There was a very, very good turnout at tonight’s forum. We estimate approximately 85-90 residents. Also in attendance was Mr Steve Dunn acting CEO of the VPA (Victorian Planning Authority) and some of his colleagues.

The evening was again facilitated by Ms Nathan. Following her introduction which assured residents that nothing was ‘set in concrete’ and that everything was on the table, Aiden Mullen from council presented the results of the previous survey and council’s plans for further community input. This was followed by Mr Dunn’s presentation where he outlined the role of the Victorian Planning Authority and also provided overheads of the work they have done thus far – eg. several projects in Bundoora (3000 dwellings on a 104 hectare site and another one (Polaris) which has 1100 dwellings on 12 hectares). Interestingly all the slides of development presented by both Mr Mullen and Mr Dunn did not show any buildings of higher than 4 or 5 storeys for the latter and 3 storeys by council!

The audience was then asked to discuss at their tables the ‘vision statement’ and to answer the following questions:

VISION STATEMENTEast Village will be a thriving, mixed use precinct with a focus on employment, innovation, education and housing affordability

THE QUESTIONSDo you agree with the vision? How would you change it? What would the table’s vision be? (10 minutes).

What are the tables 3 priorities to include in the structure plan in order to achieve this vision? And how?

RESPONSES

Each table then reported back to the entire audience on their discussions. We summarise the major points below:

  • Problem with language – people did not know what ‘innovation’ referred to – far too vague.
  • More clarity required about the term ‘affordable housing’ and this should be changed to ‘diversity of housing’
  • Questions about what ‘village’ means and is this a ‘village’
  • Traffic and car parking are major problems
  • Desire for low rise townhouses. Some tables nominated a maximum height limit of 3 storeys and others up to 6 storeys.
  • Diverse views on the need for another school and whether this should be part of McKinnon High or another new school entirely.
  • Open space that wasn’t covered over in concrete
  • A new supermarket required but also not a threat to other existing businesses in the area.
  • No waiving of car parking spots
  • Environmental sustainability across the entire centre including flood mitigation

COMMENTS

How useful an evening like this has been remains to be seen of course. It will largely depend on how many of the above comments find their way into the final structure plan. In other words to what extent is government, council and the developer listening to the locals? Will we have maximum height limits of 3, 4, or 5 storeys? Will we have open space that is more than a ‘village square’ surrounded by high rise? Will we have 2, 3, or 4000 apartments and only a handful will be categorised as ‘affordable/social housing’? Will the traffic mayhem of North and East Boundary Roads be fixed by appropriate infrastructure? Will an entire new school really happen and how big will it be? Will retail offer fair dinkum employment opportunities or are we going to get employment as slave labour (ie kids) working for McDonalds and supermarket check out staff? What carrots will be dangled in front of major companies to come to Virginia Estate and will this cost ratepayers anything? What is the appropriate percentage mix of retail, to housing, to industry/offices – 50/50? 70/30? Who decides – the market, council, state government?

There are literally a myriad of unanswered questions and in our view a vision statement as presented above does not clarify anything. The questions that go with the vision statement are also far from ‘objective’. They are there to simply endorse the ‘vision’ rather than to really elicit knowledgeable commentary from residents.

PS: not one councillor was in attendance that we saw!

PPS: it has now been months since talk of establishing a ‘community reference group’ to work with council on the East Village project. Thus far – silence! Will this group eventuate and if so will it be when all the planks have already been set in stone?

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