There is a salutary lesson for residents and council in the comparison of the Caulfield Village development process and what is fast approaching for the Virginia Estate project. Residents need to be fully aware of:

  • The impact of rezoning (ie Caulfield Village rezoned to Priority Development Zone, and Virginia Estate now mooted rezoning to MUZ and/or Commercial 1)
  • Council acceptance of an Incorporated Plan for Caulfield Village and the potential acceptance of a ‘Management Plan’ for Virginia Estate – both of which will allegedly provide the ‘conceptual framework’ for development but without real detail. No objection rights for residents – decision is made by council.
  • Development Plans (ie the details) which then follow for each precinct but which only have to be ‘generally in accordance’ with the Incorporated/Management Plan. These Development Plans can be amended time and time again, and have been for the Caulfield Village.

Readers will remember that the Precinct 2 application (just under another 400 dwellings) for the Caulfield Village was refused at ‘manager’ level by Council without Council displaying this until after the fact. The developer immediately went to VCAT, where the decision has now been handed down. Once again, the developer has basically won, and all previous promises (ie real social housing element, ‘housing diversity’ has gone).

The ‘problem’ with this entire process is that the Schedule for the Caulfield Village which Council accepted and which provides all the ‘musts’ is so vague, and basically useless,  that the developer has all the cards stacked to his advantage. Fundamentally,  council’s requirements were inadequate and our fear is that unless some real lessons are learnt the same will occur at Virginia Estate. For example, the Caulfield Village history is:

  • No on-site visitor parking required (at this stage 2063 dwellings – originally mooted at 1100 in the Incorporated Plan). Precinct 2 now has 45 on site car parking spots but this is dependent on the ‘largesse’ of the developer and not on council’s Schedule.
  • Amendment after amendment that allows balconies to encroach on setbacks
  • No definitive statements on social housing except this useless sentence in the Schedule – The provision of affordable housing in the form of social housing. No definitive statement on how many ‘social housing’ units, or how this is to be managed. Readers will remember that council wrung its hands in dismay when Precinct 1 was allowed without any social housing and the arguments of Hyams et al were that future precincts would meet this requirement. So much for promises!
  • No definitive statements on ‘housing diversity’ – thus Precinct 1 has over 40% as one bedroom dwellings and Precinct 2 will likely have 2.2% of three bedroom apartments according to the plans.

For the full VCAT decision, please see: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/1965.html

As we’ve said above, unless the lessons from Caulfield Village are learnt, and learnt properly, then we fully expect that the Virginia Estate project will follow in the same manner . It is the job of this new council to ensure that every single potential gap in any Management Plan and accompanying Schedule is spelt out so that the developer has as little wriggle room as possible. If this is not done, then we can rest assured that the eventual Management Plan will not be worth the paper it is written on and the entire project will duplicate the abysmal planning that occurred and is still occurring with the Caulfield Village!

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