About the Proposal
Another development application for vacant land adjacent Andersons Creek has been submitted to Council. This time it’s the ‘horse paddock’ opposite Cemetery Road. Sold earlier this year for a little over $2 million, development is now in the hands of  Shepparton Company Itsomac Pty Ltd. Formed a day before the auction, the company has no track record in the development industry.

1000 square metres is the regulation minimum size of a lot in a neighbourhood residential zone. Itsomac has taken the typical approach to sub divison planning, squeezing as many lots as possible onto the 2.75 acre title. 7 of the 9 lots are just over 1,000 square metres, while 2 are well under. This kind of layout is generally allowable under the 'averaging option'. As long as the average size is over 1000 square metres, then the plan is OK.

But zoning clause applies to the entire state. The development on this block is also controlled by 6 different Warrandyte specific overlays. In general these overlays limit and place conditions on sub divisions. Ultimately this requires the Responsible Authority (typically the lcoal Council or VCAT, but occassionally the Supreme Court) to make on balance judgements about such things as the environmental impact, fire and flood risk, cultural heritage, biodiversity and amenity and neighbourhood character for example.

Threats take many forms. In general this proposal is further evidence of development pressure on the West end of the township. From the developer's point of view, there is a 'weak spot' in the protectios in Warrandyte. The stretch from the East End donw to Stiggants is controlled by a township overlay, but between the reserve and the GoldFields, the protections are weaker.

While developers don't work in concert, they work towards similar aims. Certain development agencies advertise themselves on the basis that they can break down controls in specific neighbourhoods. They gnaw away at those controls incessantly, until one day they set a new precedent either through Council or VCAT. The net effect is that controls are loosened over time, as first one clause then another is interpreted in the developer's favour. It's up to citizens to be conscious of this, vigilant as to the consequences of development proposals and acitive in expressing their concerns.

In particular, the idea that relatively inaccessible blocks could be gated off around private driveways is a precedent that could open up a lot more Warrandyte land to sub division. There are threats to the natural environment around Andersons Creek as well. Blurred jurisdictional responsibilities for Creek governance , made worse by the fact that most of the East bank of the creek downstream from the bridge is zoned 'Unreserved Crown Land', sees environmental issues compounding around the Creek's lower reaches. Over development of Keen's land, and subsequently Aumman's upstream makes a bad outcome almost inevitable, at enormous public cost.

Other risks include:

  • Vegetation removal: rationalisation of clear felling whole blocks based on the need for defendable space.
  • Biodiversity: Discounting the ecological value of remnant woodland on the basis of intermittent or no recent sightings of fauna. The issue being that monitoring is intermittent or non existant, meaning no one actually knows.
  • Conservation: The declaration of a self declared 'building free zone' amybe just another way of green washing intense development proposals. No one knows what that means, and it is unlikely to withsatand a court challenge. In English Law 'a man's home is his castle'.
  • Access: The subject land is described as 8 - 20 Keen Avenue. The problem for the developer is that Keen Street extends along only half the length of the creekside (Keen Ave) boundary. This limits Itsomac's ability to maximise the number of lots in the sub division. (Anecdotal reports suggest that the developer has tried some questionable tactics to overcome this but has finally settled on a new access point on Yarra St.). If permitted, this kind of 'back door' access to properties could open up Warrandyte land with similar access issues. The result in this case would establish 4 lots with their (potentially unsightly) backyards facing Yarra Street.
  • Public Cost: The removal of trees on public land as integral to the development proposal. This, combined with the addition of an upgraded intersection at Yarra St, low level drainage infrastructure and new demands on a service road create public costs for the purpose of public gain. This contravenes the spirit, and the seldom observed letter of the planning scheme.

If during the permit application proposal there is clarification of the the application of planning law around these and similar issues, then this counts as a win for developers as a class, and emboldens the next permit applicant to build on broken ground. Likewise it os critical for those who value the Warrandyte's existing character, amenity and bushland feel to stand firm and oppose new precedents on these vulnerable grounds. And in the medium term to encourage Council to strengthen protections.

The company advertised its application this month and residents have until November 3 to lodge an objection with Council. Here is a sample of an objection lodged on October 27. Given the unusual design of this sub division several important precedents will be tested.

We willendeavour to keep you up to date here with regular reports as the process unfolds.