Proposed Place of Worship and Car Parking - Objection
The subject site, 73 Browns Rd Devon Meadows, is located on Green Wedge A Zone (GWAZ) land in a rural area, surrounded by farms.
The Green Wedges Coalition has frequently opposed applications for schools and places of worship in the Green Wedges on the basis that schools should be where the students live and religious edifices should be where the parishioners live. These are fundamentally urban uses, and it is poor planning to allow them in the rural fringe areas where they increase car usage, generate heavy traffic flows on green wedge roads and impact adversely on the amenity of those who choose to live in the countryside.
Even though Place of worship is a Section 2 use (Permit Required), this does not make it “as of right”. There is plenty of scope to refuse an application if it doesn’t satisfy the long list of policy objectives, strategies, guidelines or zone requirements for the area.
And even though this property is abutting the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), this is not a reason to allow the change of use. The whole point of a boundary is that it has a “hard edge”. This is – and always has been – Government policy. Moreover, the current Government is looking to tighten the legislation to better protect the green wedges from inappropriate development.
The Green Wedges Coalition has met with the Planning Minister and expressed concern about the upsurge of Place of worship and schools applications in the Green Wedges. Each that is approved provides incentive and precedent for another. They are targeting the rural fringe areas where land is relatively cheap, but their proliferation will spell the end of the most valued aspect of the green wedges – namely their natural, open space, scenic, non-urban amenity.
In terms of Clause 35.05 of the Victorian Planning Provisions (VPPs), the application conflicts with the stated purposes for the GWAZ:
- Not only does the proposal fail to provide for the use of land for agriculture, it would end any future opportunity for such a use, and one hectare is enough space for an intensive farming project such as herbs and flowers, or low intensity niche market products like organic vegetables, goat’s milk, and free range eggs.
- The application doesn’t protect, conserve and enhance the biodiversity, natural resources, scenic landscapes and values of the area.
- In particular, the property is moderately vegetated and has a watercourse running through it, entering the northern boundary approx. 19.5 m west of the NE corner & exiting along the eastern boundary approx. 47 m south of the NE corner, making it a valuable biodiversity link with potential for enhancement.
- Moreover, it is located in a belt of land identified in the South East Growth Corridor Plan (SEGCP) as an area where “Connections between Southern Brown Bandicoot populations in the RBG (Royal Botanic Gardens) Cranbourne and other populations outside the UGB to be resolved in accordance with the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy”. (See SEGCP Note 6)
Any regular intensive use of the site as proposed would run counter to the efforts to protect this threatened species. No permits should be granted for discretionary non-rural uses outside the UGB in this area, especially as the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) has not been completed the Devon Meadows Precinct Structure Plan.
Therefore no decision has been made in respect of the proposed Southern Brown Bandicoot habitat corridor – a condition for approval of the rezoning of adjacent, former Green Wedge land for urban growth, required under the terms of the Federal Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
Note that in its Precinct Structure Plans (PSP) section, the City of Casey states:
“The (Devon Meadows) PSP will guide land use and development within the precinct”.
Approving this Application would pre-empt these guidelines.
- There is no reticulated sewerage available in the area. On this basis alone, current policy would disallow the use of septic systems for lot sizes of one hectare with a single dwelling, single family usage. We question the ability of any septic system to adequately accommodate the required effluent treatment for 70 – 100 users on any given day, and twice that number on Sundays.
- The application doesn’t ensure that use and development promotes sustainable land management practices and infrastructure provision.
- It does nothing to conserve and enhance the cultural heritage significance and the character of rural and scenic non-urban landscapes.
- It compromises the amenity of the existing nearby rural living areas.
In terms of the VPPs, Clause 51.02, the Application does not satisfy the following Purposes of the Melbourne Green Wedge Land Core Planning Provisions:
- To protect metropolitan green wedge land from uses and development that would diminish its agricultural, environmental, cultural heritage, conservation, landscape natural resource or recreation values.
- To ensure that the scale of use is compatible with the non-urban character of metropolitan green wedge land.
- To encourage the location of urban activities in urban areas.
In terms of the Casey Planning Scheme (CPS), the Application conflicts with Clause 22.08 Non-Agricultural uses in Green Wedge Areas Policy, in particular, 22.08-2 Policy Objectives:
- To discourage the intrusion of urban-type uses into Green Wedge areas.
- To ensure that non-agricultural development provides a positive contribution to the character and appearance of Green Wedge areas.
- To ensure that non-agricultural uses do not adversely affect or prejudice the operation of existing and/or future agricultural activities.
- To ensure that non-agricultural uses do not have an adverse impact on areas of high environmental or natural resource value.
- To reduce car dependency in Casey by consolidating non-agricultural uses in urban and township areas.
- The land is located in a Designated Bushfire Prone Area where development is discouraged.
- We can see no reference to reticulated water. If reliant on tank water, we question the ability of the proposal to provide an alternative source of water for fire fighting purposes, especially as diminishing rainfall as a result of climate change is proving to be a significant factor.
- There have been precedents in the Green Wedges where applications for a use of a property as a Place of worship were approved on the understanding that the existing building would be used, and then once established, another application was submitted down the track for a whole new development. We fear this application could likewise be part of such a 2-step process.
- The Application contains inadequate detail and contradictory information, particularly in relation to:
- Changes to the dwelling indicated by Eco Vision on Page 89 are hard to decipher and not described in writing anywhere.
- New kitchen area to be provided by utilizing and modifying Shed 2 (Not identified on any plans, and no plans of conversion, and/or re-location as possibly indicated by RC Engineering diagrams on Pages 113 & 114 of the Application documents.)
- Hours of operation as per Page 15 Dot Point 4
- Saturdays: 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm (With loud speakers?)
- Sunday: Session One. 10:00 am to 12:00 noon (With loud speakers?)
- Sunday: Session Two 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm “without a loud speakers”
- Hours of operation as per Pages 52 & 53 (Management Plan):
- Fridays: 8:00pm to 9:30 pm (Fridays not mentioned on Page 15)
- Saturdays: 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
- Sundays: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm (10:00 am to 12 noon, and 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm)
- Existing Shed 1 to be used as the place of worship (Not identified on any plan that I can see.)
- Toilets are listed as one of the “assigned area(s)” on Page 57 under “Provision of Signage”, but there are no plans or other mention of these.
- 70 patrons at any one time (Page 15, Dot Point 5)
- On Page 73, Eco Vision Land Management Consultants state: “The site is to be used as a place of assembly on weekends with up to 100 people being on site”.
- Provision of 21 car spaces including two disabled bays (No proper plans showing these, and where indicated, only one disabled bay shown.)
- Is Shed 2 (Proposed kitchen/eating area) to be relocated/altered?
- Are the additional 2 – 3 sheds shown on the engineering diagrams planned to be demolished?
- Do the proposed changes to the dwelling require a planning permit and/or more details?
- What is the number of proposed patrons?
- What are the proposed hours of operation?
- Is it intended to use loudspeakers, and if so, when?
- Where are the proposed toilets shown on a plan?
- Why does the Application not include a proper site plan, showing detailed layout and the car spaces, including the two specified for disabled use?
Given all the issues documented above the Green Wedge Coalition urges Council to reject this poorly supported, inappropriate application.