Mar 15

Council Meeting Report

This months Council Meeting discussed two significant developments, and a third which had many questions asked but wasn’t discussed directly. The first being the Communications Tower at Buninyong (voted down unanimously), the second had to do with development occurring in Mount Clear and Mount Helen. And then we had an old stomping ground at 315 Fussell Street.

All these are situated in the very beautiful green belt the caresses Ballarat’s East side, the entrance to our beautiful, and diverse city. We will keep an eye on these other developments with interest.

Regarding 315 Fussell Street, the council officers who had looked into the issue very closely and made a fabulous attempt to marry the needs of Neighbourhood Character with needs of residents, with the needs of the developer with the guidelines from the previous VCAT hearing and with all state and local planning rules – phew – huge effort indeed. The proposal suggested the development return to nine units, add canopy trees and more extensive vegetation and alter roof-lines, materials and individual designs to increase the diversity of the development. We presented and so did the developer.

Then things hit the skids. Cr Fletcher introduced a new proposal to put the development back to 10 units. His argument was that it was similar to Alfredton and they had those size blocks.  These suburbs are not, or should, look or be treated the same. Neighbourhood Character is about supporting difference. Only Cr Ben Taylor and Mayor Harris arguing eloquently in favour of the council officers proposal of nine units. We missed out on hearing from Cr Des Hudson which was unfortunate, he was an apology.

On the up side our work saw the development down from 16 units to 10, increased diversity, increased diversity and increased open space. However its just not enough, it took two years of hard work and effort. Our council and state planning laws are allowing developers to run the planning issues in our city, building the slums of the future. A great comment by one of our subscribers click here describes recent media claiming we are creating a future that we cannot support from a health point of view. Worth a read.

Another procedural issue we will be requesting advice on is that fact that once the proposal was changed we had no right of reply, this is a sad state of affairs for our democratic process…

Again, don’t take our word for it, call your Councillors, read the minutes, get angry and turn up at the community meeting on Sunday with a few curly questions, go on, we dare ya…

Here is the text of Erin McCuskey presentation to council that night:

Re: Planning Application Permit PLP/2011/803 relating to 315 Fussell Street Ballarat East.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening. Tonight we have heard from residents objecting to developments in areas our Buninyong, Mount Helen and now Ballarat East. These areas are all connected and we ignore the big picture at our peril. I know some residents have chosen to email or phone to let you know their thoughts. Others are silent with rage and a sense of helplessness.

Ballarat East as you know is currently the subject to some major development applications; generally residents have felt that the case at 315 Fussell St is a watershed development. Situated in the centre of the very green valley that lies close to Canadian State Forest in a very green belt surrounded by properties on acreage with abundant vegetation and wildlife. The property sits on the east of Fussell Street, a thoroughfare that draws a clear line between country and city. The east side of large country lifestyle properties, while the west side smaller properties still larger than what was once considered a standard block.

This property has been the subject of conjecture since 2010, in that time residents have informed themselves, arm themselves with knowledge, committed to community meetings, letter writing, talking to neighbours, sharing stories, attending mediation, going to VCAT, public speaking and generally being public about their love for this area. From it has grown an active group ready to share knowledge, to make sure other people know what has happened here, to be a lighthouse – to forewarn.

I believe the best outcome for this block was one large dwelling, lots of vegetation and open space. The developer first wanted 16 units then 14 all the same, limited parking, and limited vegetation, limited open space. Council agreed with residents this was extreme to say the least. Councillor Des Hudson described it as a “pimple on a pumpkin”. Then the VCAT decision and the developer response with 10 units, all the same, limited parking, limited vegetation, and limited open space. Then Mediation and we have a bit less sameness a bit more vegetation. And now we have a council officer proposal for 9 units with increased diversity, increased open space, and increased vegetation. Half a pimple yes, but still a pimple.

And I want to personally thank the Council officer for being so thorough, for adhering so closely to the VCAT guidelines, for working on increasing diversity through materials and roof-lines, and for ensuring each property will have a canopy tree. It’s fantastic that the officer has allowed no “guideline creep” for want of a better word, I feel as though our effort has been respected and while I do not love this development I can live with it as part of the judges decision. I feel as though developers get too much leeway generally, from residents who feel they cant fight, from council officers overworked and working with abhorrent state planning scheme, and get leeway from VCAT. I am exceptionally pleased the council officer who completed the report has not allowed leeway.

Developments such as this will simply increase in number of the next few years, directly attacking neighbourhood character, limiting diversity, reducing open space and limiting parking making streets and footpaths difficult to negotiate. We urge council officers and Councillors to nip these ambit claims in the bud, when they arise, saving residents time, money, effort and worry over applications that drag on for years. Don’t allow developments in areas like our that have limited infrastructure, council has confirmed they have no plans for an activity centre near our area, yet we are subject to huge developments.

However be in no two minds about the fact that this development still does not meet resident’s requirements, stills is in high contrast to the Neighbourhood Character of the area, however myself and others are prepared to take the judges decision. We will respect the wishes of VCAT and the council if you accept the council officers recommendations.

One comment

  1. Victoria Wardlaw says:

    I attended the meeting and raised the issue of road safety at 315 Fussell St. Can’t believe that VCAT and Council do not consider that the decision to approve the plans in current form is basically, creating another traffic hazard. The shared driveway on a crest, what the??

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