2011

Shepparton’s first brothel won’t be operating in time to meet a final permit deadline and the developer yesterday lodged a fresh application with Greater Shepparton City Council seeking more time.

The issue is likely to be put to a special meeting of councilors before the brothel permit lapses on August 31.

The application said the brothel was 90 per cent complete, but sought an extension until December 31.

Council general manager sustainable development Dean Rochfort said the council had received a request from William Albon to extend the date for completion of works of the current permit.

‘‘We will assess the request on its merits and take in to account a number of factors, including the current status of the works,’’ Mr. Rochfort said.

He said once the application had been assessed a recommendation would be put to the council for consideration.

Mr Albon, acting for brothel developer Robert Russell, said the reasons for the extension request were similar to those accepted by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal when the current deadline was originally set.

‘‘Should, in an act of folly, the councilors determine to refuse our request we will waste no time in going straight back to the tribunal,’’ he said.

The application says the brothel has been affected by the fluctuating fortunes of Mr. Russell’s escort agency, which he relies on to fund the project as an owner-builder.

It says the underground power for car park lighting; storm water drainage works and car park construction have been held up by recent rain.

One wall of the brothel is yet to be rendered and landscaping hasn’t been done.

Inside the brothel, plastering hasn’t started because of a hold-up with the carpentry, and while the carpentry has now been done, the Apollo Drive site is too wet for delivery of the plaster sheeting.

In turn, that is holding up carpet laying, fitting doors, painting and the fit-out of the kitchen.

VCAT granted the current permit extension, but before the hearing the council met and voted on the issue, later advising VCAT that had it been called on to decide the permit extension it would have refused it.

The brothel permit allows six prostitution rooms, fitted with showers and other facilities, as well as a reception, introduction rooms, an amenities lounge for the women working there and a client lounge.

New brothel concerns raised

Friday, 8th July 2011

Shepparton’s first legal brothel has just 54 days to meet the permit requirements imposed on the development.

The developer met with Greater Shepparton City Council planners yesterday to reach an agreement about what remains to be done to ensure the Apollo Dve brothel complies before the permit expires at the end of next month.

William Albon, acting as spokes man for brothel owner Robert Russell, said the council raised concerns with several aspects of the development, including drainage, lighting, surfacing of the car park, landscaping and waste recycling.

Mr. Albon said the building itself was ‘‘almost finished’’ and the issues raised in the meeting with planners would all be addressed before August 30.

Mr. Albon said the lighting was in place and the landscaping works ha d been scheduled including planting of palm trees, while the hard surface for the car park w ould be one of the last components completed.

‘‘We are close to getting a certificate of compliance with the permit,’’ Mr. Albon said.

Mr. Albon said the Business Licensing Authority had agreed to vary Mr. Russell’s prostitution license, so he could operate the brothel.

‘‘We came away from the meeting with the council pleased that the remaining conditions are not onerous or insurmountable,’’ Mr. Albon said.

‘‘The remaining 54 days will be enough to see the remaining work done.’’

Mr Albon said the Apollo 45 brothel would open on or before August 30, more than six years after the initial planning application was made.

Time running out for brothel

Monday, 16th May 2011

There’s a common phrase to describe someone who is inept, which goes along the lines of not being able to organise a certain activity even in a brothel.

The wit who originally thought of the line might have been a little off the mark because clearly organising anything to do with a brothel is a complex and difficult task.

An application for Shepparton’s first legal brothel was originally lodged in July 2005. It caused a heated community debate and was opposed by Goulburn Valley Community Action Against Pornography and several state politicians.

In part, it also led to changes on Greater Shepparton City Council.

Despite the objections on moral and social grounds, in June 2006 the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal upheld the council decision to grant a permit based on planning regulations.

The Apollo 45 brothel survived a number of legal battles and this newspaper reported in January 2007 that construction would start the following month.

Further delays followed as the developer sought a six-month permit extension, which was refused by Greater Shepparton Council.

At that point it was clear the majority of councillors had already begun to doubt the developer’s commitment to build and operate the brothel.

VCAT was again called on and ruled in favour of the brothel, setting a deadline of August 31, 2009, for construction to start.

That deadline was met, but in the 623 days since then the brothel has set and missed four separate opening dates.

A fifth date has now been set, but it is a deadline the developer cannot afford to miss.

August 31 looms as make or break for this controversial endeavor.

Under the terms of the VCAT decision by that date the building must not only be finished, but the brothel must be operating in accordance with the conditions imposed or the permit will lapse.

Given the track record of the development, it is unlikely a fresh application for a new permit would succeed.

The latest opening date is the last possible and a lot of interested parties will be watching closely to see that the permit conditions are met in full by the deadline.

Brothel sets another date

Monday, 16th May 2011

Another date has been set for the opening of the controversial Apollo 45 brothel in Shepparton, but missing the latest deadline could spell the end of the project.

William Albon, acting as spokesperson for brothel owner Robert Russell, said just more than 100 days remain to complete the project before the permit lapses.

‘‘VCAT ordered that we had to have the building works completed and the brothel in operation and they gave us until August 31 to get that done,’’ Mr. Albon said.

Nearly six years after the original permit was issued the brothel is still only part built and the developer has missed a number of self-imposed opening dates.

Mr. Albon said following frank discussions on Friday, the commitment had been made to complete the project by August 31.

If the deadline is missed the permit for the brothel will lapse under the terms laid down by VCAT.

‘‘There is nothing like a definitive order from VCAT to focus the mind on what has to be done,’’ Mr. Albon said.

‘‘I know I’ve said this before, I know my own credibility is at stake.

‘‘The reality is he can’t afford not to, if he fails to meet the timeline he’s got the most expensive warehouse in Shepparton.’’

Mr. Albon blamed the recent delays on a blowout in building costs and a downturn in the escort agency business Mr. Russell operates, which was funding the brothel project.

‘‘Mr. Russell has tried to fund the entire project from the revenue from his escort agency,’’ Mr. Albon said.

‘‘This has been largely possible, but some building cost overruns and a downturn in the escort business meant the handbrake had to be applied a few times.’’

Mr. Albon estimated $400 000 had been invested in the brothel, but said its value as a going concern would be more than $1 million.

‘‘This is a pretty strong imperative to get the job done,’’ he said.

A further regulatory hurdle is still to be overcome, but Mr. Albon said a lengthy submission was sent to the Business Licensing Authority on Friday.

The BLA has to approve a variation to Mr. Russell’s prostitution license, so he can operate a brothel.

‘‘I’d be confident that that aspect of the equation will resolve satisfactorily.’’

Mr Albon acknowledged if the permit lapsed, seeking a new one would be onerous and ‘‘nigh on impossible.’’

The following accusations were made by a person who was running an illegal escort agency without the correct licensing. These allegations were made after the BLA had already issued to close them down. None to these accusations towards Robert Russell were ever proven.

The following accusations were made by a person who was running an illegal escort agency without the correct licensing. These allegations were made after the BLA had already issued to close them down. None to these accusations towards Robert Russell were ever proven.

Further delays for city brothel

Friday, 1st April 2011

Shepparton’s first legal brothel has missed another opening date and could be further delayed by a complaint to the Business Licensing Authority.

The News understands a complaint has been lodged with the authority, a section of Consumer Affairs, in relation to Robert Russell who runs a legal escort agency and is the developer of the Apollo 45 brothel.

The authority has confirmed it received an application to vary a Shepparton sex work provider license to operate as a brothel as well as an escort agency.

But a spokesperson said there were confidentiality provisions that covered information about any complaints made against licensees.

A number of Mr. Russell’s escort agency staff, including office support staff and drivers, have left the firm in recent months although a spokesperson for Mr. Russell says they were poached by a rival agency, but have returned because the operator did not have the correct license.

The departures coincided with the re-emergence of a rival escort agency and claims have emerged of dirty tricks with girls being booked for jobs that don’t exist in out-of-the-way places.

The authority would not comment on any complaint, but said as a rule it would seriously consider ‘‘. . . any information provided to it relevant to a license application or an ongoing license, to determine whether this influences the decision to issue or vary a license’’. ‘‘The licensee or applicant is then given the opportunity to respond before a final decision is made,’’ an authority spokesperson said.

The News has seen documentation detailing complaints to both the authority and Fair Work Australia in relation to Mr. Russell’s escort agency operation.

However, spokesman for Mr Russell, William Albon, said the Fair Work Australia complaint had been amicably settled.

While none of the complaints to the authority have been substantiated, the issues raised could affect his ability to operate the Apollo 45 brothel.

Mr. Albon blamed ‘‘commercial envy’’ and said any complaint could impact on the time the authority took to determine the license application for the Apollo 45 brothel.

‘‘If at any time Mr. Russell is made aware of any complaint, he will make an appropriate response,’’ Mr. Albon said.

‘‘We need to wait and see what the allegations might be, but I would be confident of his ability to vigorously defend any claim of malpractice.’’

Brothel’s doors remain shut

Wednesday, 5th January 2011

Construction of the Apollo 45 brothel in Shepparton has been completed, but the controversial business has missed another deadline for its grand opening.

The brothel has had a number of false starts _ it was originally slated to open in March 2010, then September and after further delays, on January 1, 2011.

William Albon, spokesman for brothel owner Robert Russell, yesterday said the project had been further delayed, but was closer than ever to becoming a reality.

``It is still coming,'' he said.

The building itself is finished, but Mr Albon said there had been some added delay getting the interior design right.

``The building is effectively completed apart from some internal fitting but the delay is further compounded by the difficulty in procuring tradespeople at this time of year,'' he said.

Another essential element is also missing _ a license to operate the brothel. Mr Russell, who runs an escort agency, requires a variation of his prostitution license to allow him to offer sexual services at a brothel.

``I was a bit tardy in assisting Mr. Russell to make application to have that license varied,'' Mr. Albon said.

``The application is now with the Business Licensing Authority to vary his prostitution service provider’s license.

``I'm confident in the extreme that it will be approved in due course.''

The brothel permit allows six prostitution rooms _ fitted out with showers and other facilities _ as well as a reception, introduction rooms, an amenities lounge for the women who are working and a client lounge.

Mr Albon said the brothel could open in late January or early February, depending on the processing time for the application.

``The moment it is approved we will throw the doors open,'' he said.

 

Brothel Agitation

Tuesday, 28th September 2010

Councillor Jenny Houlihan says Shepparton's forthcoming brothel will be closely watched to ensure it complies with its planning permit.

On Friday, The News quoted spokesperson William Albon as saying the Apollo 45 brothel would open on January 1, 2011.

This was the latest of several dates nominated for the opening.

But Mr Albon's latest statement has angered the Greater Shepparton City councillor, who believes the community deserves more accurate information.

Although Cr Houlihan, who was mayor at the time, submitted an objection into the building's planning application process, yesterday said her concern was no longer about
 whether she opposed the brothel.

Rather, it was about statements made by Mr Albon and ensuring the business was run to expected standards.

At this stage, I accept it is a planning decision to have the brothel in Shepparton,'' Cr Houlihan said.

Whether or not I am opposed is not the issue here _ all along, this particular spokesperson has made statements that are not correct, particularly in regards to the opening date and the reasons for delay.

I regret that our community is fed this wrong information.

I would like to see more thought put into what the community is told in regards to this business.

My belief is that there are a lot of people still out there who do not want the brothel.

They, and I, know there is nothing that can be done now and accept that (but) . . . we need to ensure, as with any business, that it adheres to planning procedures . . . that is what I can do as a councillor.''

The application and construction of the brothel has been a drawn-out process.

It began in July 2005 when the permit for a six-bedroom building was lodged.

Since then, the permit has been the subject of a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing, where it was eventually approved.

One of the hearings, in 2006, featured testimonies from sex workers.

Cr Houlihan yesterday said: ``There are social issues, which I will not go into, that were not taken into account at the VCAT hearings.

Objectively, we have this business coming into the community and it has been approved, but I would like to see Mr Albon be a little bit more truthful in his comments.

It is coming into town as a business and I have no reason to believe it will go against the planning permit it was granted.

But it must be looked at, like any other business, to ensure the correct procedures are being followed in accordance to its permit.''

 

 

New Brothel Date

Tuesday, 24th September 2010

A new opening date for Shepparton's controversial brothel has been set.

Despite several previous deadlines not being met, William Albon is confident services will begin on New Year's Day.

Mr Albon, a spokesperson for brothel owner Robert Russell, said the most recent delay in opening was attributed to a marketing exercise, with the need to pitch the new brothel business to more than 60 per cent of Victoria.

He said Mr Russell had bought another well-known escort agency and renamed it Apollo Escorts, widening the client base to Shepparton, Echuca, Bendigo, Ballarat, Wangaratta, Albury, Warnambool and Swan Hill.

Apollo 45 is now expected to open on January 1, 2011.

It's just a standout date and an easy one to remember,'' Mr Albon said.

We're as dead-set as we can be on this date. I think, yes, we will definitely make it on January 1you can see the building has been done, all the beds, mattresses, chandeliers, linen and towels have been purchased and are now in storage.

We have women poised to work and have also engaged receptionists.

You do run into things that are unexpected of course, as with any building project.

But we are on track for January 1.''

The brothel will feature six prostitution rooms _ fitted out with showers and other facilities _ as well as a reception, introduction rooms, an amenities lounge for the women who are working and a client lounge.

Alcohol is not allowed inside the building.

Mr Albon said despite early criticism and controversy, the brothel had plenty of support within Shepparton and would be accepted.

There were building tradesmen who didn't want to work on the brothel project, but now it seems to be no problem, which indicates some level of acceptance,'' he said.

We've had a lot of interest from women who want to work here _ that includes locally, statewide and nationally. They have been secured _ they will work independently within the brothel, they are not actually employed by us so to speak.''

 

 

 

Brothel Progress

Tuesday, 30th March 2010

Click on the images below to see the latest progress for Shepparton's first legal brothel

 

 

Brothel delayed

Tuesday, 22nd December 2009

Shepparton's first legal brothel won't be open until March.

The original plan was to be operating by the first week in the new year but the building has yet to rise above the concrete slab.

William Albon, spokesman for brothel owner Robert Russell, said the change from a two-storey design to a single level layout had caused some delays.

Workers have been busy on site in the lead-up to Christmas but the project is still eight to 10 weeks from completion.

"The target date now is March 1 and if it is ready before then we will open earlier,'' Mr Albon said.

The Apollo 45 brothel will still occupy the same floor space as the original two-storey design with six rooms to be used for prostitution.

Construction of the brothel started in August after a four-year planning battle which included an appeal to the Supreme Court by brothel opponents and an attempt by Greater Shepparton City Council to have a time extension for commencement of construction refused.

Mr Russell was granted a planning permit to build the Apollo Dve establishment in 2006 but failed to start construction within the stipulated two-year time frame.

One of the reasons given was the poor economic climate in the region which Mr Albon said yesterday had clearly improved.
"There are some good economic barometers flowing from the water allocation and while there is always a discretionary spend perhaps there will be a bit more money in the punters' pockets,'' he said.

(Click on pictures to enlarge them)

 

Brothel plans scaled back

Tuesday, 17th November 2009

Shepparton's first brothel has been scaled down before it's even been built.

The developer has applied successfully to reduce the Apollo Dve building from two storeys to one.

The significant change to the building does not alter any of the set operating conditions contained in the original permit.William Albon, spokesman for brothel owner Robert Russell, said the variation was sought to scale down the building but not the business or the hours of operation.

"He has taken it off at this stage, in many ways it will make it more discreet,'' Mr Albon said.

"It doesn't change the fundamental feature that it will be a six-room brothel.''

Construction of the Apollo 45 brothel started in August after a four-year planning battle which included an appeal to the Supreme Court by brothel opponents and an attempt by Greater Shepparton City Council to have a time extension for commencement of construction refused.

Mr Russell was granted a planning permit to build the Apollo Dve establishment in 2006 but failed to start construction within the stipulated two-year timeframe.

In August last year, Greater Shepparton City councillors voted unanimously to reject his application for a six-month extension.

In December last year, The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal granted the extension and building started in time to meet August 31 deadline for the commencement of works.

Under the permit, the brothel developer has two years to complete construction but it is now expected to open in early 2010.

Mr Albon said yesterday the original brothel building was deemed too grand.

"It is a scaling down the bulk of the building,'' Mr Albon said.

"The service it will provide to the region will not be altered.''

The council confirmed yesterday the Planning and Development Branch, under delegated powers, had approved the amended plans. The single storey building will have a different footprint but is essentially the same floor space as the original building.

(Click on pictures to enlarge them)

 

 

Brothel site works begin

Wednesday, 19th August 2009

(Click on pictures to enlarge them)

 

Concrete will be poured today to lay the foundations for Shepparton's first brothel.

Footings were being prepared at the Apollo Dve site yesterday less than two weeks before the deadline for Apollo 45's building permit expired.

William Albon _ the spokesman for brothel developer Robert Russell _ said the inspection of the footings and pouring of concrete would satisfy the permit conditions.

He said the brothel would open about Christmas this year or early in the new year.

The permit would have lapsed on August 31 if construction had not commenced.

Mr Albon inspected the brothel site yesterday.

"Well, here we are finally after a battle that began just over four years ago, today commencing the actual building works. Apollo 45 becomes a reality today,'' he said.

"This is an historic occasion for it marks the official arrival of the first, fair dinkum legal brothel in regional Victoria.

"There have been occasional previous attempts at legal brothel activity; they have failed where this has succeeded.''

Mr Albon said Mr Russell would today make an application to the Business Licensing Authority to vary his prostitution service provider licence to include the operation of a brothel.

Mr Russell _ who runs an escort service _ has held a prostitution service provider licence for eight years and the licence variation is the last regulatory hurdle to overcome.

Mr Albon said the approval should be a simple process.

"His licence is blemish free,'' he said.

Construction of the double-storey, six-room brothel is expected to take up to four months.

"The official opening, throwing open the doors and having the services available to the clients is planned for the days leading up to Christmas or perhaps on New Year's Day; we actually really like the New Year's Day timing,'' Mr Albon said.

He also said there had been "considerable interest'' from women looking to work in the brothel when it opened.

"There are some local girls, some women from Melbourne and some from other parts of Australia and even women from outside of Australia,'' he said.

Mr Albon also detailed a scheme to protect the identity of clients.

He said a blacked-out limousine would pick up customers from a place of their choosing so they would not be seen entering or leaving the brothel.

"Privacy is a key issue,'' Mr Albon said.

 

Brothel `will make deadline'

Wednesday, 24th June 2009

Brothel developer Robert Russell expects to beat the deadline for the start of construction of a Shepparton brothel, but has been frustrated by delays with paperwork.

The developer has until August 31 to start construction before the permit extension lapses but Mr Russell said problems beyond his control had delayed building.

The brothel was approved more than two years ago but there is still no sign of work at the Apollo Dve site, however Mr Russell said yesterday he hoped to have the final building permit within a fortnight.

In a formal response to questions about the project's future, William Albon, who has acted as an agent for Mr Russell said his client was "cutting it a bit fine''.

"He will make the timelines, and Shepparton will still finish up this year, with a first-class brothel,'' Mr Albon said.

Mr Albon said final plans for the building had been endorsed by the council, the building consultant was getting the building permit "right now'', water was connected to the site and the electricity would come next.

A driveway crossing has been completed at the site.

"We really are now under way but the first real big job is still to be done, pouring the concrete slab upon which to erect the building and that will happen well before the end August 2009 permit expiry time,'' Mr Albon said.

"Then shortly after we will throw the doors open, with a gala opening event, about which more details will be provided soon.''

The brothel developer won a six-month extension to a two-year planning permit in January but it will expire in 68 days.

Mr Russell was originally granted a planning permit to build the Apollo Dve establishment in 2006 but failed to start construction within the stipulated two-year timeframe.

In August last year, Greater Shepparton City Council refused to extend the permit but Mr Russell successfully appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

He argued at the VCAT hearing that red tape, the economic downturn associated with the drought and soaring water prices for irrigators around Shepparton made him rethink going ahead with the investment in that two-year period.

Under the terms of the permit if construction is commenced by August 31 the brothel has to be completed and operating by the same date in 2011.

 

Brothel in balance

Tuesday, 23rd June 2009

A construction deadline for Shepparton's first legal brothel is looming and the venture appears on the verge of collapse.

The site at 45 Apollo Dve is still a vacant lot, save for some crates and timber stored on the site.

The developer, Robert Russell, has intimated several times in recent months that he intends to go ahead with the brothel and the start of construction would be "within weeks'', but nothing has happened.

The brothel developer won a six-month extension to a two-year planning permit but it will expire after August 31 _ just 69 days away.

Mr Russell was granted a planning permit to build the Apollo Dve establishment in 2006 but failed to start construction within the stipulated two-year timeframe.

In August last year, Greater Shepparton City councillors voted unanimously to reject his application for a six-month extension.

At an appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last November _ during which he was accused by council of "warehousing'' the permit _ Mr Russell instead argued red tape, the

economic downturn associated with the drought and soaring water prices for irrigators around Shepparton made him rethink going ahead with the investment in that two-year period.

VCAT found in Mr Russell's favour in January and granted the six-month extension. At the time, the indication was the first sod would be turned as soon as plans were finalised.

In March, William Albon, acting for Mr Russell, met with senior council staff to overcome planning issues with design of the building and drainage. At the time, Mr Albon said work would start "immediately''.

Contacted by The News yesterday, Mr Albon could offer no further update on construction plans.

Mr Albon acted as an agent for the developer during the permit application process which effectively ended after the March meeting with council.

However, Mr Albon offered to attempt to contact Mr Russell for comment on the future of the project.

Under the VCAT ruling the permit will lapse if construction does not start by August 31.

 

 

Brothel is all-clear

Friday, 20th March 2009

Construction of Shepparton's Apollo 45 brothel will start almost immediately after talks with Greater Shepparton City Council yesterday to resolve outstanding issues with the planning permit.

William Albon, who is acting for brothel developer Robert Russell, said he met with senior council staff yesterday to overcome the final hurdles.

"We have a clear road map,'' Mr Albon said after the meeting.
`
`We had sought the meeting to clarify some minor, but outstanding issues relating to the planning permit.

"We needed to sit down with the senior officers to ensure that we were all on the same page in terms of what was outstanding.''

Mr Albon said the issues related to drainage and fine tuning on the brothel building itself.

"That is all sorted now and so it is full steam ahead,'' he said.

"Building will commence almost immediately, and we will throw the doors open to the local community mid winter.''

A brothel in Apollo Dve was first mooted in July 2005 and the application was fought all the way to the Supreme Court before the developer won out.

More recently an application to extend the planning permit after two years of inaction was opposed by council but the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal granted an extension.

Mr Albon said the planning permit allowing the development of a six-room brothel had been delayed by minor issues.

At last November's VCAT hearing, Mr Russell said in addition to council red tape blocking construction, an economic downturn associated with the drought and soaring water prices for irrigators around Shepparton made him rethink going ahead with the investment in that two-year period.

Yesterday, Mr Albon said on his behalf that the developer wasn't bothered by the global financial crisis.

"Brothels are a little bit recession-proof,'' Mr Albon said.

Mr Albon said the green light for the brothel was a relief for all concerned.

"This week is exactly four years since Mr Russell said, to me can you get me a planning permit for a brothel,'' he said.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would have such a battle on our hands and the whole thing would take more than four years.''

 

Brothel Protest Action Ends
Tuesday, 6th January 2009

A leader of Shepparton's vocal anti-brothel campaign yesterday said the group had no further protest action planned, after Victoria's planning tribunal gave the controversial development the go-ahead.

Social Impact Regional Victoria spokesman Mark Rumble said though he was "shocked" by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal's decision last week, the group was unlikely to continue fighting against it.

You have to go with the umpire's decision, my view is that the group has fought the good fight but we have to accept the final call," he said. "I can't say definitively everything has been done that can be done but as far as I am aware there will be no more protest action
.
(Greater) Shepparton City Council need to be commended for their application to try and stop this thing, it's not something that will be helpful to Shepparton."

Arguably the most vocal of the anti-brothel group _ former councillor Sondrae Johnson _ did not return calls from The News yesterday.

Mr Albon's claim the Apollo Dve brothel would be something Shepparton would be "proud" of was scoffed at by Mr Rumble.

I think certainly it's not the sort of establishment a community like Shepparton needs," he said.

This is a huge ugly spot on Shepparton, it's a very sad day for Shepparton that VCAT have come and ruled this way.

It's incredibly disappointing that VCAT, who aren't part of the community, are able to make the final ruling."

 

City brothel decision
Monday, 5th January 2009

Shepparton's Apollo 45 brothel will be open for business by the end of the year, after Victoria's planning tribunal gave the divisive project the green light last week.

Nearly four years after Greater Shepparton City Council received a planning application for the brothel _ igniting vitriolic community debate _ the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last week handed down the final decision on the matter, paving the way for construction to begin immediately.

William Albon, spokesman for the brothel's planning permit applicant Robert Russell, said they were thrilled with the decision.

What a brilliant result ... the moment we get the formal advice from VCAT we will trot over to the council offices and tidy up some loose administrative matters, then turn the first sod of soil," Mr Albon said.

It's been a long tortuous process, the entire project has always been strictly in accordance with Victorian government planning law.

Objections ignored planning law and were entirely based on moral prejudices, which have no place in planning law.

Mr Russell was granted a planning permit to build the Apollo Dve establishment in 2006 but failed to start construction within the stipulated two-year timeframe.

In August last year, Greater Shepparton City councillors voted unanimously to reject his application for a six-month extension.

In a hearing before VCAT in November, barrister Joanne Lardner, acting on behalf of council, said the decision was made based on "significant evidence" Mr Russell was "warehousing" the permit for financial gain.

But last week, tribunal senior member Richard Horsfall rejected the claim, citing it as unsubstantiated, and said he accepted Mr Russell's explanation that economic downturn due to drought was the reason.

Greater Shepparton City Mayor Geoff Dobson said council accepted the decision.

I would say that's the end of it, I can't see the current council revisiting the situation," he said.

Deputy mayor Kevin Ryan, a member of the previous council who rejected Mr Russell's extension application in August, maintained the decision was not made on moral grounds.

We believed there was no way known the applicant could not have fulfilled the building requirements in the required time due to the reasons given," he said.

Mr Albon believed vehement anti-brothel campaigner Sondrae Johnson's failed bid for re-election at November's local government's elections vindicated his and Mr Russell's position.

Shepparton will be proud of this brothel, it will add value to the economy," he said.

 

TIMELINE ON SHEPPARTON'S FIRST BROTHEL
Monday, 5th January 2009

July 2005 _ Planning applications for Shepparton's first brothel are officially lodged with council.

September 2005 _1140 objections to the proposed brothel are lodged.

November 2005 _ Social Impacts Regional Victoria, formerly Goulburn Valley Community Action Against Pornography Group, appeal to VCAT.

March 2006 _ Former Greater Shepparton City councillors Sondrae Johnson and Dallas Terlich were appointed as formal appellants against Shepparton's brothel at VCAT hearing.

May 2006 _ VCAT upheld council's decision.

June 2006 _ Mr Russell received the official planning permit with a copy of the 29 conditions attached to the establishment including its development to start within two years.

August 2006 _ Supreme Court Justice Robert Osborn refuses to grant Sondrae Johnson leave to appeal against the brothel decision. Costs are awarded against her.

January 2007 _ The applicant predicts construction will start within a month.

August 2007 _ Mr Albon said construction had been delayed because of drought and sale discussions.

June 2008 _ Mr Albon said he would apply to council for a time extension.

July 2008 _ An application to hear the request for an extension of the Apollo 45 brothel permit was lodged with VCAT.

August 2008 _ Councillors voted unanimously to reject an application by Mr Russell for a six-month extension to a planning permit.

November 2008 _ A VCAT hearing on November 27 heard allegations the owner was "warehousing" the permit for financial gain.

Mr Russell denied the allegation.
 

Brothel standstill
Friday, 28th November 2008

The future of Shepparton's controversial brothel remains in limbo after a tribunal hearing yesterday heard allegations the owner was "warehousing" the permit for financial gain.

Robert Russell, a Shepparton escort agency owner granted council permission to build the Apollo Dve brothel in 2006, denied the allegation in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, claiming a mass of council red tape prevented him commencing construction within a stipulated two-year timeframe.

"I've been offered a million dollars for it and I have refused.

"It's not for sale and it never will be. Every time I have to deal with this council I just run into brick wall after brick wall," he said.

In August, Greater Shepparton City councilors voted unanimously to reject an application by Mr Russell for a six-month extension to a planning permit in order for him to begin construction of the brothel.

William Albon, acting for Mr Russell, told the hearing council made the decision in a prevailing climate of controversy and moral objection that generated "a level of hysteria it did not warrant" and there were "pranksters at play in this matter".

But barrister Joanne Lardner, acting on behalf of the council, told the hearing the refusal was based purely on planning concerns.

She said no compelling circumstances made the two-year timeframe inadequate and said there was evidence that suggested Mr Russell had no intention of proceeding with construction of the brothel.

There is evidence he is warehousing the permit. There is real concern about the bona fides of extenuating reasons, nothing but a building permit prevented them proceeding," she said.

Warehousing refers to a practice by which selling a property with building approval makes it far more valuable to the seller. But Mr Russell said that in addition to council red tape blocking construction, economic downturn associated with the drought and soaring water prices for irrigators around Shepparton made him rethink going ahead with the investment in that two-year period.

But Mr Albon insisted resurgent interest in the development in the past six months re-affirmed Mr Russell's commitment to going ahead with the plan.

"He had good reasons for not getting on with it and if the tribunal grants the extension, it will not come on the market, work will start this year," he said.

But Ms Lardner rejected the claim, saying Mr Albon made the same affirmation six times in the two-year period following the granting of the permit and no sign of construction began.

VCAT will rule on the application before the end of the year.

 

Brothel hearing set
Tuesday, 26th August 2008

Most Greater Shepparton residents will have cast their vote in the November council election before the future of the Apollo 45 brothel is resolved.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has set aside half a day on November 27 to hear the application for extension of a planning permit for the brothel, which is the day before the close of the postal vote for Greater Shepparton City Council.

With a decision unlikely to be made on the day of the hearing, the brothel issue will still be alive when the ballot is counted.

The brothel applicant has applied directly to VCAT for an extension of the two-year planning permit which expired in June. The council was scheduled to deal with the application for an extension of the brothel permit at its July meeting, but at a special meeting called on June 27 a majority of councillors voted to defer consideration until August.

Because the council had not dealt with the permit application within the required 30-day period, the brothel applicant took the matter to VCAT.

Councillors last month voted unanimously to oppose the extension of the permit.

If the council argues successfully at VCAT, the brothel would have to submit a fresh planning application and start from scratch.

Brothel applicant agent William Albon said the timing of the VCAT hearing could still have an impact on the election campaign.

"It occurs to me that our anticipated victory will be a nice little gift to Cr (Sondrae) Johnson, a gift that might go towards her defeat at the poll," Mr Albon said.

The reality is the deadline for the return of postal votes falls on the following day, and historically most people will have already cast their votes by the time of the hearing.

Mr Albon said if council had heard the matter in time and the brothel was forced to appeal the decision, a hearing would not have taken place until 2009.

"We are still months ahead of what the timetable would have been had we not taken the matter out of the hands of the council," he said.

"This will of course impact on the building program but the applicant has engaged a crack building team and the brothel, subject to the extension of the planning permit, will be up and running at the very first

opportunity."

 

Wording of brothel permit motion clarified
Thursday, 7th August 2008

The News incorrectly reported yesterday that Cr Bruce Wilson's amendment to a motion on the Apollo 45 brothel was not adopted at Tuesday's council meeting.

Cr Wilson's amendment was accepted and became the substantive motion endorsed 6-0 by councillors to refuse the brothel permit extension.

The amendment was substantially the same as that put forward initially by Cr Dallas Terlich, but the language used to explain the reasons was significantly different.

The motion adopted was that councillors refuse the application on the grounds that:
There had been no intervening circumstances that made the original time inadequate and as such, the time originally allowed in the planning permit was adequate and reasonable.

There were significant doubts that suggested the applicant was not economically and financially committed to the permit proposal, as shown by his lack of action taken to give effect to the permit.

The demonstrated lack of action by the applicant during the last two years did not match his continuing public statements and demonstrated a need for the responsible planning authority to strike a fair balance

between the public interest and the interests of the applicant.

There were significant indications that the permit holder was attempting to "warehouse" the permit.

 

Unanimous opposition to push for brothel permit extension
Wednesday, 6th August 2008

Greater Shepparton City councillors have voted unanimously to reject an extension of the planning permit for the Apollo 45 brothel.

Councillors voted 6-0 to refuse the extension, despite a recommendation from planning officers to approve it.

The decision is not enforceable but will form the basis of council's argument at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Cr Sondrae Johnson did not vote yesterday, after declaring a conflict of interest.

Cr Dallas Terlich moved the motion to refuse the permit on the grounds he believed the brothel applicant was "warehousing" the permit in the hope of a windfall from the sale of the land; that the original two-year permit period was adequate; and that the permit would likely be refused if a fresh application was made.

Cr Bruce Wilson unsuccessfully tried to move an amendment adding further explanation but dropping the last point regarding a fresh application.

Cr Chris Hazelman succeeded in adding a directive for an independent planning expert to be appointed to represent council at VCAT.

"It is totally illogical having our planning officers represent us at VCAT," he argued, given the brothel applicant could use the officers' report to councillors against the council in any hearing.

Cr Wilson agreed.

"Our officers are in a position where they would have to go and represent views that are not theirs," he said.
Councillors made it clear they did not believe the applicant was serious about proceeding with the brothel and that reasons given in the application were not sufficient grounds for an extension.

Mayor Eric Bott described the councillors as being in "violent agreement".

Cr Hazelman summed up the mood when he said the brothel applicant had made many noises during the two years of the original permit without any meaningful works.

"All we have seen on this site is publicity seeking rhetoric not backed by any action," Cr Hazelman said.

William Albon, who represents the brothel applicant, responded by saying the brothel would be built.

"We are deadly serious, we are confident of getting this up at the tribunal and we will have the thing built this year, and that will prove what mugs they are."

 

Push for quick brothel hearing

Tuesday, 15th July 2008

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal will be asked to expedite the hearing of an application for an extension to the Apollo 45 brothel permit.

William Albon, the agent for applicant Robert Russell, said VCAT acknowledged receipt of the application on Friday and a directions hearing was expected within a fortnight.

Mr Albon said the brothel applicant would push for a quick hearing, possibly even before Greater Shepparton City Council considers its formal position in relation to the permit on August 5.

"That ought to come about pretty speedily and at the directions hearing we will be saying the reason we are here is because council would not comply with the decision taking time guidelines," Mr Albon said.

"No matter what huff and puff the council might want to use to masquerade their failed job, the fact is they are no longer the decision-takers in this matter and we welcome that."

Mr Albon said the brothel applicant would argue the council did not deserve any additional time to formalise its position.

"We will be asking the tribunal to move speedily to not waste any more time, and to find a spot in their lists and let's get to the determination stage," he said.

"It is our view that the question of the extension of the planning permit can be resolved very quickly; we earlier resolved the Supreme Court challenge in less than 30 minutes, this little skirmish at VCAT should be resolved just as quickly."

The council was scheduled to deal with the application for an extension of the brothel permit at its July meeting, but at a special meeting called on June 27 a majority of councillors voted to defer consideration until August.

Cr Sondrae Johnson argued successfully that she needed the delay in order to seek legal advice in relation to any potential conflict of interest.

 

Brothel power shift

Monday, 14th July 2008

While Greater Shepparton City councillors will not make a legally enforceable decision on the brothel permit extension at the August meeting, they will determine their stance and provide reasons for the decision.

The decision and reasons will then form the basis of the council's case at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing.

Chief executive Bob Laing has outlined the council's status in relation to the permit to clarify the issue.

While legal advice obtained by council has not been released, Mr Laing and planning manager Colin Kalms have detailed the course of events, now the brothel applicant has applied directly to VCAT to have the permit extension heard because the council had not dealt with the permit within the required timeframe:

Councillors will be provided with detailed planning advice and a recommendation from officers for consideration at the August meeting.

The advice will be substantially the same as originally prepared for the July meeting.

Councillors no longer have the ability to make a legally binding determination _ that power has shifted to VCAT.

Councillors will vote to accept or reject the extension application, but it will only reflect the formal position the council would have reached had it retained the power to deal with the permit.

The VCAT hearing will review all facts in relation to the case and the council is a party to the hearing as the responsible authority.

VCAT will ultimately decide on the brothel permit and council is bound by that decision.

Mr Laing said the broader issue of whether brothels should be allowed at all was a state responsibility and opponents should be pursuing it vigorously with parliamentarians.

Brothels are legal in Victoria and councils have no choice but to deal with any application under current law.

"The council doesn't control the state law but the council has tried to change the law; we haven't had much joy with that," Mr Laing said.

The council successfully moved a motion in October 2006 for the Municipal Association of Victoria to discuss changing the Planning and Environment Act to strengthen recognition of local policies in respect to brothels and adult bookshops.

The MAV has since discussed the issue with the government.

"The question should be asked why isn't this matter being vigorously pursued with the state government," Mr Laing said.

 

No brothel hearing

Tuesday, 8th July 2008

An application to hear the request for an extension of the Apollo 45 brothel permit was lodged with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal yesterday.

The application was lodged within hours of a decision by Greater Shepparton City Council not to hold a special meeting to hear the brothel application.

Agent for the brothel applicant, William Albon, said he was bitterly disappointed the genuine offer of goodwill had been refused.

As reported in yesterday's News, Mr Albon offered to delay going directly to VCAT if council held a special meeting to consider the permit application.

" ... I am dismayed they have ignored that opportunity," Mr Albon said.

With the matter being taken directly to VCAT, the council is no longer considered the relevant planning authority and has significantly less clout. Mayor Eric Bott said councillors would now form a view at the August meeting to take to the VCAT hearing.

"We had already established a course of action for the council and we want to stick with that process," Cr Bott said.

The 30-day period for hearing the permit passed yesterday, giving the applicant the trigger to go to VCAT.

At yesterday's briefing, The News understands Cr Sondrae Johnson, Cr Jenny Houlihan and Cr Bott opposed any concession to the demand for a special meeting.

Cr Bruce Wilson believed the special meeting would have been technically impossible under council rules.

Only Cr Kevin Ryan and Cr Chris Hazelman pushed for a resolution that would allow council to retain ownership of the permit application process.

In other developments:

Mr Albon has rejected any notion that the brothel planning permit was being "warehoused". Warehousing is when a developer has no intention of proceeding with construction and is speculating on selling the land and permit for a profit.

Mr Albon revealed that as recently as last week an offer for the land and permit approaching $1million was rejected.

Mr Albon said there were genuine reasons why the brothel had not proceeded to date, but the plan remained to have it open by the end of this year.

However, taking the application directly to VCAT does open up the possibility of applying for a permit extension of up to two years.

 

Brothel seeks to force city's hand

Monday, 7th July 2008

An olive branch of sorts has been extended by William Albon, the agent for Apollo 45 brothel applicant Robert Russell.

Mr Albon has agreed not to go directly to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal if Greater Shepparton City Council calls a special meeting to consider the brothel permit extension application within seven days.

Councillors will discuss the issue at today's briefing and have until noon to provide their response.

If the meeting is not agreed to, the applicant intends to file with VCAT by the close of business today.

Because an August hearing would be more than 30 days since the application was lodged, the applicant could go directly to VCAT, with the effect the council would lose its status as the relevant planning authority.

Mayor Eric Bott agreed to put the matter on the agenda today, but said the offer raised a number of technical issues.

"We have a motion on our books to hear the application at the August meeting so it has to be put to councillors," Cr Bott said.

That motion would have to be rescinded in order to consider the application at a special meeting, but under meeting rules it can only be done by the same number of councillors that passed the motion. Cr Dallas Terlich, who was present at the special meeting on June 17, is currently unavailable.

Mr Albon said the offer was made on Friday in order to return the democratic process to the council and spare the expense of further appeals.

"I put it to the CEO that there ought to be a special meeting of the council within the next seven days," Mr Albon said.

"I said the brothel permit extension application should be the sole or main item on the agenda, and the council's planning officers' recommendation that the permit extension application be approved should be tabled for resolution by the councillors.

"Let's keep the Shepparton community involved."

Mr Albon said he extended the olive branch so the Shepparton community could maintain ownership of the decision making and he hoped councillors would see the sense in his proposition.

"We are providing a win-win opportunity here," Mr Albon said.

"A smart decision for the councillors would be to agree to a special meeting and then to approve this application for an extension; but at the end of the day, if the councillors ... want to blue us, then we will see them in the courthouse."

Mr Albon said Cr Sondrae Johnson had had ample time to get the legal advice she claimed was needed, and there was no longer any justifiable reason for delaying proper decision-making responsibility.

 

Ad slams brothel

Friday, 4th July 2008

The man behind a confronting advertising campaign against a brothel in Shepparton says he is motivated by his personal beliefs and simply wants to jolt the community into speaking out against prostitution.

Peter Hall personally paid to place the two-part advertisement in today's News.

The first part features a picture of a young woman and the words: "Are you seeking the perfect, well paying career opportunity for your daughter?"

It reads like a job advertisement, detailing how your daughter could get paid to spend most of her time in bed, dress up (and down) as much as she likes, meet lots of interesting characters, dance and get paid really, really well.

The second advertisement then seeks to detail reasons why no parent would want their child working as a prostitute.

"I'm not associated with any group or anything; I have three little boys and I don't want them to grow up in a community where a brothel is acceptable," Mr Hall said yesterday.

The advertisement asks whether people would want their own daughter to work in a brothel.

Mr Hall said it was designed to have some "shock value" to make people think more about the issue.

"As I talk to people around the community, they all say they don't want it," Mr Hall said.

"I'm not having a crack at the people who run it or people that work in the industry, but I basically want to make a statement that as a community we just go along with all these changes to laws and moral values and nobody is saying it isn't right."

Planning laws do not allow for moral arguments.

However, Mr Hall believes the Shepparton community should be arguing that the law be changed.

"Surely a community has a right to say on grounds other than planning that we oppose it _ I am saying prostitution is morally wrong."

This one-man campaign to correct the community's moral compass might well produce other advertisements tackling issues such as euthanasia, cloning and stem cell research.

"I've got a moral compass and people may object to it or not like it but I just want to point them to the Bible, which is my moral compass," Mr Hall said.

"Sometimes I think you need to give people a bit of a jolt."

The two-part advertisement appears on pages 37 and 38.

 

Motives over brothel pure

Thursday, 3rd July 2008

It continues to amaze me how some people make such an effort to criticise and pull others down.

To be honest I don't think I will ever understand why people do it. It's selfish, unproductive and divisive.

I am a strong believer of healthy debate but I draw the line at personal attacks and people who speak their mind without thinking.

In some cases, it's like witnessing a toddler tantrum. If they can't get their own way they kick and scream. And then there's others who just like to have a whinge or a sook because they don't like what they see or they lose control over a situation.

In the past week, we have seen a few wobblies in the brothel debate, exposing the true colours of our councillors. On one hand, we have councillors who are considering the long-term future impacts of a brothel on our community and are taking action to ensure all bases are covered. Then we have others who seem only to be concerned about striking down their fellow councillors.

I don't claim to know the ins and outs of the situation, but I have drawn some conclusions about the motives of our councillors from what they have said in The News.

Some are selfless and others are self-centred.

Now, depending on what side of the fence you're standing on, you could be quick to point the finger.

But let me throw something out there before you pass judgement.

From what I have witnessed and read, the actions of Crs Johnson, Terlich, Houlihan and Bott have been driven by a responsibility to serve the best interests of our community.

And yet, all I have heard from Crs Hazelman, Wilson and Ryan is their disgruntlement surrounding the decision to hold a special meeting and their continued attack on some of the newer members of our council leadership.

So before you place your vote on this one, I would challenge you to review their motives and take into account all they have done for our community, and whether they have fulfilled their commitment to stand and fight for what they believe is the best for our community.

 

Legal Costs Owing

Thursday, 26th June 2008

A substantial bill for legal costs awarded against Cr Sondrae Johnson after a failed Victorian Supreme Court appeal over the Apollo 45 brothel remains unpaid.

The News understands the legal team engaged by brothel applicant Robert Russell will soon launch proceedings to recover the debt of $22950.

The court-awarded costs were determined in December 2006, after the application for leave to appeal against the decision to grant a permit for the brothel failed.

But to date the legal bill, which stipulates a 30-day payment clause, has not been paid.

Cr Johnson _ who took the Supreme Court action on behalf of a group opposed to the establishment of the Apollo 45 brothel _ was reluctant to discuss the debt when contacted by The News.

"All I can say is that they know who my legal representatives are and they can contact them," Cr Johnson said.

The costs of other parties in the action, including Greater Shepparton City Council, have been paid.

In October 2005, the council voted six to one in favour of the brothel and the decision was upheld in an appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in May 2006.

The Supreme Court appeal in August 2006 was a last-ditch attempt to have the brothel stopped, but the application for leave to appeal failed.

Cr Johnson was listed as the formal plaintiff on the Supreme Court appeal application, although in July 2006 Social Impact Regional Victoria spokesperson Mark Rumble told The News she was acting on behalf of the group.

Mr Rumble confirmed yesterday that while the group supported Cr Johnson in taking the action, it had not offered to pay costs.

Cr Johnson's opposition to the brothel began before her election to council in November 2005 and she continued to oppose the permit.

Cr Johnson was investigated by the Office of Local Government, after at least five complaints were received about her involvement in the vote in August 2006 on an eight-point recommendation about the council's Supreme Court brothel application defence.

Cr Johnson declared an interest as the applicant in the Supreme Court and opposed the entire motion, claiming it gave council chief executive Bob Laing a "blank cheque" to vigorously oppose her attempt to prevent the brothel from opening.

The 18-month investigation ended with no action being taken against Cr Johnson.

The permit for the brothel has now expired and council is expected to consider an application for an extension of time from the developer at its July meeting.

 

Not enough time to get brothel up

Wednesday, 4th June 2008

Another stoush is brewing over the proposed brothel approved for Apollo Dve in Shepparton.

The original planning permit, which was fought all the way to the Victorian Supreme Court, expires this week and agent for the applicant William Albon has signalled that construction work will not start before it lapses.

Mr Albon will apply to Greater Shepparton City Council on Friday for a time extension on the permit to allow the finalisation of building contracts.

Mr Albon said the developer was close to turning the first sod and the brothel, called Apollo 45, would be "in full swing in the immediate future".

"An application in accordance with the provisions of the Planning and Environment Act for an extension of the planning permit will be lodged this week," Mr Albon said.
Although confident the council will continue to exercise what he called "good planning policy judgement" to facilitate the application, Mr Albon is also prepared for another fight.

"I sincerely hope that the flawed, irrational and unsubstantiated opposition that previously flowed does not surface again," Mr Albon said.

"I remind the parties that this matter went all the way to the Supreme Court of Victoria and if necessary the will exists to go there once again."

Council has confirmed that the permit expires on Friday and an application for a time extension must be made in writing by the applicant prior to the permit expiring or within three months after the permit expires, or the permit will lapse.

If that happens, the clock is reset on the entire planning approval process.

Council has received an email from the applicant stating his intention, but has asked for further information and a formal written request, which has not yet been received.

Any decision on an application for a time extension has to go to the full council meeting.

"We will deal with the application on its merits when it arrives," Greater Shepparton City Council Mayor Eric Bott said.

 

Councillor at helm of group's brothel fight

July 6 2006

Greater Shepparton City Councillor Sondrae Johnson has been listed as the formal plaintiff on a Supreme Court appeal against the establishment of a brothel in Shepparton.

Social Impact Regional Victoria spokesperson Mark Rumble, who last week announced an appeal had been lodged, confirmed Cr Johnson was the name sited on documents submitted to the court, but that she was acting on behalf of the group.

The appeal follows a decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in May to uphold a planning permit for the establishment.

In October, Greater Shepparton City Council approved the controversial sixbedroom brothel at 45 Apollo Dve, which was subsequently appealed to the tribunal.

Mr Rumble said a preliminary hearing would determine if the fight to prevent the brothel, to be known as Apollo 45, would go ahead.

"At this stage we are hoping that it will be as early as August, but that's not definitive," Mr Rumble said.

"They will go over the case and the grounds for appeal and if they say this is a unique and a novel argument, then we proceed.

"If they go `no this is ridiculous' it's all over red rover."

He said because the group was appealing on an error or errors of law, they were hopeful in the worst case it would be referred back to the tribunal.

"The Prostitution Control Act should have been considered by VCAT in conjunction with the Planning Act," Mr Rumble said.

"What this is about is challenging the Prostitution Control Act because it's not adequate and it isn't protecting the people it's supposed to be protecting."

The finding of the tribunal indicated it could not consider the Prostitution Control Act when determining the merits of the planning application for the brothel.

Mr Rumble said any ruling in favour of the group would acknowledge that changes to the legislation needed to occur.

Funds are now being sought for the appeal and Mr Rumble said all members of the group were confident they could put up a good fight.

"There's an excellent case and it's a risk worth taking," he said.

 

Brothel fight takes a twist

June 28 2006

The fight to stop the establishment of a legal brothel in Shepparton took another twist yesterday with the announcement a number of its objectors will take their fight to Victoria's Supreme Court.

Social Impact Regional Victoria spokesperson Mark Rumble told The News an official appeal was lodged late last week following last month's decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to uphold a planning permit for the establishment.

 

Brothel applicant keen to `get on with job'

June 15 2006

Brothel applicant Robert Russell has received the official planning permit for Shepparton's first legal brothel from Greater Shepparton City Council.

The permit and a copy of the 29 conditions attached to the sixbedroom establishment at Apollo Dve was sent to Mr Russell's Melbourne-based agent William Albon on Tuesday.

The permit states development of the brothel must start within two years from its issue date with completion no later than four years from the date of permit.

Mr Albon said his client would fit in with that timetable easily.

"We're not going to mess about, we are going to get on with the job," Mr Albon said.

"We're getting into a period of adverse weather, but we should start (construction) the end of this month or early July."

Council approved the brothel in October, but a group of appellants, made up of several members of community group Social Impacts Regional Victoria, took the decision to the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

On May 31 VCAT upheld council's decision.

Mr Albon said it had been a tough struggle and he was glad to be moving forward.

"The matter would appear now to be completely resolved," Mr Albon said.

"If the conservative forces want to have a go in the Supreme Court, now's the time to put up or shut up."

Mr Russell must now obtain a building permit and road opening/crossing permit from council in order for construction to begin.

Mr Albon said he was poised to do this later in the month.

 

Brothel applicant's agent cries foul

June 6 2006

Fallout over Shepparton's first legal brothel continues, with the agent of the brothel applicant accusing three appellants of abuse of power.

On Wednesday, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal upheld a decision to continue the development of a six-bedroom brothel, but William Albon is seeking clarification of testimony at the March hearing from objectors Joanne Atkinson and Dallas Terlich as well as key appellant Sondrae Johnson.

In October, Greater Shepparton City Council approved the Apollo Dve brothel.

Mr Albon said he would investigate the testimony of Mrs Atkinson, who said she worked for the Department of Justice, by calling on the department's secretary Penny Armitage!!!! Penny Armitage!.

"She opposed the application and said brothels weren't fit and proper," Mr Albon said.

"As a senior employee of the Department of Justice, was she stating policy of the Victorian Government?"

On Saturday, Mr Albon emailed counsel for the appellants, Rawl WatsonJones, and the tribunal seeking full audio transcripts which were recorded at the hearing by the objectors.

Mrs Atkinson said she was not speaking on behalf of her employer when she made the testimony.

"The request was for me to be there as a representative of Rumbalara and as a community member, not my employment," Mrs Atkinson.

Mr Albon said his investigation would also extend to Cr Johnson and Cr Terlich about whether the Local Government Act permitted a councillor to be an appellant to a decision by their own council.

"I will be calling on Candy Broad, Minister for Local Government, to determine if offences have been committed and if so for both to be disciplined, which may even mean their removal from public office," he said.

Cr Johnson laughed off his threats.

"My invitation to him is, go for it," she said.

"He hasn't won, it is a pyrrhic victory."

Cr Terlich said Mr Albon might have won this stage of the battle but he did not have the community's interests at heart.

"It certainly doesn't intimidate me," Cr Terlich said.

"I have more important things to deal with in the community."

 

Decision sadness

June 1 2006

Community members were left feeling let down yesterday after a tribunal hearing approved Shepparton's first legal brothel.

Shepparton resident Jim Olphert, who formally objected to Greater Shepparton City Council's decision last year, said while he knew the decision would probably go against his beliefs, he would continue not to support it.

"If you get one, you are going to get others," Mr Olphert said.

"It's going to break up marriages."

Fellow objector Ian Moorhouse from Tatura said he was disappointed when learning of the news.

"I couldn't think of any redeeming reason for having a brothel," Mr Moorhouse said.

St Brendan's Catholic Church's Monsignor Peter Jeffrey said it was a sad indictment on the relevant sections of state legislation.

"The decision reflects the fact that town planning legislation leaves little room for objections on the grounds of social impact and no room for objections on moral or ethical grounds," Mgr Jeffrey said.

 

Open invitation to check out Apollo 45

June 1 2006

Apollo 45, Shepparton's first legal brothel should be open for summer trading according to applicant Robert Russell's Melbourne-based agent William Albon - and everyone will be welcome to visit.

In Shepparton yesterday to celebrate the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal's decision, Mr Albon said the finding vindicated the "sage and wise" approach adopted by Greater Shepparton City Council officers.

"It's very difficult to resist the temptation to gloat and say `I told you so'," Mr Albon said.

"This is a very important day for Shepparton in that the city now joins London, Paris and New York with an ability to provide world-class bestpractice brothel services."

Mr Albon said he and Mr Russell were to meet with council yesterday seeking approval of building permits, pre-empting that formal objectors would not continue the fight.

"I would be amazed if the conservative stiffs wanted to take this further," Mr Albon said.

"If they want a blue in the Supreme Court of Victoria let them bring it on."

If no appeal is lodged, building work would begin around mid-year with an open day pencilled in before the year's end.

Come one, come all to Apollo 45

Apollo 45, Shepparton's first legal brothel should be open for summer trading according to applicant Robert Russell's Melbourne-based agent William Albon - and everyone will be welcome to visit.

In Shepparton yesterday to celebrate the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal's decision, Mr Albon said the finding vindicated the "sage and wise" approach adopted by Greater Shepparton City Council officers.

"It's very difficult to resist the temptation to gloat and say `I told you so'," Mr Albon said.

"This is a very important day for Shepparton in that the city now joins London, Paris and New York with an ability to provide world-class bestpractice brothel services."

Mr Albon said he and Mr Russell were to meet with council yesterday seeking approval of building permits, preempting that formal objectors would not continue the fight.

"I would be amazed if the conservative stiffs wanted to take this further," Mr Albon said.

"If they want a blue in the Supreme Court of Victoria let them bring it on."

"We'll give them a whack for our costs and they will be substantial."

If no appeal is lodged, building work would begin around mid-year with an open day pencilled in before the year's end.

"We will send out personal invitations to the more than 700 official objectors and first on the list will be councillors (Sondrae) Johnson and (Dallas) Terlich," he said.

"We will encourage them all to attend and rid them of their dreadful misconceptions."

Apollo 45 will employ around 40 women on a rostered basis, as well as ancillary staff including managers, receptionists and cleaners.

 

 

 

 

 

It's not over yet'

June 1 2006

Sex will soon be for sale 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Shepparton, after an appeal to prevent the city's first brothel was thrown out.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative tribunal handed down its finding yesterday, affirming Greater Shepparton City Council's October 12 decision to grant a permit for a brothel at 45 Apollo Dve.

The six-bedroom brothel to be named Apollo 45, will be owned and operated by Robert Russell, who currently runs Four Seasons Escorts in Shepparton.

A consortium of appellants including Glen Cox, Sam Green, Katrina Mohamed, Mark Rumble, Craig Kelly, Joanne Atkinson, Andrew Fox, Sondrae Johnson and Dallas Terlich took the decision to VCAT in March, saying a brothel would undermine the social fabric of the city.

Single applicant Paul Cahill was also an objector at the hearing.

In a summary of their decision, tribunal members Jeanette Rickards and Laurie Hewet concluded the basis of the appeals was not sufficient to overturn council's decision.

"(We) are unable to reach the conclusion that the brothel will have a net adverse social (or economic) effect on Shepparton," the document read.

Appellant spokesman Mr Cox said the group was bitterly disappointed with the outcome, in particular the tribunal members' comments about the lack of social impact.

"Dallas (Terlich) and Mark (Rumble) who deal with the fallout daily (through their employment) see it differently," Mr Cox said.

He said he hoped someone would have the gumption to say no to brothels in the future and did not rule out appealing again, this time to the Supreme Court.

"It's not over yet," he said.

Mr Cox said even if a decision was made to abandon legal options, the brothel would be held strictly accountable.

"They are on notice," he said.

"They need to abide by every requirement."

Council planning manager Colin Kalms said council was pleased its decision had been upheld along with the 29 conditions it had placed on the permit based on concerns raised in objections.

"As planners we have to look at the merits of the planning permit, not necessarily the emotion or political processes that get involved," Mr Kalms said.

 

Brothel appeal decision nears

May 29 2006

The outcome of an appeal to prevent a brothel opening in Shepparton is imminent.

The result of a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing in March was expected to be handed down last month, but tribunal members Jeanette Rickards and Laurie Hewet are yet rule on the matter.

The News believes a finding should be handed down this week.

In October, Greater Shepparton City Council approved a planning permit application for 45 Apollo Dve to house a six-bedroom brothel, causing outrage among several community groups.

Councillors voted six to one in favour of the decision, with Cr Bruce Wilson the only abstainer.

A consortium including Glen Cox, Andrew Fox, Sam Green, Katrina Mohamed, Joanne Atkinson, Mark Rumble, Craig Kelly and Crs Sondrae Johnson and Dallas Terlich formally objected to council's decision, as did individual appellant Paul Cahill, prompting the hearing.

In March, the tribunal heard testimonies from sex workers and Shepparton citizens about the impact a brothel would have on the wider community.

Submissions were also heard from employees of brothel applicant Robert Russell, who currently runs Four Seasons Escorts in Shepparton.

If the council's decision is upheld, the appellants can appeal to the Supreme Court.

If no appeal is made, building work is scheduled to begin within the next few months in preparation for an opening early in the new year.

 

Sex worker launches assault on conditions

March 17 2006

If forced sex is considered rape then it is happening to women in the sex industry every day, sex worker Sian Isis says.

Speaking at a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing about a proposed legal brothel in Shepparton on Wednesday Ms Isis said she had been physically and mentally abused.

"(They've) held me down against my will," Ms Isis said.

"I've had clients that have grabbed hold of my hair and pulled my neck to the point it's given me headaches.

"It happens frequently (to the other girls) . . . even sometimes frequently on one shift."

She said sex workers were also constantly degraded by potential clients.

"They will do things like rub their hand up your thigh," Ms Isis said.

"They will try to fondle your breast, put their hand on your backside.

"And that's just the physical stuff . . . then there's the verbal stuff that goes along with it."

She said there was also a constant pressure to partake in unsafe sex because it attracted more money.

"I make it quite clear in my intros that there are boundaries and there are rules, and that it is my body," Ms Isis said.

"Because I'm so strict with what goes on in my bookings, I generally do lose a lot of clients.

"I won't do unsafe sex practices."

Since joining the industry two years ago, Ms Isis has worked in 17 legal brothels.

She said the industry had a severe lack of measures and controls to protect workers' rights.

"If you are on shift, if you are on roster or you're in the building you are expected to work," Ms Isis said.

"If you are the sort of girl who is picky . . . the receptionist will say to you `You are on shift, he is a client, you will go in and introduce yourself.' "

Penalties such as being taken off the roster and losing money from bookings are just some of the practices Ms Isis says are enforced by brothel receptionists.

Having worked in other industries, she said the lack of training and workplace occupational health and safety was appalling.

"They assume that if you have a vagina, you know how to provide a service," Ms Isis said.

Not regulated by any union, Ms Isis said she was often chastised for educating other women about their rights under the Prostitution Control Act.

"In theory this (the Act) is great but in practice there is no support for women who work in the industry when it comes to workplace disputes," she said.

Greater Shepparton City Council approved a planning permit application in October for 45 Apollo Dve to house a six-bedroom brothel, with formal objections prompting the hearing.

 

Emotions run high at brothel hearing

March 16 2006

Emotive testimonies from sex workers and Shepparton citizens marked the final day of a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing about the city's proposed brothel.

Taking a day less than anticipated to hear submissions from all parties, tribunal members Jeanette Rickards and Laurie Hewet took recess on the issue yesterday, and are expected to make a decision about the brothel permit within four weeks.

Greater Shepparton City Council approved a planning permit application in October for 45 Apollo Dve to house a sixbedroom brothel, causing outrage among several community groups.

A consortium, including Glen Cox, Andrew Fox, Sam Green, Katrina Mohamed, Joanne Atkinson, Mark Rumble, Craig Kelly and newly reappointed appellants Crs Sondrae Johnson and Dallas Terlich formally objected to council's decision, as did individual appellant Paul Cahill, prompting the hearing.

Mr Rumble, Cr Terlich and Mrs Atkinson gave evidence to support their objection by speaking of the potential and real impacts of legal and illegal prostitution on children and the indigenous community in the area.

Metropolitan-based sex worker Sian Isis spoke openly for the objectors, discussing in graphic detail the social impacts on women involved in the industry including feeling degraded by clients and her issues surrounding occupational health and safety.

Mr Rumble said their legal representative Rawl Watson-Jones presented a succinct argument.

"What Rawl attempted to do was help the tribunal look at the bigger picture rather than just planning issues," Mr Rumble said.

"I am confident the argument was a sound argument and I hope the tribunal saw it the same way."

Rounding out the submissions, brothel applicant Robert Russell's Melbournebased agent William Albon called Four Seasons Escorts employee receptionist Vanessa Jones, who outlined workplace educational programs and conditions to highlight the support offered by Mr Russell at his current Shepparton establishment.

Mr Albon said he was thrilled by the way the process had gone, saying his and council's submissions were strong.

"We are confident that the reasoning and well-researched arguments we put forward will receive favourable consideration," Mr Albon said.

"The objections were revealed as having serious flaws in some of their arguments."

All parties were given the opportunity to consider any additional permit conditions should the tribunal members give a green light to the brothel.

The tribunal will send a written determination of its decision to all parties by post.

 

Hearing to determine brothel bid

March 14 2006

Shepparton will today host the first day of a three-day Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing about the city's first brothel.

The brothel, approved by Greater Shepparton City Council for an Apollo Dve address in October, has been a major point of controversy within the city since its approval.

Appellants Glen Cox, Andrew Fox, Sam Green, Katrina Mohamed, Joanne Atkinson, Mark Rumble and Craig Kelly have taken the decision to VCAT on the basis a brothel would undermine the social values of the community.

Another appellant, Paul Cahill, will independently fight for the decision to be overturned.

Mr Cox said amendments to the appeal, brought to light late last month, had been accepted by the tribunal.

The hearing takes place at the council office in Welsford St from 10 am

 

Brothel appeal dispute

February 21 2006

Objectors to a brothel proposed for Shepparton have sought to amend their upcoming appeal at Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

But they are likely to have to fight to include them, after brothel applicant Robert Russell's agent said he would oppose any such bid.

Correspondence from applicants Glen Cox, Andrew Fox, Sam Green, Katrina Mohamed, Joanne Atkinson, Mark Rumble and Craig Kelly was sent to Mr Russell's Melbourne based agent William Albon this week indicating amendments specifically relating to the Prostitution Control Act 1994.

Objector spokesman Glen Cox said existing grounds would still be maintained in the appeal but after legal advice the group wanted to add more.

"We're claiming there has been a breakdown in the co-regulatory scheme between the planning scheme and the Prostitution Control Act," Mr Cox said.

"We're looking at policing and who's going to regulate them."

Mr Albon said he would not consent to the changes at this time in proceedings.

"We would not consent at this ridiculously late stage," he said.

"This is part of a systematic goal-postmoving exercise."

Mr Albon said even if VCAT allowed the amendments, they would not alter the case, in which he remained "supremely confident".

"This is a case of proving good Victorian planning law needs to be upheld and not become a plaything for the morally righteous," he said.

"Let's just bring the case and have responsible people decide the outcome."

Mr Cox said his counsel was still optimistic the group could negotiate with Mr Albon but if a resolution could not be reached it would go to a preliminary hearing.

In October Greater Shepparton City Council approved an Apollo Dve site for the city's first official brothel.

The VCAT appeal hearing is scheduled for March 14 to 17 in Shepparton.

 

Brothel debate `name calling' irks councillors

January 4 2006

Two Greater Shepparton City councillors have thrown their support behind community members opposed to the establishment of a brothel in Shepparton.

Mayor Jenny Houlihan and deputy mayor Dallas Terlich are concerned at continuing criticism of community members fighting the development through a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing scheduled for March 14.

The two councillors were particularly disappointed with the latest comments from William Albon, agent for brothel applicant Robert Russell, published in The News on Monday.

"We do not believe name calling is appropriate," Cr Houlihan said.

"People in the community have a right to protest and do it in a legal and enthusiastic way and within the bounds of what is proper.

"His (Mr Albon's) criticisms of those who express disapproval of the proposed brothel are unnecessary and unprofessional."

The allegations come after Mr Albon told The News on Monday he believed the hearing "gives the opportunity to a vocal minority to turn out in large numbers and sensationalise proceedings".

He added "fortunately senior tribunal members will guarantee any such circus is ignored."

Cr Houlihan said the latest comments from Mr Albon were "derogatory" and the community deserved more respect.

"This is only one of a series of comments . . . we are supporting the community, they are doing a great job and they should be respected," she said.

 

Brothel hearing date set

January 2 2006

Objections to the establishment of a brothel in Shepparton will be presented at a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing scheduled for March 14.

Greater Shepparton City Council approved plans for a brothel in Apollo Dve, Shepparton, in early October.

The three-day VCAT hearing will take place at council's offices.

Speaking on behalf of Social Impacts Regional Victoria, a group of concerned Shepparton residents, Glen Cox said the group was pleased to receive news of the hearing and was preparing a strong case with legal support to overturn the application.

He said council's new line-up, which includes three objectors to the brothel - Sondrae Johnson, deputy mayor Dallas Terlich and mayor Jenny Houlihan - was a clear reflection of the community's concerns about the brothel.

"We hope our recently elected council representatives will work with their community and present a strong and united front to VCAT," he said.

Cr Houlihan said those hoping for a refusal of the permit would have to put faith in VCAT.

"We've had legal advice that council can't overturn a permit granted by the previous council, so it all really comes down to the VCAT decision," she said.

Cr Houlihan said she personally hoped VCAT would take into consideration the social impact of having a brothel in the city.

"I hope they give greater weight to the social impacts," she said.

"Really, good planning decisions should be made in the interests of, and for, the long-term community benefit."

Speaking on behalf of brothel applicant Robert Russell, who runs Four Seasons Escorts in Shepparton, Melbourne-based agent William Albon said he was preparing a solid legal case in support of council's decision in favour of the brothel and remained confident.

"I'm pleased the matter has been listed for a tribunal hearing and pleased this matter of concern to a small number of the community has been listed in Shepparton," Mr Albon said.

"I recognise this gives the opportunity to a vocal minority to turn out in large numbers and sensationalise proceedings.

"Fortunately senior tribunal members will guarantee any such circus is ignored."

 

Appeal lodged against brothel

November 15 2005

A last-ditch appeal to prevent controversial six-bedroom brothel Apollo 45 from development in Shepparton has been made to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Social Impacts Regional Victoria, formerly Goulburn Valley Community Action Against Pornography Group, officially took up the cause with the tribunal on Thursday.Greater Shepparton City Council approved plans for the brothel in early October.

It is scheduled for development in Apollo Dve, Shepparton, in a couple of months.

Group spokeswoman Sondrae Johnson said council had always known of the group's desire to take the issue further.

"Yes, we are going to VCAT," Mrs Johnson said.

"We told them before when we attempted to influence the council's decision (the first time)."

She said the group believed council had not given sufficient weight to the social implications of such as establishment and that it would be vindicated at VCAT.

"We believe social impacts are on the triple bottom line for planning issues and the triple bottom line looks at economic, environmental and social impacts," Mrs Johnson said.

"We believe the council ignored the social impacts of the brothel application."

Speaking on behalf of brothel applicant Robert Russell, who runs Four Seasons Escorts in Shepparton, Melbourne-based agent William Albon said it appeared the group was seeking to rely on as many as 36 points of law.

"It begs the question, is this vexatious, is it misconceived, is it frivolous, is it an abuse of process and if that's the case, should an application be made to the tribunal to have matters summarily dismissed," Mr Albon said.

"We played according to the rules all the way and if these concerns are genuine, why weren't they raised in the first instance?

"We remain confident that the council has taken a fit and proper decision and we remain confident of the tribunal upholding the decision."

Council development and infrastructure director Peter Harriott said council was yet to see anything in writing about the appeal but that it was something the group was entitled to do.

"That's the process people are entitled to follow so we will leave it to VCAT to sort out," Mr Harriott said.

 

 

 

           

 

 

Official Nod Given For Sex In The City

October 5 2005

Sex will soon be available for sale 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Shepparton, after a six-bedroom brothel was given the green light yesterday.

Approving a notice of decision to grant a permit for the Apollo Dve site at its scheduled monthly meeting, Greater Shepparton City Council voted six to one in favour of the brothel.

Dozens of residents besieged the council chambers on Welsford St to hear the decision, which sparked outrage from many who verbalised their displeasure in council's decision.

 

Photo Courtesy of http://aerialimpressions.com

 

Brothel Backers Invite Appeal

October 5 2005

Shepparton's first legal brothel will be known as Apollo 45.

Brothel applicant Mr Russell, who runs Four Seasons Escorts in Shepparton, and his Melbourne-based agent William Albon, unveiled the name yesterday, shortly after Greater Shepparton City Council handed down its recommendation to approve the planning permit.

Mr Albon said the decision to allow the Apollo Dve site to go ahead was a fantastic result which demonstrated the professionalism of Shepparton council officers.

"Councillors approved this because they support the legislation and regulations of the state," Mr Albon said.

"They never lost sight it was a planning matter and not an issue of moral standing."

He said council had not caved to unfounded public pressure.

"The group I refer to are the vocal minority," Mr Albon said.

"The conservative stiffs who ignore planning law and whip up hysteria in the community. We'd invite them, if they are of that mind to challenge us on this matter at VCAT."

Opponents to the brothel have 21 days to appeal the council's decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

If the decision is overturned it can then be appealed in the Supreme Court.

If no appeal is made, building work is scheduled to begin within the next few months in preparation for an early new year opening.

Mr Albon said once open, he would encourage Shepparton residents to look through the facility.

Mr Russell said he had received about 110 000 inquiries during the past five years about the desire for sexual services.

 

 

Sex in the city on agenda

July 5 2005

Plans for a six-bedroom brothel in Shepparton have already been drawn up, with the applicant confident an official permit lodged on Friday will be approved.

If the planning application is given the all-clear, sex will be on sale at 45 Apollo Dve, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The planning application was lodged with Greater Shepparton City Council, on behalf of Robert Russell, who runs Four Seasons Escorts in Shepparton.

Yesterday a Melbourne-based agent working on his behalf, William Albon, met with councillors and council staff to ensure they understood the application was serious and abided by all of the strict planning regulations.

Sex on sale: Melbourne-based agent William Albon yesterday announced City of Greater Shepparton Council was considering an brothel permit application.

Mr Albon said he received an "excellent" hearing and believed there was no reason why the application would not be approved.

"The decision was made 18 months ago to do a detailed research project to identify a site which met all of the planning requirements," Mr Albon said.

"The applicant has successfully run Four Season Escorts in Shepparton for five years and in that time has kept accurate statistics which demonstrate that in five years there has been 100 000 telephone calls to the business.

"The research has been done and we found a very clear, very strong demand for lawful sexual services in this community."

Yesterday council refused to comment on the application, and instead released a statement which confirmed a permit application had been received.

The statement said the application would be assessed in the coming weeks, during which time nearby property owners would be notified and it would be formally advertised for public comment.

Council also advised the application would be assessed according to the legislation and in the same manner as all applications.

The application has already received opposition from the Goulburn Valley Community Action Against Pornography group and state politicians who believe it would tarnish Shepparton's reputation.

State Member for Shepparton District Jeanette Powell and State Member for North Eastern Province Wendy Lovell expressed their opposition to the brothel.

"It is the community's opinion that should carry weight and I encourage all people who are against this application to lodge an objection with council," Ms Lovell said.

Mrs Powell raised the issue of brothel applications in parliament in December, calling on the Planning Minister to investigate options to give councils the option of refusing a brothel application.

She encouraged the council to seek community opinion.

"We should let the community make the decision about the type of environment we want our families to grow up in," Mrs Powell said.

Mr Albon said the brothel would create jobs in Shepparton.

"There will be no threat to the community in terms of the transmission of disease," he said.

"This will create jobs in the Shepparton area including a manager, administrations workers, book-keepers and, dare I say it, sex service providers."

 

Proposed brothel bothers businesses  

July 5 2005

Shepparton businesses operating near a vacant block earmarked for a brothel were yesterday shocked to learn of its planning application.

Planning applications for a sixbedroom brothel in Apollo Dve, Shepparton, were officially lodged with Greater Shepparton City Council on Friday.

The current block is bare as are the blocks next to the site, however businesses fill most of Apollo Dve and nearby Gemini Crt.

While the businesses were yesterday surprised to learn of a potential brothel in the area, most were taking the information in their stride.

Shepparton Stainless Steel director Warren Batey said while he questioned the morality of receiving sex for money he was not too fazed.

"I'm not stressed about it," Mr Batey said.

D and S Truck Repairs owner Don Dimstas said he did not think he would support the brothel's establishment.

Mr Dimstas was concerned about people hanging out or using drugs in the streets.

"We were forever finding condoms and syringes in the gutter," Mr Dimstas said.

Michel Signs graphic designer Mark Parker said he was amazed to learn about the application.

"But I suppose it's not unexpected in a place like Shepparton," Mr Parker said.

TNT depot general manager Stuart Ward said it would not worry the business.

"Honestly it doesn't worry me if someone wishes to use that service," Mr Ward said.

"It's been around all our lives . . . but it's probably a sad thing that it has to come to that."