Learnings from VCAT decisions – VCAT Reference: P1912/2018

Key themes: modern character; garden character; crossovers; tree planting

Property Address: 16 Ormond Road, Clayton

What was being sought: Three (3) Double-storey dwellings

Representing the developer: Mark Waldon (Director St – wise Pty Ltd)

What was the case about?

Monash City Council had refused the application. A neighbour also became a party to the Review. VCAT overturned Council’s decision and directed that a permit issue.

What was at Issue?

Council’s concerns were generally as follows:

  • The building bulk along the site coupled with a modern architectural expression;
  • That there was inadequate opportunity for planting;
  • That 2 crossovers were at odds with Council’s policies;
  • That the proposal would be an overdevelopment of the site.
  • The neighbour was particularly concerned about a boundary wall near their window.

St-wise’s Tactics

  • Acknowledge the boundary wall was an issue, and that it was not compliant with Standard B21 (Daylight to existing windows). The wall would have to be recessed off the boundary;
  • Acknowledge that the connected form along the site reduced the sense of spaciousness around the dwellings;
  • 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 the swept paths, given the garage was being brought off the boundary reducing the turning areas. Get them to provide a Memorandum of Opinion that they supported the revised layout;
  • To substitute plans prior to the hearing that responded better to issues of the wall and building bulk;
  • Follow the landscape architects advice to provide grassed median strips along the driveways, and to provide more extensive permeable paving alongside the landscape beds;
  • To emphasise that the Clayton area was changing and this was an opportunity to provide for some modern architecture;

VCAT Findings

The Tribunal supported the development, but on the condition that the upper storey of the central townhouse was reduced thereby creating greater upper storey separations. The Monash City Council’s strongest areas of resistance were 2-fold – the modern appearance and landscape opportunities. Specific to the issue of a modern appearance the Tribunal noted the following in its decision:

I accept the view of Council that the design proposed will be a contemporary insertion into an unassuming streetscape.  However, I am not persuaded that its appearance will be so discordant in a streetscape that is clearly changing or ripe for change.

In regard to landscaping opportunities the Tribunal detailed all planting recommended by the Landscape witness, and noted:

The landscape response is a much improved outcome for a site which provides no contribution currently to the Garden City aspirations as sought by policy.

In regard to the 2 crossovers the Tribunal noted they were existing. They also noted as follows:

While the second crossover is not currently used, its existence is useful to assess its impact on the streetscape.  When traversing Ormond Road, there are no examples of two crossovers into single properties, aside from the review site.  What is evident is the number of wider attached crossovers on adjoining site that comprise extensive areas of hardstand.  

What can we learn?

This site was zoned General Residential where the purposes of the zone expect some extent of change, and indeed, housing growth. It was material to the Tribunal that change was evident in a street with good proximity to an activity centre and railway station.

It was important to address the neighbours concern about a garage wall near their window. Daylight to windows is a more fundamental requirement for neighbours, and a ResCode standard best met. Having addressed this in amended plans it was important to demonstrate that parking and access still worked. Increasingly, it is important to prove this through the use of a Traffic Engineer rather than, for example, relying on a turning template on the plans.

And of course, where landscaping is at issue use a recognised Landscape Architect to present evidence.

Garden character – an editorial

Monash City Council’s character policies place a huge emphasis on Garden Character. As I have noted before, there is an admirable simplicity to this – provide for canopy trees! However, there is often an argument about whether this can be achieved for a given design.

The arguments are sometimes made that 2 crossovers = too much paving, or that decking erodes planting areas, or that meaningful planting can only be achieved in a 5m rear setback. I note that the Scheme specifies certain setback requirements, POS requirements, and now, specific garden area requirements. Surely when these are met it should be considered that there is sufficient room for landscaping.

Written by: Mark Waldon (Director St-wise Pty Ltd)

Email: mark@st-wise.com.au

This blog was prepared by Mark Waldon in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of any other person or organisation.