Council has voted to support a modified development proposal for 31 Houston St (formerly 70 Camp St). The initial proposal was for a series 12 metre high ‘sky barrels’. Council failed to meet its timelines to consider the proposal and the applicants took their case to the Victorian Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Amended plans to build five elevated shacks have now been formally substituted for the original proposal. The “Shacks” proposal consists of structures built on stilts that will be approximately 9 m high. They are proposed for the Cornish Hill mining precinct which has significant heritage value.
Mr John Hanagan, a lawyer for the applicants, addressed the Council meeting on Tuesday arguing that ground for objections have been met by lowering the overall height, changing the character of the buildings and changing the vehicle access arrangements.
However, objectors to the proposal maintain the description of the proposal as ‘shacks is misleading’. In addressing Council on the proposal, Mark Rak said, “How many mining cottages are built on 4 metre stilts and look like shipping containers?” Mr Rak claimed that the shacks will remain visually intrusive despite being lower than the original barrels and that they are out of character for the area. He also noted that the Council’s heritage report has not been released.
Leane Howard also addressed Council on behalf of the Daylesford and District Historical Society. She claimed that the shacks will have a detrimental impact on the Cornish Hill precinct – an area seen as an important part of local mining history.
Despite objections, Council supported the proposal in a split vote, provided that a series of conditions are met. This included a height limit of 9 metres and a series of conditions for vegetation management, vehicle access, lighting, waste management, road works, car parking and bushfire management.
Cr Don Henderson spoke against the motion arguing that ‘shacks on stilts are unacceptable’ for an area that some in the community would like to see listed as part of a world heritage proposal.
Councillors Drylie, Bray and Halliday supported the applicaiton. Cr Simpson and Cr Henderson opposed the motion and Cr Hood abstained. Cr Hewitt had absented herself due to a conflict of interest. Cr Drylie used both his deliberative and casting vote to carry the motion.
In a statement, Dr Leanne Howard said, “There has been little avenue or opportunity for local history and heritage expertise and voices to contribute to this issue of great concern to the local community. Through perceived failures of the Hepburn Planning Scheme and Heritage Overlay, and the Hepburn Heritage Strategy, it is the local community that has had to step up. Our concerns now remain that these perceived failures are not repeated in the future. The Hepburn Planning Scheme and Heritage Overlays should be robust enough (and respurced) to guide the process. The current Hepburn Planning Strategy needs to be more than just rhetoric.”
As a result of the Council decision, objectors to the proposal have reached an agreement with the developer in a VCAT mediation.
Mark Rak is a member of the Editorial Committee for the Wombat Post. He did not take part in editorial decisions for this story.