WALKERVILLE in South Gippsland is set to become the location for an innovative coastal housing project to rival the design status of Dinner Plain in the Victorian Alps. The proposed development, estimated to be worth in excess of $45 million, was unveiled publically for the first time at a community briefing session hosted by the South Gippsland Shire Council last Wednesday. It’s hardly surprising that the ‘Walkerville Coastal Village’ concept and the multi-award winning Dinner Plain project should be mentioned in the same sentence.
They boast the same designer, Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal winner, Peter McIntyre, the designer of Melbourne’s Olympic Swimming Pool and its redevelopment as the Lexus Centre, the Jam Factory, Westfield Knox and the Dinner Plain project for which he won the Sir Zelman Cowen Medal in 1987. Mr McIntyre, together with Jeremy Rich, representing the owners of the property and the developers, gave full details of their project. According to Mr McIntyre, “the object is to create an iconic coastal settlement along the lines of what we achieved at Dinner Plain.” “We have no intention of making a village like Dinner Plain but we developed a special process at Dinner Plain and our intention is to use the same process for Walkerville,” he said. “Up there we built a community meeting place first, the hotel, and then we put in the roads and developed some prototypes for the buildings. “Our intention is to do the same thing here where plans will be designed at no cost to you (the purchasers of the Walkerville Coastal Village sites), based on your guidelines but using the character of these prototypes. “We will sell you the land and attached to the land will be the design. You’ll build it in two years but if you can’t do it, we will buy it back from you which is what we offered to do at Dinner Plain. “But we didn’t have to buy back one piece of land there. “The houses were designed in harmony with the rest of the houses and we’d like to use that process for Walkerville Village.”
Mr McIntyre said the materials used for the Dinner Plain houses were sympathetic with what is available in the surrounding area and the same approach would be taken with Walkerville Coastal Village. He said the 90ha site chosen for the development was adjoining the Promontory Views Estate, and would have a maximum of 81 allotments. He said the developers would build a ‘providore’ or general store/café/restaurant/local produce store that would not only provide daily needs for the local community and also display local produce including wine and olive oil but would also house a restaurant to rival the likes of the Lake House at Dalyesford, Stefano’s at Mildura and the Royal Mail Hotel at Dunkeld. The homes in the Walkerville Coastal Village would be privately owned, he said, but would also be included in an accommodation management system which he predicted would see them occupied by visitors or their owners for most weeks of the year. He also said the homes would use the most advanced, self-contained waste water systems available and would be environmentally sustainable. Representing the developers, Mr Rich said his family had already submitted an application to rezone the land from Farming Zone to Rural Activity Zone, noting that the proposed minimum lot size of 8000m2 or two acres, would be enshrined in the planning approval so that there could be no further subdivision of the sites. “We were delighted to get Peter McIntyre for this project, knowing his reputation, and we’re very excited about its potential for South Gippsland,” Mr Rich said.
Both the Mayor Cr Kieran Kennedy and Strzelecki Ward Councillor Andrew McEwen welcomed the proposal. “Food culture is one of the main aspects of Australian tourism and we need more of it,” Cr McEwen said. Cr Kennedy said the project would “dovetail nicely into the Food Map” launched recently to highlight the wealth of local produce being produced across South Gippsland and Bass Coast shires. Mr McIntyre responded saying that while might be seen as a tourism development, the intention wasn’t to have a noticeable influx of people. He said that once the homes were built and sites landscaped, it would have a very low impact on the surrounding area with people coming for the rural tranquillity as much as access to the beautiful Prom Coast. However, as impressive as the presentation was last week, it’s not over the line yet. The shire’s development services director Phil Stone said it could take upwards of 12 to 18 months to get to the first stage of the approvals process. “The main issue is the lack strategic work around the proposal,” he said, that is, justifying the need for a new Rural Activity Zone in the Walkerville area. He said now that the council had received an application for rezoning, it would be working with the regional office of the Department of Planning and Community Development in Sale to be guided on how to progress the application from here.
Having heard about its formal launch last week, the Walkerville community would also like a briefing on the project. Secretary of the Walkerville Ratepayers and Residents Association, Barbara Ford, said her group had not yet been briefed about the Walkerville Village proposal and was prepared to reserve its judgement until then. But she did express concern about the ability of existing local infrastructure to handle an increase in population. “We have been concerned for quite some time about the restricted access to the beach and the lack of adequate parking,” Ms Ford said. “One of the main concerns is about access for emergency vehicles to the foreshore in particular and also what would happen in the case of bush fire. “If you are going to be adding an additional 80 homes at Walkerville, the shire council is going to have to look at upgrading the infrastructure to cope – the road access to the beach, walking tracks, car parking and the like.” Ms Ford said her group had had informal discussions about the proposal, without being in receipt of any concrete information, but would now be seeking a formal briefing from the shire, the proponents or both.