Archive:   Subdivision, Romsey

Last Updated  21/3/07



Click here to see VCAT's decision to overturn Council's refusal.



It's Official:  VCAT Says Romsey  Gets Metro Area's Development Spillover - Make That Macedon Ranges Too

(31/7/06 - SP)  Most of us have known for some time that metropolitan development is leapfrogging over Green Wedges into Macedon Ranges, and now, at last, it's in writing - and because the State government refuses to stop it, it looks set to continue, if this decision is anything to go by.

VCAT dealt Romsey objectors - and Macedon Ranges - a poor hand in a decision by A J Quirk on 26 July 2006.  VCAT overturned Council's earlier refusal to subdivide an acre allotment (with an existing house) into 4 quarter acre lots in a neighbourhood where all lots are one acre (4000 sq m).   Understandably, current residents want the relaxed, rural character that acre lots produce preserved.  VCAT has basically said sorry, it's zoned for higher density development.  The land is zoned Residential 1 in the current planning scheme and there isn't an alternative State residential zone available that would stop on-going subdivision into smaller lots.  VCAT said:

"It... could not be said that this is a low density residential area.  Under present VPP provisions, a low density residential area is one that is generally not provided with sewerage and has a particular designation as a zone under the planning scheme.  This land is clearly zoned Residential 1 and therefore is capable of supporting all the development criteria and policy provisions that a Residential 1 zone allows."

In his decision, Mr. Quirk also recognized there is no (current) way of stopping the invasion of metro development into our rural towns.

"The ever expanding metropolitan area, which has been at last contained by an urban growth boundary, means that any overspill must occur in towns that virtually become transit towns. Romsey appears to be one of them. This is not going to go away..."    Click here to see the full decision.


MRRA Says:

This damaging, urban-density development, which is ruining the rural ambience, appearance and character of our towns, could be controlled if the State government lived up to its promises and provided the means to do it.  The government instead says Macedon Ranges is already protected... 




Cr. John Letchford:  Is He Breaking Promises - And Hearts?    Click here to see the Letchford File

(10/3/06 - C)  MRRA is confused by the mixed messages John is sending

On the one hand, Cr. John Letchford, who claimed to be a qualified planner in his Candidate Statement last year, said in that Statement that "My focus is on... neighbourhood character protection..."  That was before the election which saw John Letchford the first councillor elected in the South Ward.  On the other hand, at last Wednesday's Council Planning Committee meeting, Cr. Letchford said neighbourhood character is not to be slavishly followed before voting to approve an application to subdivide an acre lot in Romsey into 4 quarter acre lots in an otherwise 1 acre block neighbourhood.  He said the subdivision fit with the planning scheme and referred to ResCode.  He went on to say planning wasn't black and white, and needed to be interpreted.  Cr. Noel Harvey also supported the application saying the four lot subdivision would actually add to the neighbourhood character and further said small lots are needed to conserve water.  Cr. Helen Relph, who seems consistent in supporting small(er) lot development, said it was a great outcome for the applicant.  Cr. Henry Bleeck, who also supported the proposal, felt people don't look after big blocks and this leads to land degradation.  Mayor Geoff Neil almost begged his fellow Councillors to not support the application and he found support from Crs. Gyorffy, Guthrie Connor and McGregor.  The application was refused on a 5/4 split.


MRRA Says:

We thought protecting neighbourhood character was a primary requirement of ResCode.  MRRA can't see, and we suspect most of the people in Gisborne who voted for Cr. Letchford also won't be able to see, how creating 4 quarter acre lots in an ocean of acre lots delivers the "neighbourhood character protection" he promised.  MRRA is uneasy about where Cr. Letchford is coming from.  He has already said in Council chamber, in supporting subdivision of another existing residential lot in Romsey, that large lots are not sustainable. Hhmm...  Is it that John just doesn't like Romsey?  Does he in fact hold a different view than the one expressed in his Candidate Statement?   Does he not understand what the Macedon Ranges' community values?  We don't know, but we do know that larger lots are a characteristic of Macedon Ranges that residents value highly, and are a key reason why most people move here.  It will be interesting to see if Cr. Letchford applies the same 'I support small lots' principle when a similar application comes in from Gisborne.


We also note that Cr. Harvey's justification for supporting the application, that of conserving water, is similar to advice given to MRRA by Western Water in 2004: e.g. units are good because they have (almost) no gardens so use less water.  Has the thought occurred to anyone, as existing lots are carved up and units are jammed in, that those developments mean more people, which in itself means more demand on scarce water supplies - with or without gardens?  In most parts of the Shire, we already haven't got enough to go around.  As for Cr. Harvey's comment that slicing up a lot like this, in a neighbourhood like this, would add character - well, what can we say other than it seems to say it all about where Cr. Harvey is coming from.  And we bet that's not the same place most residents are coming from, or want to go to.