VCAT hearing update day 11. Thursday June 14

Day 11– 2nd last day- a tough one

590 orrong road ben coughlan

An artist’s impression of the plan.

Expert witnesses for the developer continued, starting with the heritage witness from architects and consultants Lovell Chen. Mr Peter Lovell recognised the “Heritage Overlay 130” of the Armadale Precinct including Beatty Avenue and Toorak Station and that the area was of “particular significance”. A recent VCAT refusal decision on heritage grounds for a five storey development on the old squash courts site was brought to his notice.

The Tribunal in that case stated this area was a “unique heritage environment within the Heritage Overlay 103” and went on to say “that with this overlay, there needs to be a particular sensitivity to change that demands a heightened level of care on developing a design that acknowledges and responds to this precinct’s distinctive qualities”.

Despite this, Mr Lovell concluded that the location of a 13 storey and 9-10 storey building at the station entrance, dominating and overlooking the heritage Beatty Avenue shopping strip “would not diminish its significance as a heritage place”.

He admitted that these and other buildings “are in close proximity” and “will be observed from within these area and present strongly in backdrop and horizon views” and will “alter the area”. Nevertheless he comes to the conclusion “that the intimate heritage character will remain unaltered”.

According to Mr Lovell we will still be able to “move along Beatty Avenue and experience the Edwardian ’village’ atmosphere with it modest scale and picturesque presentation”(!!) We heartily disagree Mr Lovell, but we would wouldn’t we. 

We pointed out that residents with homes in the heritage overlay have to go to a great deal of trouble to gain planning approval for alterations to their heritage homes yet a developer of land abutting this heritage precinct does not have to pay any regard to the heritage nature of the surrounds and can construct a series of high rise towers of unsympathetic design.

ben coughlan

An alternative artist’s impression.

If this development proceeds with its towers dominating this special area its heritage status must be diminished.

The second witness was Mr McGur, a town planner who fully supported the whole proposal with a few criticisms only on some minor issues. Oh dear.

He was followed by Mr Brown, acoustics expert who spoke mostly about developer’s plans to cater for the apartment dwellers who will experience train noise. He did not visit the train line to test himself the noise levels of the diesel freight trains. He tested this only with recording devices placed in certain spots. In answers to questions it seemed he was unaware that the early morning (midnight to 4.30am) freight service to Hastings and Gippsland had significantly increased and that because of the very long loads were now serviced by very noisy double headed diesels. He had not given any thought to the residents of the Beatty Avenue homes who are likely to suffer from reflective freight train noise flowing from the (proposed) high wall of buildings opposite. These are acoustics he left unconsidered.  Oh well.

The last witness appears tomorrow – another urban designer, Mr Biasci of Contour Consulants. His evidence will be followed by the lead barrister for the developer, Mr Canavan presenting his summation. Then we have to consider “conditions” which would be attached to a Planning Permit should the Tribunal decide to uphold Lend Lease’s appeal.

 

The report looks something like this.

Homework

We believed that we would be given a right of reply to the developer’s case.  At 4.45pm today we received a copy of Mr Canavan’s summary report and were told we needed to examine it overnight and be ready tomorrow to reply to it. The report is 61 pages with 267 paragraphs. Looks like we will have to stay up till the early hours to read through this and prepare comments.  Added to the problem is the Tribunal’s instructions that we can only comment on “new” points – we cannot comment on the evidence of the expert witnesses or any points we might think are incorrect.

 We will have more to say about this in our next report.

LAST DAY TOMORROW – ARE YOU COMING FOR THE LAST HURRAH? It could get interesting. Stakes are high and the end is nigh.

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