Neighbourhood character debated at VCAT hearing

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A HOUSINGdevelopment proposedfor Flora Hill reflectsa necessary shift tohigherdensity living, aVictorian Civil and Administrative Tribunalhas heard.

That was one of thesubmissions in favour of aproposed 15-dwelling development at21-25Curtin Streetheard yesterday as part of the second day of aVCAT hearing at Bendigo Magistrates Court.

Atotal of 87 objectionswere received toan application earlier this year for aplanning permitat the site.

City of Greater Bendigo councillorsvoted unanimously against the proposed development at a council meetingin June.

The tribunalheard submissions yesterday fromthe permitapplicant’s legal representative, John Cicero.

Mr Cicero responded to a number of City of Greater Bendigocouncil and resident objections, includingthat thedevelopment was not in line with the neighbourhood character and impacted the street’s “spaciousness”.

He said there was “nocohesion”in terms of neighbourhood character in the area.

“There is no one identifiable character,” he said.

He said such neighbourhoodscould expect to see more intense development in the future, withplanning policy interested inincreasingthe level of density in places like Bendigo.

“That’s were policy says we should be developing,” he said.

“This is a neighbourhood of change.”

He said neighbourhoods such as the one in Flora Hillshould expect to see more intense development in the future.

Mr Cicero took particular aim at council’s assertion that householdsizesinthe proposeddevelopment were not suitable tostudents, saying students often preferred to share houses than live by themselves.

He said other objections about features of the development, including small laundriesand a lack offences to separate properties, were indicative of a need to make better use ofspace and incorporatemore socially inclusive design.

“We need to adapt as a society,” he said.

“As a community we need to understand space comes at a cost.”

“I don’t see this will create any sort of disharmony- in fact we’re trying to get them (residents)to talk to each other with no fences. We don’t want fences.”

The tribunal alsoheard from consultant town planner Andrew Clarke, who provided expert testimony based on his analysis ofthe proposed development.

He told the tribunal the site fitthe description of an “infill”site suitable for the purposes of medium density living.

In regards to neighbourhood character, which he described as “the critical issue in this hearing”, Mr Clarke saidfuture housing in the areawould be unlikely todevelopin keepingwith”post-war housing”.

He said other objections to the two-storey height of the development were not valid.

“I don’t know of any tribunal decision… that says buildings can’t be built to two storeys in a single-storey area,” he said.

In his closing submission, Mr Cicero said it was “key”VCAT question what needed protection in terms ofneighbourhood character and said residents needed to get used to the idea theneighbourhood wouldchange.

“It will change.What is so harmful about a two-storey, attached development?”

In reply, council’slegal representativeEgils Stokans said there was nodispute about the need for higher density housing but questioned if the proposal was”appropriate for this site”.

“We’re not going to reduce neighbourhood character down to ameresqueak,” he said.

Tribunal member John Bennett asked council and the permit applicant to prepare revised draft conditions, saying VCAThad “concerns” about the draft submitted by council.

Both partieshave10 days for the new conditions to be circulated and another week to providewritten submissions toVCAT.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.