Sept. 2021 - Newsletter to Members and Friends
Dear Members and Friends of Save the Dandenongs League Inc.
It has now been more than two years since we had our last Annual General Meeting, and unfortunately due to ongoing Covid restrictions we're still not sure if we'll be able to meet any time soon.
Despite the lockdowns, your committee has continued working and planning. So this is an update of what has been keeping us busy over the past 12 months or so. A lot has been happening, but I have tried to summarise as much as possible.
70th Anniversary (2020), and AGM
It has been very disappointing that, due to recurring covid lockdowns, both the AGM and our 70th birthday celebrations planned for last year, had to be put on indefinite hold.
Save the Dandenongs League was formed in October 1950 following a public meeting held at Olinda Mechanics Institute Hall which was attended by about 200 people. Since that time, the League has been a driving force for the preservation of the region's forests and protection of the environment. Our most notable campaigns contributed to the establishment of the Dandenong Ranges National Park, Kalorama Park, Birdsland, and the setting up of the regional planning authority (1976-1996) to manage the orderly development of hills' townships.
In conjunction with other environment groups, SDL continues to represent the views of the Dandenongs Ranges' community, and will continue to advocate for the preservation of cultural heritage and history through the Yarra Ranges Heritage Network.
We are committed to holding this 70th anniversary celebration at some point, and will let you know when we have a confirmed date once restrictions are eased. This is also the current situation governing the date of our next AGM.
Car Accident involving our President and Treasurer, Betty and Ross, on 11th March
I'm sure many have been aware of the upsetting incident last March which occurred outside Lilydale Museum on the night of the launch of the Trailblazers Exhibition. While negotiating a parking space Ross's car mounted the curb and crashed. Luckily it was not travelling at high speed however Betty was in the passenger seat and sustained a fractured sternum. This meant spending two weeks in Maroondah Hospital and then 10 days in rehab. before she was able to return home. Ross also spent some time in hospital under observation, but his car was unfortunately written off due to the extent of the damage. The added disappointment for Betty was missing the launch of the Trailblazers Exhibition, in which she was featured, and despite the excellent exhibition running until July, with covid restrictions it was not possible for Betty to get there to see it before it closed. Betty is available to speak on the phone, and her number is 9755 2777 should you wish to call.
Now here's a brief summary of the various planning applications we have been involved in:
Monbulk 3-Storey Apartment Building development
(20 apartments/3 shops) - 22-26 Main Rd Monbulk.
Council refused the permit in November 2019, however the applicant launched a VCAT appeal. The VCAT Hearing was held last November and there were four objectors including SDL at the Hearing. The disappointing decision was received at the end of May - Permit approved. We weren't helped by the fact that by the time of the Hearing, Council planners had been persuaded to accept the amended plans and no longer opposed the application. However, as the development is not permitted to commence until the sewerage works for that part of Monbulk are completed, we don’t expect to see construction of the new building any time soon.
Olinda Recreation Reserve - the battle to save the trees!
More than a year ago we became concerned about Parks Victoria's plans for the expansion of the netball and cricket facilities located right behind the heritage Olinda Hall. The works would have required the removal of two large mature mountain ash as well as other vegetation surrounding the Hall and would put other trees around the carpark at future risk. Council's planning report (prepared by senior planner Katie Douglas) for the May 2020 Council Meeting recommended refusal, however a majority of Councillors at the meeting decided otherwise and the motion was carried (5 to 4). SDL decided to launch an appeal to VCAT. The VCAT fee was covered by generous donations and we received a lot of helpful free advice from both a local planner and an experienced arborist, and then found an excellent ecologist to give evidence at the Hearing.
At the VCAT Hearing held 11th/12th February 2021, SDL was able to prove that the application by Parks Victoria was contrary to local planning policy and inconsistent with the SLO and ESO (protection of vegetation and habitat). We also endeavoured to point out the risks to the Heritage Listed Olinda Mechanics Institute Hall, eg: impact on foundations, loss of amenity, etc., however this was not a determining factor in the Tribunal's decision to refuse the permit. A lot of work went into preparing and presenting our case against a formidable opponent represented by Maddocks Lawyers as well as Council's representative, but we felt vindicated by the result, which was announced in May, coincidentally exactly one year after the council meeting.
Mast Gully Gardens Caravan Park - 20 Dealbata Rd. Upwey. Application for a caravan park including four onsite 2-bedroom cabins, in a Green Wedge A zone, adjacent to national park. Yarra Ranges had refused the permit but the applicant lodged an appeal to VCAT. The Hearing was held on 10th March 2021 . Three objectors including SDL attended the hearing and made submissions. A good result was announced in April with the permit refused.
610 Belgrave-Hallam Road, Narre Warren East
Large two-storey, multigenerational house (12 bedrooms, 9 living/leisure rooms) in a Green Wedge zone. More than 35 objections from local residents were submitted to YR Council and a community consultation was held in February last year. Following the disappointing decision by Council in June last year to approve the permit, SDL joined with 30 other objectors in launching a joint application to VCAT against this inappropriate development. The online Hearing was held on 5th/6th May this year. Unfortunately we were not successful this time and the Tribunal approved the permit, despite the enormous amount of work undertaken by our dedicated working party in preparing our case and raising the money to pay for the expert assistance of a town planner.
Belgrave Development - 2-14 Monbulk Rd Belgrave - Pulitano Properties.
This VCAT Hearing began on 31st May, for two weeks, then adjourned, recommenced in July for three days and a further four days at the end of August.
* SDL representative attended each day of the Hearing to observe, ask questions, and to make a submission on behalf of SDL.
* Puffing Billy Railways submitted a strong objection, as well as other local residents who are now trying to raise money via Chuffed.org to help defray costs associated with engaging professional representation. Here is the Chuffed campaign link should you wish to contribute:
A decision is expected in 6-8 weeks.
If you have any questions or concerns about any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact the writer - Carolyn Ebdon (vice president), either by email <email@example.com> or phone 0407 505573.