By Dennis O’Connell
At a packed meeting on 10th September 2012, reminiscent of the one on 6th June last year, Banyule Council soundly rejected an application by Banyule Management Ltd, to subdivide the
historic property and erect 2 two storey and one three storey, modernist town houses in its grounds.
Friends of Banyule, together with Heidelberg Historic Society and local residents, conducted an extensive letterboxing and lobbying campaign and submitted detailed submissions to Council objecting to the proposed development. Altogether, thirty seven objections and one petition of ninety signatories were submitted to Council.
You will recall that this matter was being considered under heritage legislation on the last occasion, with Council also rejecting the proposal then. Unfortunately, Heritage Victoria subsequently approved the application subject to certain conditions relating to renovation and maintenance. The matter came back to Council this time however, for a planning application under the Planning and Environment Act and Banyule Planning Scheme.
Council officers produced an extensive report culminating in a detailed recommendation rejecting the proposal on various grounds. These included: being inconsistent with neighbourhood character, impact on vegetation overlay (removal of 11 existing trees and potentially further in future), visual intrusion on neighbouring property and importantly, on views and vistas from the east along the Yarra Trail and from the picnic viewing area of the Banyule Flats conservation reserve (for which Council are seeking a heritage listing). Various other grounds as well were raised, including set backs from the reserve, erection of a paling fence, non compliance with Rescode, etc. Melbourne Water also raised concerns re the visual impact on the amenity of the parklands.
John D’Aloia asked an opening question in question time requesting the agenda item be brought forward so that discussion on Banyule House could commence (to which Council agreed given the large number of people attending). A number of people amongst the 100 or so who attended, spoke in support of the recommendation and against the proposal. These included Jane Crone (heritage property owner in Eaglemont), Kevin Biaggini (Ivanhoe Development Committee), Greame Speers, President, Heidelberg Historic Society and myself on behalf of FOB. All spoke passionately re the matter, all noted the importance of Banyule House to the community and its importance as a significant heritage asset, making it clear to Council, the degree of feeling in the community regarding unique property after which Banyule is named.
All Councillors present spoke strongly in support of the recommendation, with a motion moved by Mayor Tom Melican adding an additional Part (b) which requires … “ Council officers to ensure suitable senior legal counsel and specialist (planning and heritage) representation be engaged in the event that the matter proceeds to VCAT”. The motion also notes that local MPs within the City of Banyule be advised and that Council seek their support in any appeal to VCAT. Whether Parliamentary representatives choose to become involved or not, the requirement to engage appropriate senior legal counsel should the matter proceed to VCAT, is significant and will at least give Banyule Council a fighting chance in that event.
Following discussion at length, the amended motion was finally adopted unanimously. This represents a significant win for the community, for residents, caring enough about this significant piece of Banyule’s and the state’s heritage. Whether by helping with lobbying, letterboxing or turning out in force at the Council meeting on the night. It is also a win for community participation and democracy at the local level Thanks to all those who assisted with the campaign. Special thanks to local residents Leon Le Rossignole & Max Congdon, as well as Kevin Biaggini, Ivanhoe Committee, and importantly, Janine Rizetti and Graeme Speers of Heidelberg Historic Society, all of whom contributed significantly to what is a very welcome and pleasing outcome.
Our congratulations also to Banyule City Council, all Council officers and to our Mayor Tom Melican, a strong and passionate defender of Banyule’s unique heritage assets and environment.
- Australia’s Yarra River at Risk from Development (ecowatch.org)
- Yarra ‘needs new rules’ (theage.com.au)