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Wollert ‘super lots’ proposal rejected

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A PLANNING permit application for the development of four ‘super lots’ on Bindts Road, Wollert has been rejected by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Dahua Epping Development Pty Ltd challenged the City of Whittlesea at a hearing last month over the subdivision of the large plot of land east of the Wollert township and west of Plenty Gorge Parklands.

The developer proposed a staged subdivision of two sections of the land into 205 residential lots and four ‘super lots’, the creation of reserves for open space, vegetation removal and demolition of various heritage elements.

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The proposal area covered 30 hecatres alongside the Darebin Creek.

Both parcels contain dry stone walls associated with the land’s farming history, and native and introduced vegetation is scattered throughout.

Council said its key concerns related to what it determined were the proposal’s failures to meet mandatory requirements of the Quarry Hills Precinct Structure Plan, which have been incorporated into the Whittlesea Planning Scheme to guide the development of the new residential area; respect the heritage significance of buildings and dry stone walls; address bushfire risk; and provide adequate supporting information.

VCAT upheld council’s decision and did not grant the planning permit for several reasons, including insufficient bushfire management and the demolition of various heritage elements.

VCAT found insufficient regard had been given to the historic and aesthetic significance of dry stone walls in the permit zone. Dry stone walls date back to the gold rush and can be found across Victoria. They are often made from local bluestone, basalt, honeycomb or scoria stones.

VCAT also reasoned it was unclear how the subdivision layout had been designed to properly respond to bushfire risk, given the extent to which neighbouring public land would be relied upon for the provision of suitable buffers.

It ruled that reliance upon neighbouring public land for the mitigation of bushfire risk was not an acceptable management response when such land is set aside for biodiversity conservation purposes.

The verdict forces Dahua Epping Development to redraw its planning permit application, which council’s director of planning and development Justin O’Meara said it would work through with the developer.

“We respect decisions handed down by VCAT and will be re-engaging with the developer to work through the particulars of this decision to ensure any future development proposal has appropriate consideration to the historical significance at this site, as well as mitigating bushfire risk,” he said.

“Our experience with VCAT is that all applications are considered thoroughly against the relevant planning legislation.”

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