The City of Whittlesea has approved a planning permit to subdivide the site of the former Mernda Primary School into 35 residential lots.
Council purchased the site in 2014 from the State Government after the school relocated to a larger site in 2011, with the intention of developing the site into dwellings to help fund future community infrastructure.
The land was valued, purchased and rezoned by council for housing, and the profits from this enterprise are intended to be placed into a fund for the future development of the Regional Mernda Recreational Reserve.
The 35 residential lots will be of varying sizes and orientations, including 21 lots with an area of 299 square metres or smaller and 14 lots of between 300 square metres and 500sqm.
Being council-owned land, City of Whittlesea was both the applicant and decision-maker for this subdivision at this month’s council meeting.
To ensure accountability, City of Whittlesea’s director of planning and development Justin O’Meara explained to administrators the application was created by the council’s property department but evaluated and managed by the planning and development department.
Planning consultants were also employed to mediate any feedback between the two departments.
“It was always kept at arm’s length and separate. The property team and our planning team never spoke directly,” Mr O’Meara said.
Council will also pay the same development contribution rates as any other landowner in the City of Whittlesea.
No further decisions have yet been made about the nature of the development but Mr O’Meara said council may have the ability to provide affordable housing options.
The property department will prepare a report with recommendations for council by the end of 2021.
The land, about 800 metres north of Mernda train station, is rectangular in shape with a frontage of 120.3m to Johnsons Road, measures about 2.02 hectares and is largely flat.
The site does not contain any buildings, but features significant native vegetation and a large numbers of mature trees, some of which will be removed.
It was noted at the meeting that consideration of this planning permit had been a lengthy process, with council officers raising concerns in relation to vegetation assessment, drainage, bushfire planning and the layout and roads within the subdivision.
The final planning permit reduced the proposed number of lots from 38 to 35 to protect some large trees and a tree roots and create an additional reserve.
The application attracted four objections, which identified concerns relating to noise, traffic, urbanisation, lots of wildlife and natural views and associated mental health impacts for neighbouring residents.