ANYTHING that increases the density of residential development in Venus Bay will be referred to the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority and in all likelihood will be rejected due to the potential for inundation (flooding) affecting the only road into town.
That goes for new subdivisions, re-subdivisions, unit developments and now, also for dual occupancy applications.
Venus Bay is not Inverloch, not yet.
There’s effectively no other protection against increased density.
The one-road-in, one-road-out situation at Venus Bay is a double-edged sword for those who want the town’s character to stay as is.
That, in a nutshell, is the impact of a decision by the South Gippsland Shire Council last week to refuse an application for a dual occupancy development, on two allotments in Bradley Avenue, Venus Bay – effectively four houses on two side-by-side allotments.
However, as council finished voting on the contentious issue, the applicant, prominent Melbourne architect, Lindsay Holland, was heard to say: “I’ll take it to VCAT”.
He has that right and he might yet win at VCAT.
For the shire’s Director Development Services, Brian Sword, the application was a watershed moment in Venus Bay as he believes it was the first application for a dual occupancy development in the town.
“Previously such applications would not have been allowable because of the area of land needed around a new septic system but that has recently been changed by the State Government.”
Higher tech septic systems reduce seepage and contamination.
The shire officer’s report for the application at 55-57 Bradley Street gave “conditional consent” to the Land Capability Assessment for the septic system.
But Mr Sword said the shire’s planning department was fully justified in referring the application to the catchment management authority.
He said the shire had approved an application in Toora which would have increased density of development but the WGCMA objected due to the potential for inundation in the area.
And he said a recent decision, by an independent planning panel, against a small residential subdivision adjacent to the Venus Bay Caravan Park, also informed council’s decision to refuse the dual occupancy application.
“We’ll get a copy of that judgement in February (Venus Bay subdivision refusal) and that will assist us in our decision making but if we hadn’t referred the (Bradley Avenue) application to the CMA and one of the objectors took it to VCAT and we lost, we could have had to pay compensation to the applicant if it was found we hadn’t followed due process.”
So referring it to the CMA was a risk management process and much as it was a planning consideration.
Prior to last Wednesday’s council meeting, when the decision was taken, both the applicant and the objectors made presentations to the council.
There were 11 objectors in all.
Mr Holland, a highly experienced, award-winning design architect, said his proposal complied with all council’s requirements, including the Bushfire Management Overlay and was in fact not increasing residential density when compared with some of the large-scale housing developments in recent years.
He said he had chosen a project that was both financially viable and environmentally sustainable.
The objectors didn’t agree.
Nearby resident David Balsamo was adamant.
He said it was contrary to the coastal character of Venus Bay which he said called for “low rise buildings in vegetated landscapes where privacy was respected and fences are few”.
But the shire’s own planning staff rejected this:
“It is considered that the proposal would have minimal if any effect on the existing neighbourhood character. The applicant rightfully points out in their submission that the locality is characterised by a mix of styles, ages, building materials, colours, height, setbacks, bulk and there is no consistent neighbourhood character in this locality. Whilst the DDO5 and LPPF attempt to provide a consistent envisaged character, they lack specific guidance on exactly what type of character they want to promote. The DDO5 contains the reference to “coastal village character” but it is not further defined. Coastal village character is subjective, and whilst most people in South Gippsland may associate it with low density, low rise cottages/shacks dispersed throughout a vegetated landscape, it could also mean bright or pastel coloured, large or small dwellings in an environment that is largely devoid of natural vegetation. “Coastal styles” vary between coastal towns all along the Victorian coast, even from town to town within this Shire and within each town. As an example, Inverloch coastal style is quite different to Venus Bay, which is different to Walkerville. There are examples of large contemporary and “urban” style dwellings located only 60m to the north-west of the current site that are much bulkier and noticeable in the landscape.”
The shire also said it was not an overdevelopment of the land.
In fact, Mr Sword acknowledged this week that beyond the CMA’s concerns about the impact of climate change and floodplain risks affecting the main road into town, the planning scheme offered no protection/objection to proposals like the one put forward by Mr Holland.
Several councillors, including Cr Alyson Skinner, also admitted as much.
Cr Skinner said she hoped these issues would be clarified when the shire completed its planned Coastal Management Strategy early next year.
“Our council will be working on a Coastal Strategy and should refuse this application until the outcome of that strategy is known,” Cr Skinner said.
Cr Hill said the shire should have approved the development because it complied with the planning scheme.
“It doesn’t mean people like it necessarily but it does comply with our planning scheme,” he said.
He also claimed that if the shire referred every residential project to the CMA, no houses would be built in the town but this statement wasn’t supported by Mr Sword who said the CMA had made it clear that “one house, one allotment” projects would be supported.
No to dual occupancy for now in Venus Bay