The key Melbourne council taking a stand against the state government and its granny flats

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

An inner Melbourne council will fight the Allan government’s plan to increase housing density and build thousands of granny flats in the suburbs, arguing it will erode neighbourhood character and spark parking chaos.

Giving residents the right to build granny flats without a planning permit rides roughshod over community concerns and could irreversibly change streetscapes, the City of Boroondara said in a statement endorsed by all 11 councillors.

Camberwell Junction is one of 10 locations the state government has chosen to seek to build 60,000 new homes.Credit: Wayne Taylor

The council voted unanimously to oppose most of the key elements of Labor’s housing statement, which is aimed at building 800,000 homes in established parts of the city in the next decade.

The housing statement lacked detail on how the ambitious housing target would be met and had been foisted on communities without warning, the council said.

Camberwell Junction, in the heart of Boroondara, has been identified as one of 10 suburban activity centres where a total of 60,000 homes could be built in the next 10 years – and where the state will wrest planning control from local government.

“The way the reforms have been conceived and ultimately released without consultation is disappointing,” Boroondara senior planning officer Mikaela Carter said at a council meeting on Monday.

“These reforms continue a trend over recent years of concentrating planning powers with the minister for planning, whilst removing the role of local councils and communities in decision making on planning issues.”

The planning minister will also become the decision maker, as opposed to local councils, on housing development projects in Melbourne with construction costs of more than $50 million, if at least 10 per cent of the project is affordable housing.

Councillor Garry Thompson said giving the planning minister control over such projects was “a wolf in sheep’s clothes” that could pave the way for a slew of inappropriate developments.

The council also lashed out at the government’s “completely unacceptable” inclusion of Camberwell Junction among its first batch of precincts targeted for increased density, arguing it “falls well short of community expectations to be involved in planning for the future of their local areas”.

Boroondara has told the government to back off and let council see through its own recently released development plan for Camberwell Junction, which has a more modest housing target of 1500 new homes in the precinct by 2051.

Boroondara residents rose more than a decade ago against government agency VicTrack’s attempt to build a seven-storey apartment building on government-owned land next to Camberwell train station.

The council’s plan, which is out for consultation, proposes four- to six-storey height controls for the same site and heights of up to 12 storeys elsewhere in Camberwell Junction.

“Encouraging higher density housing within the centre will help to protect nearby residential areas which cannot absorb this level of change without detrimental impact on amenity and valued character,” the draft plan states.

Premier Jacinta Allan at the home of Brunswick West resident Helen Polites on Tuesday. The premier was spruiking the granny flat changes.Credit: Simon Schluter

Boroondara said it opposed the government’s decision to give residents the freedom to build secondary homes – or granny flats – on their properties without a planning permit, raising concerns about neighbourhood character, amenity and car parking.

“This change to the scheme will attract significant interest from the community, and public consultation should be undertaken as the introduction of secondary dwellings will
increase the intensity of sites within residential areas,” the council said.

Premier Jacinta Allan and Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny visited a house in Brunswick West on Tuesday morning to spruik the government’s granny flat changes, which will take effect next month.

Allan said many home owners with backyard space wanted to build a small second home there – including families who wanted to stay together as they grew older – but were put off by planning permit red tape.

“Many people have told us that going through that process can be very frustrating and indeed lead them to not building a small second home on your existing property, and from next month that requirement will no longer be needed,” she said.

Jonathan O’Brien, lead organiser for pro-housing-density group YIMBY Melbourne, said the council’s claim that granny flats would detract from neighbourhood character was “patently absurd”.

“Part of the reason that granny flats are being allowed by right is because they are low impact,” he said. “They are out the back of a property, they’re 60 square metres site coverage or less. They impact no one in a truly meaningful way.”

Christina Branagan, a Boroondara resident and heritage campaigner, said the centralisation of planning control was “a completely anti-democratic proposal”.

“Councils or local people may well at times frustrate or irritate those in power when they have to deal with our opinions and give us a seat at the table, but actually that’s fundamental to a democracy.”

A government spokesman said that by the 2050s, Melbourne’s population would be the size of London’s.

“The status quo is not an option,” he said. “Our bold reforms to the planning system will clear the backlog of decisions and streamline the delivery of significant development, increasing the supply of homes and giving industry greater certainty with a planning system that works for Victorians, not against them.”

Get the day’s breaking news, entertainment ideas and a long read to enjoy. Sign up to receive our Evening Edition newsletter.

Most Viewed in National

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article