Lesley Hewitt

Probably the most important Council activity at the moment for officers, councillors and members of the community is the public exhibition of the Future Hepburn Draft Structure Plans. Future Hepburn consists of several projects including the Township structure plans for ClunesCreswickDaylesford & Hepburn SpringsGlenlyon and Trentham and the Rural Hepburn: Agricultural Land & Rural Settlement Strategy. These are out for public exhibition and comment over a six-week period at the moment (and there are four weeks left).

It really is important that everybody has a look at those drafts and think about how the proposed changes, if they go ahead, might impact on them and their communities. You can find more details at Future Hepburn | Participate Hepburn

So why the Future Hepburn project? There are several reasons but the one that makes sense to me is that we want to be able to manage any change that will come in the next 30-40 years. I know a few people who would say that we don’t want or need change. Well maybe, but it will happen anyway. And I think it’s better for us to have some say and control over it.

Those of you who have lived here for 25 years or more, think about the changes you have seen in that time.  Some you might like, some you won’t. The most common thing people say to me since I’ve become a councillor is, “Daylesford has changed. It’s not like it was.” And generally they’re not too keen on those changes. The  second most common thing people say is to point out someone’s building or development and ask, “How did Council let that happen?” And again generally it’s because they don’t like it.

Well, the answer is that for the last 20 plus years we have had no structure plans incorporated into our Planning Scheme in the Shire, either for our towns or for our rural areas. So yes, there has been change, but it’s been unmanaged. Planners and councillors have had to make decisions based on the Victorian planning scheme and some of the local additions. Structure plans, which delineate where development should occur (and that includes infill as well as new developments) give planners and decision makers (which include Councillors and VCAT) guidance on what the community’s preference is.

The third most common thing people raise with me is the lack of affordable housing. In the Shire the vast majority of our housing is 3-bedroom family homes. Land is expensive and our population housing needs are changing. We have a significantly older population, many of whom don’t want to live in a three bedroom family home with the big gardens that we love looking at. But where can they go and still live in their community? And what about key workers? Not only the hospitality workers, or the retail workers but young professionals – doctors, teachers, nurses, health care workers – who are starting out on their careers. We know that work trajectories today are different to what people did in the past – people change jobs, seek a range of experiences and both women and men think about career progression. This is a great area and these younger people come, but we have limited housing options for them too. They usually don’t want 3-bedroom homes with big gardens to look after. The structure plans address this issue too.

They are one of the few levers that our Council has to address housing affordability. So that’s why structure plans are important. That’s why it’s happening now. This Council recognised that it was time to take some control of the change that is happening in our communities .

I know, because I have talked to community members (as have all Councillors), that for some people, there are specific concerns about the proposed extension of the town boundary at East St and for others in the investigation of a buffer zone on Ajax Rd. Of course. But it is a DRAFT structure plan. If you are concerned about either of those two issues,  or even if you just care about what the towns will look like in 20-30 years and want to manage change rather than have continued ad hoc development, then read the drafts, attend the information sessions (there have been a couple already, and a webinar which will be uploaded onto the Council webpage)  and put in a submission.

The other thing people say is, “Well Council never listen anyway.” It’s not true. Both officers and Councillors read any feedback, consider it and seek options that addresses concerns. Options arrived at might not be exactly what each individual wants (a pretty difficult task) but all feedback is considered.

If you want to discuss anything about the Draft Structure Plans contact me at lhewitt@hepburn.vic.gov.au or on 0408793941. You can also attend one of the information sessions. You’re welcome to drop into any session that is convenient, not just the ones scheduled in your area.

At each session, an Introduction Presentation will be given by a Strategic Planner outlining both the Structure Plan and Rural Hepburn strategy’s key planning elements. No bookings are required.

The sessions are listed below.

  • Daylesford: Saturday 1 June, from 2pm to 5pm at the Daylesford Town Hall, 76 Vincent Street, Daylesford. Introduction Presentation will commence at 4pm.
  • Hepburn Springs: Saturday 25 May, from 9am to 12pm at the Bendigo Community Bank building, 113 Main Street, Hepburn Springs Hepburn Primary School, 156 Main Road, Hepburn Springs. Introduction Presentation will commence at 11am.
  • Glenlyon: Saturday 25 May 2024, from 2pm to 5pm at the Glenlyon Shire Hall, Barkly Street, Glenlyon. Introduction Presentation will commence at 4pm.
  • Trentham: Friday 24 May, from 5pm to 8pm at the Trentham Neighbourhood Centre, 56 High Street, Trentham Trentham Recreation Reserve, 25 Falls Road, Trentham. (Introduction Presentation will commence at 7pm.)
  • Creswick: Friday 17 May, from 5pm to 8pm at the RSL, 60 Albert Street, Creswick. Introduction Presentation will commence at 7pm.
  • Clunes: Saturday 1 June, from 9am to 12pm at the Clunes Town Hall, 98 Bailey Street, Clunes. Introduction Presentation will commence at 11am.

Cr Lesley Hewitt is a Daylesford resident and an elected councillor for Birch Ward.

Councillor Columns are a regular feature in The Wombat Post. We offer this space as an information channel from Council to the community. Councillor Columns are not subject to editorial review by our editorial committee but are published as we receive them from our elected Councillors.