Archive: Retirement Village on Floodplain, Woodend  ("Woodend Estate")

Last Updated 10/11/14



Woodend Estates.  Woodend... What?!   Is This A Retirement Village - Or Just A Whopping 300 Unit Residential Development Come Resort In A Rural Zone?

(10/11/14 - P)  Brochure says "it will be like living on a cruise ship".  Yep, that description pretty much nails living on this floodplain.   

The recent "launch" of this development comes 7 years after it was approved by VCAT (after also being approved by Macedon Ranges Council in 2006), which means, luckily for the applicant, Council has obviously kept the permit 'alive' by extending it, of necessity several times.   At the launch, a company representative apparently presented Mayor Jukes with a hamper of goodies in deep appreciation for the cups of coffee and assistance the Mayor had provided to get the development to fruition.  Lucky Mayor, too.


The companies behind the development are Prestige Lifestyle Estates P/L and Woodend Estates P/L, which say "Woodend Estate will comprise 300 villas and apartments, recreational amenities, retail, food and beverage outlets and medical facilities", and "Once completed, Woodend Estate will include 205 independent living villas, more than 90 aged care apartments, a 10-bed specialist care facility, a network of walking tracks, BBQ areas, parklands and children’s play grounds."


Prestige Lifestyle Estates also says: "Uniquely, our Estates will be managed by experienced members of the Hospitality industry, including entertainment and travel managers, providing a rewarding lifestyle for over 55s and their families.", while the Prestige Lifestyle Estate's vision includes "creating superior quality resorts throughout Australia for the middle to upper income market."


Stage 1 apparently consists only of "luxury 2 & 3 bedroom villas" (newspaper ads); "The luxury villas and exclusive activities Pavilion will comprise the first stage of Woodend Estate. Another 150 villas will be built over the next 3 years and it is anticipated these villas will be for lease only." (Woodend Estate website); or  "48 luxury villas" (Prestige Lifestyle Estates website).   The Woodend Estates website says these luxury villas are "priced from just $399,000", which (48 units x $400,000) returns at least  $19.2 million for Stage 1.  No timeframe is given for when the aged care/retirement village facilities approved and required for this retirement village will be constructed, so far it's just luxury villas over "the next 3 years".


Stage 1 of the development is being advertised heavily (full page, full colour), and pitched as a great investment opportunity: "Woodend Estates is a prime residential investment opportunity in the Macedon Ranges" (Woodend Estates website), and "Stage 1 provides a range of opportunities for long-term property investors or those keen to secure a short-term investment that can become a long-term home."  


The development made news in the Sydney Morning Herald recently - and Villawood got in on the act, with Mr. Rory Costelloe quoted as saying "The need for retirement options was a constant refrain at the community meetings his company holds in Woodend – although some people in the town are vehemently against greenfield and infill developments.  People say they really need retirement options. A lot of people who live out of Woodend on large properties and farms want to move into town."


MRRA Says:


Oodles of 'resort' and 'residential' - even families and children - but where's the 'retirement' in this 'village' development?   Where are the aged care facilities?  The big earner luxury villa units are up first, and second, but no mention of the facilities aged and infirm people need that are to be included in this approved development. Those facilities are what played to decision-makers' heart-strings and got it approved... yet they are nowhere in sight.


Instead it's all luxury, elite, top investment, verrry expensive - and the sales pitch almost sounds too good to be true.  Perceived highlights are glowingly and amply covered;  what's missing is the multitude of down-sides that exist.


If you want to live here, you are going to have to LOVE freeway noise.  Because the Calder Freeway is right next door - in fact it is the property's eastern boundary.  Yes, yes, there's a noise mound but it is hardly going to be birds twittering and wind in the trees stuff, is it?   Then there's the large freeway ramp which fills most of the northern (frontage) boundary - it's the ramp that lifts traffic to the Mt. Macedon Road overpass across the freeway.  All that noise and over-looking, but the bummer is, you can't actually get on the Freeway here (it's Mt. Macedon Road overpass, not interchange), so it's off to Romsey Road for freeway access (via the Woodend township or Boundary Road).  With those towering earthworks wrapping around two sides, unlike the ads there might not be much of a view to Mount Macedon for some either.


Distance from most things that count is cause for pause.  If not an avid walker or bike rider, it's a car trip (or the bus the development is supposed to run) to get to Woodend's High Street, community facilities and the railway station. 


Something new residents would need to consider is whether they are comfortable settling in Woodend, one of the 52 towns in Victoria that are officially classified as having extreme bushfire risk (it's the potential for a catastrophic bushfire from the south-west to consume the town that does it).   And those trees on the development site?  Very tricky cutting them down: Eucalyptus aggregata, Black Gums, endangered, listed on the Flora and Fauna Guarantee, State level conservation significance - might even involve the Federal government through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.


And then, of course, there's the flooding.  Always the flooding.  The site is as flat as, except for the creek that runs through it, and there's a 900 to 950 ha catchment south of the site feeding the flooding problems. The developer's consultants said, in their report to VCAT in 2007, that "the volume of water stored within the site during the 100 year storm event is in the vicinity of 15,000 to 20,000 cubic metres." (page 9), and "the flow width through the site is considerable given the flow volume, limited capacity of the incised drainage channel and flat nature of the floodplain."  (page 10)   The answer?   "...a 'parallel' storage channel or basin to the east of and adjacent to the existing watercourse area". (page 11)   Oh-oh. That wouldn't be the lake shown in some of the early publicity material, would it?   Problem is, of course, if it's a lake it ain't a retarding basin (which is supposed to be empty when it starts to rain), and won't retard the floodwaters.  C'est la vie - can't have everything. 


Something else.  Although Woodend's a sleepy little country town, this development is anything but, in character.  As tightly packed as Melbourne to country eyes, and very high density for Woodend.  Somewhat wall-to-wall, really, so checking the site plan is a must.  Another thing - the housing style shown on the Woodend Estates' website - particularly the 'at ground level' bit - doesn't quite gel with what Council approved in 2006, and who knows how it relates to requirements for dwellings to be up to 1 metre above ground level.  Check that too.


Research, research, research.


This mammoth development wasn't counted in available land supply in either the Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy 2011 or the Woodend Township Structure Plan adopted by Council this year, and is set to soak up a fair chunk of the growth projected for Woodend, without having to build another house anywhere else.  With three hundred 2 and 3 bedroom units, even using an estimate of 2 persons per household, that's potentially 600 people accommodated (even more if the Settlement Strategy's or Structure Plan's higher persons per household figure is applied).   This isn't good news for the self-interests who are saying the land supply in Woodend has been under-estimated.


Even so, it seems pretty clear that this development is much more than a response to any local Woodend demand and needs. It's about property investment and attracting new people from outside the town.  It's doing pretty much what Villawood hoped to do - creating a brand new growth market.


And speaking of Villawood - aced out again, by the looks of it, on the residential and retirement village fronts.  Not needed, go away.   Shoo!


29/10/14  Now the "Woodend Estate" 2 and 3 bedroom luxury villas.  (no guarantees this link works)

VCAT "Expands" Woodend Township Boundary To Allow Retirement Village On A Rural Zoned Floodplain

(17/2/07 - P) Who needs a planning scheme or a planning scheme amendment when it seems VCAT can change the planning scheme almost at will.

This massive residential development proposal, for 225 retirement village units, a 51-suite supported residential facility, a 40-bedroom private nursing home, a 10 bed 'step-down' medical facility and a central amenities building - in a rural zone - will go ahead after VCAT ruled that although the land wasn't shown inside the Woodend township boundary in the planning scheme "in a formal or statutory sense", such change in use and development that the proposal represents must be "at least contemplated".  So go ahead...


MRRA Says:

Our kingdom for a prescriptive planning scheme...  one which says what it means and tells us what goes where, how it's to be done and what's a no-no.  Maybe then VCAT, Councillors and developers could be tied down to following the same plan we are working from and we might begin to see development that doesn't trample all over our rights, our amenity and our environment and values (all hallmarks of the current planning system), and standards much much higher than the abominations flowing from the Victoria Planning Provisions.


Onya, VCAT.  Things are bad enough without "surprises" like this one.  We'll pop it on our ever expanding list of "Ways You Never Thought Of Getting Rolled At VCAT" and write a letter of complaint to the relevant offices.   Our sympathy to the people who live near this site who bought their land on assurances the land next door was rural - and would stay rural.  It's a pity they can't sue for loss of rural amenity.  Click here for previous reports on this sorry (or should that be soggy?) saga.


Woodend Retirement Village On Floodplain Goes To VCAT

(14/10/06 - P)  Locals battle to keep floodplain rural

A hearing has occurred at VCAT where arguments for and against a 250 plus unit and hostel retirement village have been put.  The "village" is reported as perhaps the third largest ever proposed in Victoria.  Its location on a notorious floodplain, squeezed up against the Calder Freeway, makes the application controversial.  VCAT's decision will be all-important in determining the planning principles to be applied in Woodend, on floodplains, in rural zones, and for retirement villages.  We wait to see which way VCAT goes.


Worry Over Slowness Of Council Processes For Notifying Objectors

(9/7/06 - P)  Notice of Woodend retirement village approval almost 3 weeks late

Objectors to the proposal in Woodend for a 225 unit retirement village and additional 100 bed accommodation were last week starting to worry about whether they could lose the chance to take the development to VCAT.  Although the proposal was approved by Macedon Ranges Council on 14th June, by the middle of last week Council still hadn't given objectors notice of Council's decision (a Notice of Decision to Approve [NOD]) which is usually issued within a few days of Council making a decision.  The key point is, if objectors anywhere decide to take a development to VCAT, they must lodge an application for review within 21 days of receiving Council's NOD.  It was over 21 days since Council's decision when objectors finally got the all-important NOD, dated 3 July, after some urgent calls to Council's Planning Department.  No-one seems to know why Council seems to have dropped the ball or why the NOD wasn't issued weeks ago.  Objectors say they will now be off to see VCAT.


Thar She Blows!  Woodend Retirement Village Gets Predicted Approval: "No Worries" Wins The Day

(20/6/06 - )  "Works well" theory prevails even if retirement units are almost a metre off the ground

By the time a decision was made on this application, it was after midnight.  This time around, Cr. Letchford from the South ward seemed to forget the importance of the zone, the need to keep things low intensity and caring about surrounding residents' amenity (as he had with the Macedon Lodge proposal) because he voted for this intense residential development on a floodplain, in a rural zone (a disappointing form reversal after a good showing with Macedon Lodge).  And there was to be no persuading Councillors Bleeck, Relph, Connor or Neill that a proposal of this intensity, which would likely raise objections in a residential zone, had no place in a rural zone.  Nup, it was a good idea, and needed in Woodend, although according to Cr. Connor it would serve not only Woodend but the rest of the Shire and places outside the Shire.   And of course the applicant's representative's claim that VicRoads had so kindly - and deliberately - constructed the Macedon Road overpass to retard water to protect downstream properties from flooding made approving this application OK (although we suspect all this might be news to VicRoads).  There was much rowdy speech at a very late hour about how we have to look after the elderly (agreed) and how many jobs, and what a great thing, etc. etc. but not much from supporters about how the proposal sat with planning scheme requirements, or how it would result in a practical outcome for the people who would live there.  Cr. Bleeck related how his mother had been forced to move somewhere else because of a shortage of retirement village units, and said we should look after our elderly, to which Cr. Gyorffy responded "yes, but not drown them".  An objector's detailed and sourced assessment that this village would, with other similar existing or proposed facilities in Woodend, provide some 730 units in the town when the anticipated demand in Woodend would be 60 units over the next 25 years, had no effect.  Even the planning officer's report (Mr. Matt Gorman) had some difficulty sorting it out - he apparently measured some parts of the application against ResCode and said it fell short but conceded ResCode didn't actually apply in a rural zone so it too was OK.  It didn't matter that the land is outside the town boundary, or that the proposal pre-empts any attempt to rezone this floodplain for residential. It wasn't prohibited, and the Rural Living zone supported residential (even if the rural activity that is also supported in this zone was nowhere to be seen).  In the end, it was moved Cr. Connor (West ward ), seconded Cr. Bleeck (East ward ) and approved with the votes of Crs. Relph (South ward), Letchford (South ward) and Mayor Neil (East ward).  Crs. Gyorffy (West) and Guthrie (South) opposed.  5 votes for, carried the day (Crs. McGregor and Harvey were absent), just as MRRA said it would.


MRRA Says:

A concept drawing of this proposal shows a large retarding basin with a boat on it, with the water lapping up against the Amenities Building.  No doubt about it, the boat will be a handy item under certain circumstances. Not sure what use a lake already full of water will be in retarding floodwaters, though.  What's got us really flabbergasted is why anyone would think putting units for the elderly almost a metre off the ground is a suitable outcome?  Mmmm... There's something about this that conjures up those houses in Queensland - you know, the ones built on stilts.  And doesn't it bring the saying, watch your step, into sharper focus!   Add to this lofty ground floor arrangement the very high, very steep (almost chalet-style?) rooves proposed, and these units start to look suspiciously multi-storied - 225 of them, rather jammed-looking, right up against the Freeway.  450 people are predicted to live on these 11 soggy hectares, with a shuttle bus proposed to take people to Woodend Station - er, it's not exactly within walking distance.  Former Cr. Donna Petrovich attended the meeting to see the proposal she originally put in motion become a reality (Cr. Petrovich moved the motion last year that Council adopt an 'in principle support' position for the then unseen proposal).  Woodend locals Marlene Jaegar and SES stalwart, Ailsa Howe, who also attended the meeting in support of the proposal.


Our sources tell us this one will definitely end up in VCAT.


Woodend's Wet, Wet, Wet Retirement Village Before Council Next Wednesday (14 June)

(10/6/06 - P)  Will our Councillors be able to stop themselves from the tempting prospect of approving another 'good idea'?  We don't think so... why change now?

Next Wednesday Macedon Ranges Council will make a decision on whether or not to approve a massive 225 - 250 unit retirement village (and shops, leisure centre, hostel) proposal on a key floodplain in Woodend.   It's also outside the town's township boundary, on a piece of land that somehow was rezoned as part of the C48 amendment in a way that doesn't prohibit the retirement village as the proposed zoning would have. There hasn't been much consultation with objectors, but MRRA understands the applicants have spent plenty of time with most of our Councillors.


MRRA Says:

MRRA has issued a press release raising the question of community financial liability if this piece of planning madness goes ahead.  Think about it: the land was zoned rural for 30 years and suddenly becomes Rural Living.  Almost every inch of the 11 or so hectares is to be jammed with development the intensity of which would raise objections in a Residential zone, no flood study has been done and every time this piece of land has been assessed for residential development in the last 30 odd years, the answer has always been no.


Having a retirement village is one issue, having it on what can be a fairly nasty floodplain is another.


Still, these types of constraints haven't stopped our Council in the past and most have shown a fondness for good ideas rather than good planning outcomes.


MRRA reckons it's odds-on that 5 Councillors will go for this regardless of the potentially disastrous results for both the retirement village and the broader community.  Click here to see MRRA's press release.


Another Retirement Village Proposal On A Floodplain, This Time In Woodend

(29/1/06 – P)  Will they never end?

Another proposal has been received by Council for a retirement village, this time for 225 units and a 50 bed hostel in Mt. Macedon Road, Woodend.  The site where the ‘village’ is proposed is zoned Rural.  It used to be zoned Rural A (Lowlands), and Watercourse, in the former Newham and Woodend Planning Scheme.  The Land Subject to Inundation, and Floodway, overlays proposed to be put on the land in the 1997 draft Macedon Ranges Planning Scheme were removed by the Department of Sustainability and Environment and the State government when the current planning scheme was approved.  Those overlays have never been put back.  Unsuccessful attempts have been made since the 1970’s to allow the land to be used for residential purposes.  The answer has always been ‘no’ because the land is floodprone and has consistently been deemed unsuitable for residential development.  To see the effects of flooding on the site, which MRRA featured in an earlier story, click here.  There’s also a problem with the vegetation on the land – most of it is Black Gum, which is a tree of State significance, is endangered and is listed on the Flora and Fauna Guarantee.  Get your objections in – Council will not make a decision before February 1st but you can put submissions in until Council makes a decision on the proposal.  The application number is P205-0569, the applicant is Tiffany Developments, c/o Network Planning Consultants P/L.


MRRA Says:

The young, elderly and infirm are the most vulnerable people in our society.  Before anyone says a retirement village is a ‘good idea’, or incorrectly assumes the Woodend Bypass has ‘fixed’ flooding problems on this land, have a think about this: Would it also be a good idea to put 225 lots, or 250 houses, or a hospital, or a child care facility on this land?  Or would it represent over-development, or unsafe development, or non-agi use of rural land?   A retirement village is one thing, the constant stream of applications trying to put these facilities in floodways is another – perfect examples of someone trying to push square pegs into round holes.


No Surprises As Most Macedon Ranges’ Councillors Support Putting Retirement Village In Floodplain

(Updated 30/4/05 – P) ‘Good idea’ and ‘lovely spot’ argument prevails.

At last night’s Council meeting, in another example of having no understanding of planning Crs. Petrovich, Relph, Connor, Evans, Todd and Bleeck voted to support, in principle, a concept plan for a retirement village in a floodplain.  Crs. Dunn and Guthrie voted against (Cr. Gee was absent).  Cr. Petrovich moved the motion, saying there was a demand for the facility and it would create a huge economic boom.  She repeatedly emphasized that, while there are planning issues with the proposal, it isn’t prohibited under the current rural zoning.  She also seemed to believe and sought to convince her fellow councillors that the Minister for Planning will rush through ‘translation’ of the rural zone on this land to an [unexhibited] Rural Living zone, thereby ensuring this use wouldn’t be prohibited on the site. Cr. Relph seconded the motion saying she represents people and this is about people. She liked the proposal’s location, and although the land has zoning problems it was a great spot, right next to everything, and if there was a flooding issue it didn’t run all the time and had essentially gone away; the creek[s] could be made into a feature. Cr. Guthrie described how the site had been identified for 30 years as floodprone land and commented that as none of the Councillors were qualified to comment on flooding issues, a comprehensive flood study was required.  Cr. Dunn couldn’t believe Council was even considering the matter because the proposal already has a valid permit in another location in Woodend.  See photograph of flooded siteNB:  Overlays identifying these flooding problems have not yet been included in Macedon Ranges’ planning scheme.


MRRA Says:

There are some fundamental principles in planning, and one of them is that residential development doesn’t belong in floodways or floodplains.  This wasn’t even an application, just a toe in the water which hasn’t been through any professional assessment or consultation processes.  By dismissing flooding and planning issues (and apparently Council officers’ dislike of the proposal), and by promoting a particular zoning to suit a proposal, do Councillors who supported this proposal on good intentions rather than hard facts and sound planning grounds understand they are condemning the elderly, those least able to cope, to a difficult if not dangerous future?  That they are being unfair to the proponent and are also potentially exposing Council to future liability claims?  Disappointingly, it seems the blind continue to lead the blind, and that the ditch remains full…


Another Dumb Council Planning Decision Coming Up?  Retirement Village in Floodplain Likely To Get Nod Tonight

(27/4/05 – P) It won’t be a surprise if most of our Councillors yet again back something that shouldn’t happen for no other reason than they think it’s a ‘good idea’.

Macedon Ranges Council has been asked to give in principle support to a concept for another retirement village proposal in another floodplain in Woodend.  The land in question, currently zoned rural, has been regarded since 1979 as unsuitable for residential development – that’s why there isn’t any development there at the moment.  But if most of our Councillors run true to form they won’t even consider whether this is the right place for what’s proposed, they’ll just back the proposal as another one of those ‘put it anywhere’ good ideas.  Land Subject To Inundation and Rural Floodway overlays were applied to this land in the exhibited 1997 Macedon Ranges’ draft planning scheme but were removed by the State government before it approved the current scheme.  Neither Council nor the State government has bothered to put the overlays back.