By Lauren Duffy
People will get to have a say about each town’s expected growth scenarios in the Macedon Ranges Shire when council opens up a report for community consultation.
Macedon Ranges Shire Council made the decision at its meeting last week to seek community feedback on a report titled Macedon Ranges Residential Land Demand and Supply Assessment, prepared by Urban Enterprise in January 2020.
The report is predominately a collection of data from different sources to identify supply and demand, and recommends a growth scenario for each town based on the demand generated over a number of years.
The report outlines towns forecast for low, medium and high growth, with Gisborne designated to grow from a large district town to a regional centre by 2036; Kyneton and Romsey expected to grow from district towns to large district towns; Riddells Creek and Lancefield expected to grow from small to district towns; and Woodend to play a minimal role in accommodating growth.
The report was initially prepared to feed into the Gisborne Futures and Romsey Structure Plan projects, but was expanded to guide recommendations on what land supply was required in each town on council officers’ requests.
When it came to report being subject to community consultation, officers recommended that no consultation was required.
But an alternative motion by Mayor Jennifer Anderson for council to undertake community consultation on the report was supported by Crs Bill West, Mark Ridgeway, Anne Moore, Rob Guthrie, and Annette Death.
Council officers recommended any community engagement should be undertaken independently of council, potentially costing about $50,000.
Officers also warned that community consultation would result in ‘considerable delays’ associated with the delivery of Gisborne Futures and Romsey Structure Plan projects, and council would be at risk of losing a $100,000 grant from the Victorian Planning Authority.
Cr Anderson said she wanted less costly community consultation options to be explored.
She said feedback from the community was essential to protect town character, natural environment and rural land.
“Does the community of each town support the projected population growth?” she said.
Cr Anderson said she wanted community to members own the growth strategy for their towns and tell council what they desired and why.
“The assumptions behind each growth scenario needed to be shared with each community,” she said.
“CEOs change, town planners change, councillors come and go.”
Cr Anderson said she disagreed with the officer’s report and acting chief executive Angela Hughes the report was a technical document.
“It is very important to know these growth scenarios because that determines the trigger to say ‘oh we’ve reached that boundary or that land supply’,” she said.
In opposing the motion, Cr Geoff Neil said township plans were already completed for towns such as Lancefield, and only applied to Gisborne and Romsey.
“The fact is this document is not applicable for four towns – they’ve already been determined, there’s a ring around them … the fact is they are going to be developed and that’s the end of it,” he said.
Cr Ridgeway said council being open and transparent was important, and helped build resilience, trust and sense of united purpose with the community.
“Growth scenarios – that is something that is of interest to a lot of people in our shire,” he said.
Cr Guthrie said he regularly received community feedback on the subject of growth and population projections.
Cr Pearce voted against the motion, saying it was a technical document by professionals, and the council’s 10-year-old settlement strategy should be looked at first.