Aged care and ECEC development in Ivanhoe controversially fast-tracked to Minister
A 6,293-square-metre proposed site of an aged care and child care development in Ivanhoe Victoria, is being opposed by a group of local residents who claim the developer is trying to avoid scrutiny from the council and state planning tribunal.
The site spans seven residential titles along Lower Heidelberg Road and King Street in Ivanhoe, and has been the subject of much comment in the Victorian real estate community, being covered by news sources including Commerical Real Estate and The Age.
Developer TLC spent more than $14 million to purchase the site, bypassing the local council and state planning tribunal after TLC’s plans were sent to Planning Minister Richard Wynne for “accelerated assessment” by the Development Facilitation Program – a special planning body set up during the pandemic to speed the development of projects and stimulate the economy.
The pandemic related increase in powers for the Minister allow him to overrule decisions by local authorities and expedite the development process for state projects and have come under increasing scrutiny recently after a series of controversial moves, including calling in an application to redevelop Shell House in the CBD.
A spokesperson for Mr Wynne said consultation in relation to the development closed on 28 February, with the local council and affected residents and community groups having been invited to provide feedback on the proposal.
Plans relating to the development indicate TLC’s desire to build a five-level complex with an aged care facility, ECEC centre, medical centre, cafe, gym and pool.
Local resident and head of community group Save Ivanhoe East, Elisé Burchsmith, said the development was more suitable for a commercial zone rather than its current residential classification, and said the outcome of decisions in relation to the development would have implications for planning approvals across the state.
“No one’s against change, but this is just excessive beyond all measure,” she said. “We feel very strongly that this can happen anywhere. This is not just Ivanhoe.”
The initial proposal in relation to the development, submitted to Banyule City Council in 2019 was knocked back on various grounds, including breaching existing covenants restricting development on the site to single dwellings, excessive development, intense scale of use and exceeding height limitations.
TLC then appealed to VCAT but withdrew the application prior to the hearing on the threshold issue of whether the proposal contravened the covenants. Ms Burchsmith said there had been “complete silence” from TLC since the VCAT hearing until residents started receiving letters this month about an amended application which had gone straight to the Planning Minister.
“They’ve walked away from the umpire, which I would have thought was VCAT because they knew their case was problematic, and now they’re looking for a backdoor way to get what they want,” she told specialist publication Commercial Realestate . ” The new application is actually worse than the first one.“
Public benefit may mean private profit, Burchsmith says
Ms Burchsmith said if Mr Wynne stepped in and approved the project under the guise of public benefit, the private developer will “make a major windfall” without going through due process, something which concerns her in terms of the precedent it sets.
In order for the project to go ahead, Mr Wynne must amend the local Banyule planning scheme to authorise the removal of the restrictive single dwelling covenants and grant a planning permit for the development.
Banyule Councillor Peter Castaldo said the revised proposal was largely the same as that previously refused by council, and that the Council’s position is that the TLC development “should be subject to the normal planning procedures in which Council is the responsible authority, residents are informed through public information sessions and community consultation, and objectors have the right to appeal Council’s decision.”
Mr Wynne recently approved a six level aged care home in Prahran which had 122 objections from residents, two rejections from Stonnington Council, a knock back from the State Planning Tribunal and refusal from the Supreme Court, none of which were sufficient to prevent the development from going ahead on his say so.
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