Residents powerless when facing development

10 Woodville Road sit on the crest of the hill which concerns residents even more about parking in the street. Picture: MIKAYLA VAN LOON.

By Mikayla van Loon

When John Graham and his wife moved into their Woodville Road property 51 years ago, it was vastly different to what it looks like now.

Surrounded by open space, the property was in the ideal location overlooking the Dandenong Ranges.

“We chose this spot because of the views to the mountain. It was on a steep slope but we wanted an outlook which we could appreciate,” Mr Graham said.

Since then houses have sprouted, filling every block of land on the street.

It’s now in its next phase of development as the larger blocks of land are subdivided to squeeze multiple houses on what used to contain just a single dwelling.

And now, the Grahams’ view of the Dandenongs is under threat from a neighbouring development.

Mr Graham said residents, including himself, are starting to feel powerless about the ever increasing development that is happening in the area.

“Up until relatively recently subdivisions which occurred on Winyard Drive, they were single storey and were subdivided into two lots but in the last six months this has now gone up to four, five and six per block,” he said.

The most recent example was the 78-80 Winyard Drive subdivision which will have eight units built across two blocks.

“If you look on the railway side of Winyard Drive towards Manchester Road it is a very sad place and I understand that development along there could hopefully improve the appearance because it is littered with houses that are ready for demolition, that are vacant and not cared for.

“But the other reason for that is, people simply feel powerless to actually stem this tide of rampant development that is being approved by the council, so people are just simply moving out.”

Councillor Len Cox said the major issue with these developments getting approved, not only in Mooroolbark but in his ward area of Kilsyth, is the lack of parking for the amount of tenants that actually drive a vehicle.

“It isn’t good enough. Applicants for those dense units really should be putting in one unit less and more car parking spaces,” he said.

“Out in this area, everyone’s got a car, the public transport isn’t all that good unless you are very close to a train station and if you are close to a train station the situation is a bit different.”

The planning application for 10 Woodville Road, argued that the development was within reach of public transport and had amenities within walking distance but in some cases those amenities were up to two kilometres away.

“It is, in our area, inadequate. The State government tends to make some of these planning rules to suit inner Melbourne and in inner Melbourne it’s quite adequate to have those car parking spaces because people don’t have as many cars because they have got plenty of public transport,” Cr Cox said.

But under the Yarra Ranges planning scheme, medium density developments like the one proposed for 10 Woodville Road, Mooroolbark, are allowed.

Although refused by Yarra Ranges Council at the 27 July council meeting, Mr Graham said it is inevitable that the developer takes the case to VCAT.

Cr Cox voted against the motion to approve the planning application and said he would not have done so without good reason.

“The difficulty is that the planning scheme as it is allows for these medium density developments and all of the ones that come up to us, fit into what the planning scheme says,” he said.

“So realistically it is very hard to refuse them and if we do refuse them, they always go to VCAT and VCAT agrees with the developer quite often, not always but quite often.”

But Mr Graham said he believes the proposal to build three, two storey units has bypassed a number of ResCodes including visual bulk, traffic management and neighbourhood character.

“We do not have a problem with responsible development but the issue here is that the council appears to be ignoring the ResCodes and the planning policies to support the developers ambitions,” Mr Graham said.

“If one takes the trouble to read through the ResCodes and read through the requirements of consolidated areas and to higher density or incremental increases in housing density, there is nothing, absolutely nothing that says ResCodes in these areas should be relaxed.”

Accepting of the need and desire to grow, Mr Graham is not opposed to single storey dwellings being built at 10 Woodville Road, as long as they comply with the ResCodes.

Mr Graham said he was surprised to receive so much support from the council in refusing this application but was grateful to have his voice heard.