OBJECTORSto a 36-bed group accommodation development planned for O’Gradys Ridge Road at Foster North are considering taking their case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), claiming the tourism development is “out of keeping” with the site’s “rural character”.
The possible lodging of a VCAT application comes after the South Gippsland Shire Council administration panel voted to “issue a Notice of Decision to grant a permit for the use and development of group accommodation on O’Gradys Ridge Road … subject to eight pages of conditions” at its ordinary meeting held at Leongatha on Wednesday August 28, 2019.
Seventeen formal objections representing some 27 neighbouring property owners and local residents were lodged with the council following the public advertising of the “Wigney Farm” planning application in November 2018.
The development is proposed for a four-hectare (10-acre) block located at 250 O’Gradys Ridge Road near the intersection of McGleads Road, on land that lies within the municipality’s Farming Zone.
The property currently has a house, a cottage, and former farm outbuildings such as a dairy and a shearing shed, along with a garage, a double carport and a W-class tram that would be converted into a range of single- and double-storey accommodation.
Landscaping works including decking, boardwalks, terracing, garden beds and lawns, a vineyard, an amphitheatre, a viewing platform and parking for 21 cars are also planned.
Spokesman for the objectors and adjacent landowner Desmond Lane said “this is a high-density development concentrated in part of a small acreage and it is out of keeping with the rural character of the area.
“This is not a question of converting the existing buildings sympathetically with the environment,” he said. “Conditions cannot remedy problems and are not enforceable in practice.
“We believe the South Gippsland Shire Council’s administrators have ignored the concerns of objectors and have also ignored [criteria in the municipal] planning scheme’s Farming Zone, including the need to preserve rural character, protect rural activity now and into the future, and give adequate weight to amenity.”
The objectors are also seriously worried about increased road traffic, activity and noise, visual impact, vehicle access, the capability of the land to treat and retain effluent within its boundaries, and the effect such a development would have on existing farming and agroforestry activities on neighbouring properties.
South Gippsland Shire Council’s administration panel chair Julie Eisenbise said that the decision to approve the development had not been taken lightly.
“This application has been taken very seriously,” she said.
“As well as reviewing all of the information supplied by both the proponent and the objectors, two administrators visited the proposed development site to gain the best possible understanding of the location and to consider some of the points of contention.
“We believe that the extensive permit conditions will ensure that many objector concerns are addressed while still allowing the tourism development to proceed,” said Ms. Eisenbise said.
“Tourism is a major economic driver for the South Gippsland and this development will help to address a demand for group accommodation.”
Among the extensive conditions applicable to the development relate to the provision and approval of amended plans that address a number of issues including the removal of a structure, deletion of illuminated signage, alteration to vehicular access and the inclusion of detailed landscaping, waste management and refuse storage provisions.
The conditions also require a patron management plan to be approved by the council as well as a comprehensive bushfire emergency plan to be endorsed by both the council and the Country Fire Authority.
Developer Jeff Wigney said “obviously we welcome the council’s decision and we believe that we put forward a fairly significant and comprehensive proposal that was prepared by a town planning firm.
“We are committed to go ahead,” he said.
“We have made some compromises to our plans as a result of feedback from objectors and have basically found ways around the issues,” he said, referring to the removal of a new building, a film screen and lit signage from the proposal.
“I think the objectors are going to VCAT and [the project will now be] subject to due process.”