There are few more serious breaches of faith in a democracy than governments lacking transparency and using extreme powers to force through a decision at the expense of the community.

The Victorian Government’s approach and proposal to redevelop public housing at Markham Estate in Ashburton has been ill-thought- out from the very beginning:

  • The Minister for Planning took away Council’s planning control and made himself the responsible planning authority for the site.
  • The Minister refused to allow the community to have the usual rights which apply in any other planning process. The community is barred from their normal notification processes or to an independent appeal process.
  • The plan proposed an excessive number of private housing apartments. We were told that this is necessary to pay for the cost of building public housing. Meanwhile, a similar public housing project in Darebin is not subject to funding from private housing sales.
  • The development plans lodged with Council include 27 failures to comply with the Boroondara Planning Scheme, 30 failures to provide adequate information and 56 failures to comply with the Minister’s own newly released guidelines for new apartments.

The list of nonsensical actions by the Victorian Government goes on. In late December, Council was asked by the Minister for Planning to provide feedback on amended plans that were to be prepared following Places Victoria’s community engagement period.

It was disappointing to see that the amended plans received in early February remained incomplete and have not addressed the significant concerns raised by Council and the community.

In the amended plans, Places Victoria claims that they have increased boundary setbacks between the site and the adjoining park and improved the landscape design. These are incorrect.

The facts are that the increased setbacks will be occupied by large elevated decking structures, and modifications made to the landscape design will jeopardise the health of established canopy tress purported to be retained.

The fact remains that cramming 250 dwellings on what used to be a 56-unit development is ludicrous. It will cause traffic nightmares and will destroy our beloved neighbourhood character.

Six and seven storey buildings in an area where existing detached homes are a maximum of two storeys is completely unnecessary and driven by an entirely false construct.

The cost neutral economic basis for the size of the development includes the cost of land that was bought and paid for by the Victorian taxpayers many years ago. This cost should be excluded, enabling a smaller scale proposal, more in keeping with the area.

Over the years, we have lost a significant number of public housing dwellings within the City of Boroondara. With nearly 2000 people in inner-eastern Melbourne on the waiting and transfer list for public housing, Council supports increased public housing in our city.

What we don’t support is sham consultation and the destruction of our neighbourhood character and amenity.

Council remains strongly opposed to the proposed development. I call upon you to help voice our deep concerns by writing to the Minister for Planning ([email protected]) to stop this monstrosity from happening.

Cr Phillip Healey

Boroondara Mayoral Blog