When the Premier announced the Bass Coast Distinctive Areas and Landscapes (DAL) process, he promised “a re-elected Andrews Labor Government [would] permanently protect … the for “grossly expanding” Cape Paterson’s northern boundary.

Fortunately, the DAL process gives the Premier the chance to deliver on his vow to protect the environment, landscape and local lifestyle of Cape Paterson and to reverse the Guy decision that apparently outraged Mr Andrews as much as it did locals.

Among the aspects up for consideration and variation, if needed, are the location of boundaries for the various Bass Coast settlements.

This is particularly important for Cape Paterson, as a Mornington-based developer has made clear its desire to develop the rolling farmland to the north with up to 980 new dwellings.

With Cape Paterson only recently passing 1000 existing dwellings, this would irretrievably alter the character of the settlement – in size alone, clearly, catapulting it from a “village” to a “town” in the hierarchy of settlements outlined in the draft Statement of Planning Policy (SPP); but also in many other ways, given the likely impact on wildlife, the loss of the juxtaposition of farmland and sea that is such a contributor to the area’s landscape setting and amenity, and the increased traffic affecting quiet village streets mainly populated by retirees and holidaying families.

Such a development would also undermine the reputation Cape Paterson enjoys, enhanced by The Cape ecovillage to the west, as a settlement that places significant value on the natural environment, sustainable living and thriving local wildlife.

This contributes to Cape Paterson’s appeal as a place to live, but is also a unique and valuable village identity within the Bass Coast Shire that should be protected and preserved. It also, of course, adds to the area’s desirability as a tourist destination.

Ironically, the SPP acknowledges most of this, and yet leaves the Cape Paterson boundary in its expanded position.

The explanation appears to be a perceived need for additional housing, based on flawed population growth modelling and without properly considering more suitable alternatives.

The Cape Paterson population growth modelling by independent adviser Urban Enterprise extrapolates from recent growth, driven in part by the ecovillage development with its niche offering and driven also by the area’s appeal as a destination for retirees and holidaymakers.

It does not address the fact that a massive development to the north will dramatically affect the appeal of the village to that market, and therefore demand.

To be fair, a throwaway final acknowledgement warns the Urban Enterprise report focuses on economic and property aspects, and that any planning policy will need to consider matters outside the scope of the report and expertise of Urban Enterprise “such as infrastructure, environment, neighbourhood character and so on.”

Sadly, it appears this warning was not heeded.

Finally, the SPP seems to erroneously equate Inverloch and Cape Paterson as serving similar markets.

It suggests demand may be transferred between the settlements if further land is made available in Cape Paterson and supply becomes limited in Inverloch.

Similarly, a local real estate agent recently on these pages advocated development at Cape Paterson, arguing Inverloch has undergone significant expansion while retaining its “character and charm” and there was “no reason Cape Paterson can’t be the same”.

The thing is, they’re not the same, and nor do they want to be. Ask any property owner in Inverloch or Cape Paterson and they will have a clear reason why they chose one over the other.

Those in Inverloch wanted the cafes, services and livelier feel, or access to the inlet and pier.

Cape Paterson residents, in contrast, overwhelmingly favour the retreat feel of the town, the very absence of retail outlets, and the village feel that allows wildlife including koalas, echidnas and wombats to coexist.

The aim of the DAL declaration is to ensure the protection and conservation of an area’s distinctive attributes.

The SPP has had a good stab at identifying the distinctive attributes of Cape Paterson, but fails when it comes to protecting these by not preventing overdevelopment to the north by reducing the settlement boundary.

Thank goodness Cape Paterson has a powerful protector. Over to you, Premier.

Carolyn Batt is a former journalist who has been holidaying in Cape Paterson for over three decades