STATE Planning Minister Matthew Guy has infuriated Bass Coast Shire Council by rezoning coastal farm land for residential development.
His decision has alarming implications for other coastal councils.
With one stroke of his pen, Mr Guy has overridden a decade of council and community planning work.
Municipal Association of Victoria president Cr Bill McArthur described the move as “particularly worrying”.
“The minister is making ad hoc decisions which are at odds with the Coalition’s election promise to value local knowledge and community input rights.”
Cr McArthur said Mr Guy had ignored state policy, overturned the views of the council, community and an expert independent panel.
“The minister is creating more concern for the community.”
Bass Coast’s Cr Peter Paul was thunderous.
“The decision should never have happened.”
It will result in a large residential subdivision on 34 acres of farm land at Ventnor on Phillip Island.
The site is subject to a significant landscape overlay that recognises the southern and western coasts of Phillip Island as being of state significance.
Bass Coast mayor Cr Veronica Dowman said it’s the only coastline in the shire that holds such status.
She said there are environmental reasons making the land unsuitable for residential development.
Cr Paul declared, “There’s no infrastructure there. Why would you rezone something like that?”
He said Mr Guy’s decision “has no skerrick of substantiation”.
He is very interested in its implications for other coastal councils.
Cr Paul said neither councillors, council staff nor the community had recommended that the development was suitable and Cr Dowman said the approval by the minister “has not gone through any of the normal planning channels”.
“We hope this decision is not a sign of things to come.”
This is not the first time Mr Guy has trampled on community wishes in Bass Coast.
In mid-May, he outraged the Cape Paterson Residents and Ratepayers Association by approving the controversial Cape Paterson Eco Village.
Commenting at the time on that decision, Cr McArthur declared, “The back door for planning has now become the front door.
“If you don’t like a decision, just ask the minister and he’ll change it.”
Cr Dowman, shire CEO Alan Bawden and planning director Hannah Duncan-Jones met with Mr Guy on Thursday, to try to change his mind about the Ventnor land.
The ploy didn’t work.
The meeting was organised by Bass MLA Ken Smith, who told The Star Mr Guy rezoned the land last Monday afternoon.
Mr Smith said Mr Guy told the council deputation that it had been a long time since land in Ventnor had been made available and “he is trying to get more affordable land on the market”.
That’s rubbish according to Cr Paul.
“I’m not a real estate agent, but that land will bring in heaps. It will fall well outside the boundaries of being affordable.”
Mr Smith said the land is not on the immediate sea front.
South Gippsland Shire Council doesn’t have the same coastal planning pressures as Bass Coast.
Strategic planning and development manager Paul Stampton said there are no big coastal subdivision planning applications because most of those areas aren’t sewered.
Cr Dowman explained that over the past 10 years, the community had worked with council to develop the Phillip Island Design Framework and Cowes Silverleaves Structure Plan.
“We received over 100 submissions opposing an extension of the boundary to include this land and only one in favour; from a representative of the land owner.
“An independent planning panel reviewed all the submissions and confirmed the decision to maintain the current town boundaries.”
Mr Guy has overridden all of that.
The mayor said the community would feel let down because the government had promised genuine consultation and openness when making planning decisions.
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