By Michael Giles

IT’S absolutely irresistible for a land developer – the prospect of turning the underutilised Phillip Island Airport into a new housing estate.
With up to 47 hectares available for such a redevelopment, you could be talking about between 650 to 700 more home sites, multiplied by $180,000 per block; you’re looking at a project worth in the order of $120 million.
It’s big money.
And following the Bass Coast Shire Council’s decision to “commence working with the owners of the Phillip Island Airport to prepare a Master Plan and planning response for the site”, the shire has indicated it is prepared to entertain at least a component of residential development on the land.
But do we need more residential land across the San Remo,
Newhaven and Cape Woolamai townships?
Or should that development pressure be directed elsewhere – Wonthaggi for example?
Here’s what the shire council had to say in its ‘2015 Review of the San Remo, Newhaven and Cape Woolamai Structure Plan’:
“Conclusion: There is no need for more residential land supply as existing residential land supply across San Remo, Newhaven and Cape Woolamai is in excess of 15 years of supply and does not warrant a full-scale review of the Structure Plan”.
This position has just been adopted by the Bass Coast Shire Council at its monthly meeting last Wednesday, July 15.
A “closer look” at the residential land supply across the three settlements, in the ‘2014 Bass Coast Shire Council Land Supply and Demand Assessment’, showed there was capacity for 980 allotments of which 757 were in San Remo, 204 in Cape Woolamai and 19 in Newhaven (made up of vacant lots and broadhectare land in residential zones). There were actually 304 vacant allotments and 676 undeveloped residential land. There were 14 dwelling approvals in San Remo (2013-14), 7 in Newhaven and 3 in Cape Woolamai.
The report found that even on the most generous estimate, there was enough residential land across the three townships for between 20 and 42 years of land supply.
So why not tell the community and developer so up front.
On top of that, the Bass Coast Shire Council’s over-arching planning document, the ‘Bass Coast Planning Scheme’ says that Phillip Island’s southern coast between Cape Woolamai and McHaffie Point at Ventnor should be characterised by “contained coastal settlements set amongst indigenous vegetation, separated by extensive open rural landscapes and areas of native vegetation providing a wild and natural character at the coastal edge”.
That is, stop the urban sprawl and enhance the natural beauty.
Specifically it lists this as the key aim where the Cape Woolamai settlement is concerned: “Preventing any additional expansion of Cape Woolamai, other than what is indicated in the strategic Framework Plan, due to physical and environmental constraints. Prepare a thorough strategic review of the Phillip Island Airport site once the airport’s future is confirmed.”
Despite there being little or no strategic basis for it, the shire council is however, prepared to entertain some sort of residential development of the airport in the future.
Surely this is jumping the gun.
Number one, the site is still zoned ‘Farming’.
It would need to be established first that re-zoning to ‘Residential’ was warranted.
Secondly, the community of Phillip Island has been firm in its view that there is already sufficient opportunity for residential growth on the Island, especially given how poorly resourced it is.
In a brief statement from the Mayor Cr Kimberley Brown this week, the shire claims it is seeking to “provide greater certainty for the community about the layout of the towns in the future”, especially in relation to San Remo, Newhaven and Cape Woolamai; however its efforts where Cape Woolamai is concerned offer anything but certainty.