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Sandown races
Image: Reg Ryan

The future of Sandown as a racing venue is fast becoming a major topic of debate with the Melbourne Racing Club scheduled to brief Dandenong’s eleven councillors on April 16 on a formal rezoning plan which has been put together by the club.

This comes more than two years after the racing club first approached the council about rezoning the land.

The race club’s plan to have the 112 hectare site in Melbourne’s South East rezoned from its current ‘special use’ designation, as a dual purpose facility used for horse racing and motorsport, has been in the pipeline for some time.

If the proposal is ultimately approved by Council, it is understood that Sandown would then be available for redeveloped as residential housing, with the sale of the land, which could then be sold at a far higher price, expected to raise significant capital for the race club which would then be reinvested in the proposed multi-million-dollar redevelopment of the Caulfield racecourse.

Sandown currently operates at a $5 million loss per annum.

“It’s a costly venue for the Melbourne Racing Club to operate,” Chief Executive Josh Blanksby told Racing.com. “It takes on a lot of the race meetings for the industry and that’s fantastic for wagering and for horse preparation and for metro prizemoney, but the Melbourne Racing Club is the one that wears that cost.”

As logical as the mooted change might be from the race club’s business plan’s point of view, there is plenty of concern … and even outright opposition … within the local community to the proposal.

That concern stretches to what, on the one hand, would be seen as a loss of a major facility for the region, a point which has been emphasised by Dandenong Mayor Angela Long, to logistical questions about what negative impact several thousand of new homes might have on the infrastructure of the region in terms of congestion.

Dandenong Council city planning director Jody Bosman said that after the April 16 briefing and a workshop in which the race club and an urban planner group would meet with councillors, it was expected that the rezoning plan from the club would be formally handed to the council by the middle of the year.

A racetrack has existed on the current Sandown site since 1888 becoming both a racetrack and a motor racing circuit in the 1960’s.

The grandstand at the racetrack, which was built in 1962, was heritage listed in 2019.

 
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