Talking with residents in Travancore and Flemington over the weekend, planning continues to be the most discussed local issue.
Travancore and Flemington are close to the city, so we expect some development and increased density. But we don't expect, or accept, that our beautiful streets and neighbourhoods need to be spoilt, or that residential amenity should be sacrificed for developer greed.
Areas particularly under threat of over-development are those abutting main roads and commercial precincts including Racecourse, Mt Alexander, Epsom, Ascot Vale and Maribyrnong roads.
Residents living in areas without heritage protection, like Newmarket, are under increasing stress as a stream of developments are proposed in the area.
So what can we do?
VCAT recently rejected an 8 storey (25m), 62 dwelling development at 436-442 Mt Alexander Rd. This was in an area designated by Council for 3 storey dwellings - or 5 storey for key sites. VCAT found that:
the Council had done extensive strategic work on the Mt Road corridor and had set preferred heights
the site had direct residential interfaces and
the proposal failed to address the interfaces in an acceptable manner
You can read the decision here: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/1531.html
What this demonstrates is that where Council puts in the strategic work to specify heights, residential interfaces and other preferred design elements - including neighbourhood character and heritage protection, VCAT can support the intent of these planning guidelines.
This means Council needs to continue to put in the work at the strategic level to detail the preferred heights and design elements in areas that are likely to be subject to development.
Council officers also recommended approval of the proposal at 436-442 Mt Road demonstrating, as one resident put it, a real gap between elected councillors and officers at Moonee Valley.
It's an ongoing project, but Council putting its shoulder to the wheel and doing the hard strategic work is essential.
From the VCAT decision:
With respect to the proposal’s height, scale and form, the proposal is not acceptable having regard to the site’s physical and strategic context. The strategic direction for the corridor has been the subject of extensive policy development and the resultant planning scheme controls give effect to that policy development. Preferred maximum heights have been established and, while these are not mandatory, the extent to which this proposal seeks to exceed those heights is not acceptable on this site. The review site has direct residential interfaces and the design of this proposal has failed to address those interfaces in an acceptable manner. The amenity impacts of this proposal on its residential neighbours are unacceptable.