Learnings from VCAT decisions – VCAT Reference: P552/2018
Key themes: three storey development; garden character; access; overdevelopment
Property Address: 41 Coleman Parade, Glen Waverley
What was being sought: Four (4) Dwellings
Representing the developer: Mark Waldon – Director St – wise Pty Ltd

What was the case about?

Monash City Council had refused the application. There were no other parties to the Review. VCAT overturned Council’s decision to refuse a permit.

What was at Issue?

Council’s concerns were generally as follows:

  • The 3-storey scale of development would be out of character with the surrounding area;
  • That there was inadequate opportunity for planting;
  • That the access arrangement did not work;
  • That the proposal would be an overdevelopment of the site.

St-wise’s Tactics

  • Employ a landscape consultant to be an expert witness, and to demonstrate that good landscaping could be achieved to each interface;
  • Employ a traffic consultant to review and advise on the parking and access layout, and to provide a Memorandum of Opinion that they supported a revised layout;
  • To substitute plans prior to the hearing that responded better to these issues;
  • To emphasise that 3-storey form on this site was supportable, given the close proximity to an activity centre and railway station;

VCAT Findings

The Tribunal supported the development, but on the condition that certain recommendations regarding the traffic engineer’s advice and better articulation would be incorporated into the design. VCAT agreed such changes could be conditioned. The Monash City Council’s strongest area of resistance was to the part 3- storey form and the ability to landscape around the intended built form. Specific to these issues the Tribunal noted the following in its decision:

The site has an odd shape, described as a ‘kite’ shape. It is a corner lot. It is opposite a train line, with an open car park directly opposite. The site is not in the traditional hinterland, in which case where its context is informed by homogenous dwellings in a quiet suburban setting. Rather, there are non-residential use and built form on the opposite side, and is in an area that is undergoing redevelopment with replacement buildings that is more substantial, and where a distinct lack of landscaping is the norm.

Coleman Parade VCAT decision

What can we learn?

This site was zoned General Residential where the Scheme allows for development of up to 3 storeys. However, this will not be appropriate to every context. The reason the Tribunal allowed 3 storeys at the subject site were contextual – this was not a quiet suburban setting, but a more robust setting near an activity centre and public transport, and with a car park opposite.
Council had been right that access did not work. This should be an early fundamental of any design – to ensure that manoeuvring meets the Australian Standards. However, this was addressed by substitute plans, and reinforced by a Memorandum of Opinion.
Monash City Council’s character policies place a huge emphasis on Garden Character. In fact, there is an admirable simplicity to this. They are less tied up in whether you have the same roof pitch, or materiality, or built form as the neighbours. They want trees! Therefore, the emphasis for Monash is to ensure you have built form setbacks that allow for canopy trees, particularly to the front and rear, and to provide them.
Effectively, the strategy for this VCAT matter was to resolve issues of access and landscaping. That left the Tribunal only considering the built form response. And with a favourable physical and strategic context they were able to support the development.
Written by: Mark Waldon
Email: mark@st-wise.com.au