VCAT sends the Dudley/Arthur developers back to ‘do it better’

You may recall our post last year on the five storey buildings proposed between Arthur & Dudley Streets along Circulatory Road. Originally a VCAT hearing had been scheduled for last October based on one set of plans.

However, an amended proposal was submitted and VCAT eventually heard the case over a period of five days at the beginning of February.

The developer’s team consisted of lawyers and multiple expert witnesses. Nillumbik Shire Council, which opposed the application, engaged a barrister to represent them but ECAG, Friends of Nillumbik and local individual objectors represented themselves.

The hearing was an exhausting experience for ECAG members but was made much more bearable by the many residents dropping in throughout the week to lend their moral support. Equally, there’s no doubt the show of community opposition to the proposed development didn’t go unnoticed by the presiding VCAT members.  Thank you to all of you who came along. In addition, we’d like to thank the more than 300 people who originally objected to the proposal and also the nearly 130 who gave ECAG the authority to act on their behalf.

Each day of the hearing was different and emotions varied wildly.  However, without a doubt, a high point was when a very talented ECAG member managed to prove to the architect, VCAT members and the applicant’s lawyer that the proposal was not just a tad over the discretionary height of 17.5 metres in a small section, (as had been maintained) but was actually approximately 4 metres over at 21 metres!

Ultimately this height proved to be one of three elements which caused VCAT to decide to uphold Council’s decision in not granting a permit.

The other two elements were the failure of the proposal to provide adequate articulation to the buildings or to provide for adequate landscaping on the sites to ensure that the development would sit comfortably within their context in Eltham.

In the end, VCAT decided that even imposing conditions on a planning permit would not be enough to ensure an acceptable outcome meaning that a whole new application will need to be submitted for any development of this site. To help us gain an insight into what form any new proposal might take, VCAT members suggested that

A more responsive and appropriate development for the review site will be one that complies more closely with the preferred height limit of 17.5 metres, which provides a greater level of articulation and depth to the eastern façade of the proposed buildings, and which provides landscaping opportunities along the eastern boundary.

They have further recommended that 3 significant trees should be considered for retention in any further proposals for the site. Although this is only 3 out of 26 existing trees on the site, it is one more tree than had previously been earmarked for retention. VCAT members did not agree with local residents that the proposed parking measures would pose a problem.

Of course, we will need to wait and see what new plans are submitted but rest assured, we will be looking out for them!

You can read the full VCAT decision here.

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