In this issue: VICTORIAN ELECTION FOLLOW-UP; HUME COUNCIL APPROVES FIVE STOREY DEVELOPMENT IN SUNBURY; RYMAN HEALTH 6 STOREY APPLICATION NOW BEFORE MOONEE VALLEY COUNCIL; CROWAG 2023 TREE COVER FORUM; CROYDON CONSERVATION SOCIETY UPDATE; GOOD NEWS 1. – LAKE KNOX; GOOD NEWS 2 – KILMORE; WORLD HERITAGE MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR ROYAL EXHIBITION BUILDING AND CARLTON GARDENS; WAR ON PLASTIC; LANDFILL BUFFERS AND INDUSTRY SEPARATION DISTANCES; BOROONDARA BUILDING APPROVALS; PRIVATISATION OF PUBLIC LAND; STOP THE GREAT WALL OF FRANKSTON; PLANNING DEMOCRACY FACEBOOK PAGE; SPARE A THOUGHT FOR NIMBYS; BRUNSWICK APARTMENT SURGE; BULLDOZERS COMING TO CAMPSIE; THANK YOU AND MERRY CHRISTMAS
VICTORIAN ELECTION FOLLOW-UP
Sonia Kilkenny, the Labor Member for Carrum, has been appointed as the new Minister for Planning, as well as Minister for Outdoor Recreation, following the Victorian Election. We welcome her to this important role.
David Hodgett, the Liberal Member for Croydon, is the new Shadow Minister for Planning. Jess Wilson, the new Liberal Member for Kew, has been given a Shadow Ministry for Home Ownership and Housing Affordability. Hopefully she works out that increasing density is a recipe for increasing land prices, and therefore declining home ownership and housing affordability.
Ian Morgans, Rosemary West, and I have had discussions about following up and meeting with the Government, Opposition, Greens, and other non-Government parties who are represented in the Legislative Council. Apart from introducing ourselves and seeking to build relationships, we will be expressly seeking action in the new Parliament to re-constitute the Legislative Council Inquiry into the adequacy of planning and heritage protections. You will recall this Inquiry received many excellent submissions, but was brought to an untimely close without making any specific recommendations, except that it should be reconstituted. We will also be asking for action on the concerns we outlined in our Election Questionnaire. Many parties and candidates expressed support for our point of view.
I encourage other groups and supporters to seek meetings with their local MPs, quite a few of whom are newly elected, to follow up these issues. If you do have meetings with MPs or their staff, please let me know how they go.
HUME COUNCIL APPROVES FIVE STOREY DEVELOPMENT IN SUNBURY
Sunbury is well known and popular for having a country feel, despite being relatively close to Melbourne. I previously reported on an application at 52 O’Shanassy St Sunbury for a six storey 23-metre-high residential apartment development, plus basement car park, retail premises and offices.
Local residents are concerned about the impact of the development on neighbourhood character, car parking, and construction impacts. One said it will “destroy” the village streetscape. They correctly note that it will set a precedent for other developments – Sunbury at present has no high-rise buildings at all – and is at odds with Sunbury’s “city living, country style” motto. 49 objections to the application were received.
Hume Council has now approved the development, with a reduction from 23 metres to 19 in height, and from 6 storeys to 5. Residents are extremely disappointed with Council’s decision, and plan to appeal to VCAT. Remarkably, the officers report recommending approval of the development described some of Council’s existing planning policy and guidelines strategy as “outdated”. Local resident and practising town planner Robert Szymanski made the obvious point that if officers or Council are of the view that their planning rules are outdated, “they should go through the formal process and actually amend the Hume planning scheme to that effect”.
Officers and Councillors are required to make decisions based on the planning rules that exist, not the ones they think should exist. This seems to me to constitute strong grounds for a VCAT appeal. If anyone has knowledge of a VCAT appeal based around similar officers’ comments, please let me know.
Peter Gavin and other Sunbury residents are planning to fundraise to help pay for the VCAT appeal. If any groups have experience of fundraising for a VCAT appeal and are willing to share their experiences with Peter, please let me know.
RYMAN HEALTH 6 STOREY APPLICATION NOW BEFORE MOONEE VALLEY COUNCIL
The Victorian Government made an election commitment to introduce planning controls on 12 key rivers and creeks in Melbourne to ensure they “are safeguarded from any future inappropriate development”. They are the Edgars Creek, Darebin Creek, Gardiners Creek, Jacksons Creek, Koonung Creek, Kororoit Creek, Maribyrnong River, Cherry Creek, Merri Creek, Moonee Ponds Creek, Steele Creek and Stony Creek.
An early test of this admirable aspiration comes with the application by Ryman Health for residential apartments, reduction in car parking requirements, and removal of native vegetation at the Lionsville site in Pascoe Vale Road Essendon. (Planning Permit MV/269/2022, 1-3 Moreland Rd and 262-270 Pascoe Vale Rd, Essendon).
The Lionsville site is adjacent to the intersection of Moonee Ponds and Five Mile Creeks. It is just about the only section of the Moonee Ponds Creek downstream from the Strathmore North Primary School that was not concrete lined during the 1970s. The Friends of Moonee Ponds Creek and Council have put a lot of effort into beautifying it, and it is a very tranquil and agreeable part of the creek.
John Kavanagh, President of the Friends of Moonee Ponds Creek, says the applicant has proposed a visual and environmental eyesore of drastic proportions. He says the applicant has spectacularly failed to address the address the sensitive interfaces of both the Moonee Ponds and Five Mile Creeks. The building height of 39.55 metres, within metres of the Moonee Ponds Creek and shared walking/bike paths, is unacceptable. There will be massive overshadowing. Already vegetation has been inappropriately removed, and the application flags further vegetation removal.
I encourage our supporters to access the proposal on the City of Moonee Valley website and lodge an objection. Developers like to run big applications over Christmas, and this one is no exception. The consultation process with local residents has been poor, and many are unaware of the proposal. Issues concerning indigenous heritage, the legal situation of an application for 6 storeys when the site has been an aged care site with a 4 storey limit, and the handling of asbestos on site, are key concerns. Given that the site backs on to the creek, it would make sense for Council to seek to negotiate for some of the site to be handed over to Council to manage as public open space and increase the creek valley, but there is no evidence Council has tried to do this.
Council should reject the application and negotiate with Ryman Health and local residents for a much-improved outcome.
CROWAG 2023 TREE COVER FORUM
The Combined Residents of Whitehorse Action Group (CROWAG) is working on a Forum next year on Saturday 25 March to bring the public together to discuss the value and importance of urban forest, and the negative impacts of tree and understorey destruction on private and public land in Whitehorse. Last week I met with Ross Gillespie to discuss it, and I think it will be great. Watch this space for further details.
CROYDON CONSERVATION SOCIETY UPDATE
Liz Sanzaro has sent me a report from the Star Mail about the Society’s endeavours to save important native vegetation at the Croydon Railway Station. The vegetation was planted by the Croydon Conservation Society over 40 years ago, to provide more wildlife habitat in the area and improve the amenity of an unattractive street. The planting was named the Crane Memorial Plantation following the death of one of the founding members of the Society. As a result, it has both wildlife significance and heritage significance.
The vegetation is threatened by the Level Crossing Removal Project, which proposes to replace the vegetation with concrete structures. Liz Sanzaro says there will no longer be any noise reduction from the vegetation. “It will be a heat sink instead of a habitat for birds and other creatures”.
The Croydon Conservation Society is not opposed to the removal of the Level Crossing, but they want genuine consultation over what they see as poor design. “We’re going from very village-type native vegetation into something that’s extremely urbanised and built, made of hard materials with no opportunities for softening or cooling”. Liz Sanzaro says new development in the Shire of Maroondah has seen its tree cover drop from 35% to around 26%. “We’re going backwards, right at the time when climate change is in everybody’s face and we should be doing the reverse”.
GOOD NEWS 1. – LAKE KNOX
Knox Council has refused Development Victoria’s proposed residential subdivision, involving removal of the dam known as Lake Knox. Council’s grounds for refusal included the impact of the proposal on the vulnerable Blue-Billed Duck. They also included the proposed extensive removal of native vegetation, and the extent of the residential sub-division encroaching into the designated Mixed-Use area of the Comprehensive Development Plan.
The decision is a significant victory for local campaigners against the development. The Mayor noted that “Council received more then 1170 objections in total across both applications and these were carefully considered in reaching our decision”.
GOOD NEWS 2 – KILMORE
Mitchell Shire Council has refused an application to develop multiple dwellings at 14 George Street Kilmore. Council described the proposal as inconsistent with neighbourhood character, inconsistent with the Kilmore Structure Plan, and as not meeting Council’s objectives concerning dwelling diversity, integration with the street, street setbacks, open space, and landscaping.
The decision is a win for local residents who are seeking to maintain Kilmore’s township character. Meanwhile the Kilmore and District Residents and Ratepayers Association Inc (KADRRA) has written to Council seeking an extension of time for the application by the Kilmore Racing Club to remove the reserve status of land at East Street. There is an ongoing battle between the Racing Club, which wants to sell the land for a housing development, and local residents who want to see it remain as open space. Council should agree to extend the time, and convene a public meeting in order to give residents a better opportunity to ask questions and express their views about the application to remove the reserve status of the site.
WORLD HERITAGE MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR ROYAL EXHIBITION BUILDING AND CARLTON GARDENS
Margaret O’Brien has drawn to my attention that Heritage Victoria is now seeking submissions on the World Heritage Management Plan for the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. Heritage Victoria has released a revised draft World Heritage Management Plan for the site. It can be accessed via the Heritage Victoria website. They are now seeking public submissions on Part 1: Overview Site Management Plan. Submissions must be received on or before 17 February 2023. They should be emailed to [email protected] or posted to the Steering Committee via Heritage Victoria at PO Box 500 Melbourne Vic 8002.
The Friends of Royal Exhibition Buildings and Carlton Gardens will be developing a submission in response to the draft Plan. They believe that the site has not been given the attention it deserves, and hope the Management Plan will rectify this. I intend to promote their submission once it is completed, so that others interested in this issue can support it.
WAR ON PLASTIC
Since my last report, Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority has uncovered 3000 tonnes of waste in sites in Melbourne’s west and north as part of its investigation into the collapse of the REDCycle program. This was Australia’s largest soft plastics recycling program, promoted by Coles and Woolworths.
Hundreds of millions of plastic bags and other soft plastic items dropped off by customers at Coles and Woolworths were secretly stockpiled in warehouses, and not recycled. As well as being likely landfill fodder, they are now fire hazards. Coles and Woolworths have a lot of explaining to do about how this debacle arose, and what they intend to do about it.
Annette Cooper has suggested we could hold a Forum on this subject in 2023. She says that she and a friend started picking up rubbish in Gardiner’s Creek during lockdown in 2021. They were appalled at the amount of rubbish that collects on the banks, such as polystyrene, plastic, metal, golf balls and face-masks. She says that polystyrene foam was scheduled to be phased out in Australia in mid-2022, but it’s still with us.
Moonee Valley Sustainability plans to run community clean ups in 2023 with a focus on litter around Moonee Valley waterways. More detail will be provided in future reports.
LANDFILL BUFFERS AND INDUSTRY SEPARATION DISTANCES
Kaye Oddie has advised that the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued two new draft guidelines, a “separation distance guideline”, and a “landfill buffer guideline”. The guidelines are intended to protect human health and amenity from the effects of pollution and waste, and to protect industry and landfills from inappropriate land use and developments nearby.
The EPA is inviting public feedback by 17 February 2023. Detail about the guidelines can be found on the EPA website, or on Engage Victoria.
BOROONDARA BUILDING APPROVALS
Ian Hundley had an article published in Eastsider News December 2022 about the Building Report and Consent process in Boroondara. He says that where developers seek to construct buildings that do not comply with the siting requirements of the building regulations, they are required to submit what is known as a Report and Consent application to Boroondara Council. Ian says the consultation process with neighbours is inadequate.
For example, where a developer seeks to build an oversized front fence at a property in a street characterized by low or no front fences, the only people the matter is discussed with are neighbours immediately next door and opposite. Others living in the street are not advised and have no say. Ian says this is harming streetscapes, as are decisions regarding setbacks and overshadowing.
PRIVATISATION OF PUBLIC LAND
Alison Joseph has been researching the largely secret selloff of publicly owned land. She recently had a letter published in the Midland Express talking about her research. She says she first became aware of the issue when working with Brighton residents opposing the development of Dendy Beach. Midway through a VCAT process the entire beach was converted from a public reserve to Freehold in the name of the Council. She became concerned about Land Use Victoria creating titles and transferring land without any public process. She has come across examples of freehold conversion in Elsternwick, Kilmore, and Maldon, which re-enforce her concerns.
It would appear that there needs to be more transparency about the disposal of publicly owned land in Victoria. And more consideration about whether our generation has a right to sell off these public assets, thereby depriving future generations of land – they’re not making any more of it.
STOP THE GREAT WALL OF FRANKSTON
Jennifer Young has started a change.org petition titled “Stop the Great Wall of Frankston”. The Petition states that Frankston Council’s Draft Structure Plan for the city centre proposes no mandatory height limits. It says that if Council approves the Plan, a wall of high-rise buildings will separate the Frankston community from its beach and waterway.
You can see the petition on change.org. Of course, people who sign such petitions should not feel under any obligation to make a financial donation (which goes to change.org rather than the group sponsoring the petition) or disclose personal information.
PLANNING DEMOCRACY FACEBOOK PAGE
Earlier this year, with help from Peter Robinson, I set up a Planning Democracy Facebook Page. I have left it largely moribund due to lack of time to attend to it, and uncertainty on my part about how much time it would take up if it took off.
I do intend to start putting more information on it, so you are welcome to have a look at it if and when it suits you. I am acutely aware of the risk that social media can invade and take over people’s lives, including mine, so you should not feel obliged to follow it. I do not intend that it become a substitute for the Convenor’s Reports and emails as a way of getting things done and keeping people informed.
SPARE A THOUGHT FOR NIMBYS
I have never been “NIMBY”, given that the allegation inherent in that term of abuse is one of hypocrisy – that a NIMBY would allow the development provided it were elsewhere. I do not accept Population Ponzi scheme growth in Melbourne, or anywhere else, and don’t try to foist it on others. And I think that people who defend their way of life and quality of life are not selfish at all; they are carrying out a civic duty. I enjoyed the article in The Pulse, a website by Ross Elliott, who is based in Brisbane, titled “Spare a thought for NIMBY’s”. In it, Ross observes that property owners are heavily invested in what happens in their street and in their neighbourhood. They are legitimately concerned about things like “road congestion, parking problems, and damage to neighbourhood character”.
He takes to task the planners and self-proclaimed experts who complain about NIMBYs. In particular he demolishes Brendan Coates from the Grattan Institute, who earlier this year opined that “The key problem is that many states and local governments restrict medium and high density developments to appease local residents concerned about road congestion, parking problems, and damage to neighbourhood character”. He derides this “Father knows best” paternalism, and industry complaints that in 2019 the City of Brisbane prevented further development of townhouse style “missing middle” housing in low density streets of detached houses. How dare the City of Brisbane listen to the 100,000 residents who responded to their community survey, rather than the professional experts? He also observes that large developers are quite happy to take advantage of retail hierarchy planning laws to fight off competitors, when it suits them.
Ross suggests that NIMBYs respond to the allegation in the same way as Darryl Kerrigan in the film classic “The Castle “ – “Tell em to get stuffed!”.
BRUNSWICK APARTMENT SURGE
The Grattan Institute and the property developers complaining about residents cramping their style haven’t had a look at Brunswick recently. In just 10 years, from 2011 to 2021, the population of Brunswick East has grown by 56%. (Census data)
The Brunswick Voice reports that recently built high rise apartments in Lygon and Nicholson Streets are housing just over half of Brunswick East’s 13,000 plus residents. The combined total population of Brunswick, Brunswick West and Brunswick East at the 2021 Census was nearly 53,000, an increase of 19% since 2011.
BULLDOZERS COMING TO CAMPSIE
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that residents like 85 year old Kenneth Campbell, who has lived in his home in Campsie, NSW, since he was 2, Caroline Gillham-Racz, 75, who has lived in the same street for 6 decades, and Garry Toogood, who was born in Campsie 80 years ago and has lived in the suburb ever since, feel powerless and betrayed by Canterbury-Bankstown’s Master Plan for Campsie.
Council intends to rezone most of Campsie as high-rise residential. This will allow towers of up to 18 storeys in their streets. No doubt the Grattan Institute thinks Council should not “appease” these and other lifelong residents, and that the residents should meekly cop the skyscrapers next door, or, even better, sell and leave their life-long homes.
Overdevelopment did not really feature in the Victorian election. It will be interesting to see if New South Wales, which has an election in March next year, is different.
THANK YOU AND MERRY CHRISTMAS
Thank you to everyone who has helped me this year, enabling our Forums, Questionnaires, and support for local groups. Thanks for the updates and the information, which many groups and supporters tell me they find very useful. Thanks to everyone in the resident action groups for everything you’ve done to protect our heritage, tree canopy cover, open space, and residents democratic right to a say in what happens in their street and their neighbourhood.
I know we don’t win as many as we lose, but that doesn’t make the wins any less important.
Best wishes to you and your family for Christmas, and I look forward to renewing contact with you in 2023.