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My Opinion Pieces

Herald Sun - Planners have our city's soul in their sights

   Monday, 28 October 2019

RECENTLY I had a conversation with some planning types; you know, the trendy lawyers, planners and architects who want to turn the suburbs of Melbourne into Berlin with high and medium rise apartments everywhere.

They told me we all "have to do our bit" to accommodate the almost 150,000 people moving to Victoria every year, no matter what the effect on the liveability and amenity of established and middle ring suburbs. That's all of us, even those who don't want Melbourne to be the size of London by 2050, or earlier.

The Andrews Government's chief planner, Stuart Mosley, argued that Labor's plan is "to accommodate 70 per cent of the new housing growth in Melbourne's established areas.

That means densification".

The Andrews Government's planning policy of 70 per cent of new development into established suburbs will ensure, whether you like it or not, a tsunami of people, cars and flats sweeping into Melbourne.

If you think some of our suburbs are being destroyed by too much medium and high density development now, wait for the disaster your area will become with even more cars, people and densification.

The government's chief architect, Jill Garner, also weighed in on the type of Melbourne she would like to see: "I know so many people who grew up in apartments in Vienna or Berlin and the idea of a home on a block of land to those families, well, it just doesn't happen in those places. You just need people . in their 20s to go, "I don't want to live in a house in Endeavour Hills or wherever on a block of land, I'm happy to be somewhere busy and tighter and in a community of 20 other people." What's wrong with a home and a backyard in Endeavour Hills?

Victoria's population is growing by nearly 150,000 people every year; 77 per cent of our population live in Melbourne and about 86 per cent of our yearly growth settles in the capital. Victoria needs a decentralisation strategy to grow the state, to take the pressure off Melbourne and grow our regional centres. Piling more and more people into Elsternwick, Ashburton, Box Hill and Bentleigh for example, will not make those suburbs more liveable.

Recently I attended a residents' rally in Elsternwick, opposing a 10 and 14-storey mixed use twin tower development for a Woolworths supermarket and flats in a relatively quiet side street. The development will overshadow Glenmore, a magnificent 1868 heritage home.

Elsternwick has seen significant development in recent years, with locals complaining that traffic congestion is a nightmare. This development will make it worse.

A suburb that once had a village atmosphere is being irrevocably and negatively affected by overdevelopment. The protesters are not unreasonable Nimbys as Labor would have you believe. They are decent Melburnians who don't oppose development; they just think 14 stories in a residential area is a bit much. And it is.

The development and construction industry is vital to Victoria's economic growth, but the Andrews Government's insatiable and clumsy plan to trash our heritage and build flats everywhere will begin to bite in the next couple of years as traffic congestion only gets worse. The heritage and beauty of our established suburbs is being obliterated by blocks of flats.

It was heartbreaking to stand and watch as a beautiful example of a Victorian-era home was flattened in Auburn Rd Hawthorn so 14 flats could be built in its place.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne refused to step in to save the property.

Boroondara is the only municipality in Victoria where the Andrews Government has ensured heritage buildings can be destroyed even with interim heritage controls in place.

Meanwhile, the battle to save 81 Charles St, Ascot Vale, continues.

Residents have collected 3269 signatures to strengthen their case.

This community action to protect the soul of our city is a recurring theme around Melbourne.

BUT the most bizarre of all is Kingston Council's approval of a three unit development in Clarinda where part of the base of a 50m high-voltage electrical pylon stands in one of the backyards. Not only is this pylon an eyesore, neighbours report they can hear buzzing whenever it's windy or raining.

Those are some of the consequences of Labor demanding 70 per cent of new development in established suburbs. Richard Wynne told parliament this year that "Plan Melbourne clearly articulates the distribution of population from established suburbs of 70 per cent is in fact the position of our government and in fact, we will achieve that outcome".

So for anyone who doubts the government's intent to radically change Melbourne's suburbs from the pleasant places they are now, be very concerned because they are on the way to being ruined forever.