OVERDEVELOPMENT concerns were at the heart of a Mitchell Shire Council debate about a proposal to build four units at 54 Melbourne Street, Kilmore.

Councillors eventually signed off on the development, which was recommended by council officers, after Cr Nathan Clark proposed an alternative motion to refuse it.

Cr Clark said the development as presented failed to meet the requirements of the Mitchell Planning Scheme and Kilmore Structure Plan.

He said allowing high-density housing close to the centre of town flew in the face of Kilmore’s character and status as Victoria’s oldest inland town.

“The existing neighbourhood character is very important. When the development is in a small infill site, it might be sympathetic to the buildings around it,” he said.

“We want to minimise the impact of urban development on the historic, environmental and rural settings of settlements, so being in a historical part of town with a lot of other old housing there, the new development does not match.”

Cr Fiona Stevens supported Cr Clark’s motion to deny the planning permit, saying the site was too small to support four units.

“The total site area is 597 square metres. In the old scale, that’s just over one [seventh] of an acre. Based on that, this development is far too big for this block,” she said.

“We’ve knocked back similar applications on blocks even slightly larger than this, so I’m struggling to find why this one is an exception to the rule.

“By the time you put the rubbish bins in there [along with] the little storage shed, you couldn’t swing a cat. It’s just not good planning.”

Council received four objections to the proposed development, with objectors’ concerns including a lack of visitor car parking, lack of garden space for each unit and the second stories of the units overlooking the fences of adjoining properties.

Council officers recommended a condition to include a visual screening to the upstairs balcony of the third unit, but said the other concerns were consistent with the Mitchell Planning Scheme.

Cr David Lowe said future higher-density housing near the centre of towns was inevitable and the development created diversity in Kilmore’s housing options.

“Kilmore may well be the oldest [inland town in Victoria] but that doesn’t mean it can stand still,” he said.

“We are going through a rapid period of change, and smaller units and smaller blocks are the type of the future.

“[It provides] diversified housing types and addresses the population growth in a suitable location that gives good access to services and the [main] street of Kilmore. I can see this being quite an attractive property for young singles.”

Cr Rhonda Sanderson said she would have preferred only three units on the lot but was prepared to sign off on the development.

“We talk about needing infill development and this is infill development. It’s in a central location, which is a great place for flats and units,” she said.

“We want flats and units in the centre of town rather than on the fringes of town, so we’ve been knocking back flats, units and high-density [housing] on the fringe of town.”

In the absence of Cr Annie Goble and the recusal of Cr Louise Bannister, who declared a conflict of interest in the matter, the vote for Cr Clark’s alternative motion was split, with Cr Clark, Cr Stevens and Mayor Bill Chisholm in favour and Cr Lowe, Cr Sanderson and Cr Bob Cornish against.

Cr Chisholm was granted the deciding vote as Mayor and said in keeping with council tradition, he would uphold the officer recommendation even though his personal preference was to refuse the permit.

Cr Clark’s alternative motion was defeated and the discussion reverted to the original officer recommendation to approve the planning permit.

The original recommendation was carried, with Cr Chisholm, Cr Sanderson, Cr Cornish and Cr Lowe voting in favour and Cr Clark and Cr Stevens against.

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