Gisborne’s coveted village feel could be compromised if Macedon Ranges Council’s draft 30-year plan for the town is adopted without change.
The plan recommends controversial expansion of Gisborne Business Park and allows for high-density development close to the town centre including three-storey homes and four-storey commercial fronts.
But it was the unanticipated and rushed inclusion of a 212-hectare property in the Gisborne town settlement boundary that dominated debate on the plan at council’s meeting last week.
The 30-year Gisborne Futures plan incorporates the town’s structure plan, urban design framework and neighbourhood character study.
Councillors wrestled with the idea of the property’s last-minute inclusion, which went against warnings of repeating council’s past errors, and council officer advice.
The Kilmore Road property, known as Glen Junor, is the proposed launch-ground for a unique biodiversity sensitive urban design concept to set aside one hectare of land for nature or community for every hectare of urban development.
Council’s strategic planning manager Robert Ball said the submission was “very high level and conceptual” but lacked vital supporting material to justify inclusion in the Gisborne Futures.
He said the land was constrained in terms of services, service provision and transport.
“That site just hasn’t stacked up based on the information we’ve got before us,” Mr Ball said.
“The landowners haven’t, to date, presented the detailed assessments that other landowners have brought forward in terms of servicing reports, feasibility studies, native flora and fauna assessments.”
Chief Executive Margot Stork urged councillors to be “well aware and across the risk factors associated with altering such significant documents”.
But despite the concept’s infancy, Cr Mandi Mees pushed for the property’s inclusion in the town settlement boundary.
Cr Mees and Cr Andrew Twaits suggested the vision was too “fundamental and profound” to be ignored and its inclusion in the documents was a chance for the concept to be tested and refined with the community.
Cr Mees felt there was a possible shortfall in assumptions of the population growth underpinning the structure plan and that the town could exhaust the possible house supply well before 2050.
She said three and four-storey infill development was “too large a leap for a community wanting to keep a village feel” but believed the east corridor of Gisborne, along Kilmore Road, had not sufficiently been considered.
“It can completely transform the unsatisfactory planning and development outcomes that we’ve seen in the past decade and can offer some further innovative thinking,” Cr Mees said.
But Cr Jennifer Anderson said there were unknown implications and the changes required to include the property were too complicated to be made “on the run”.
“My concern is that it’s further expanding a town boundary with further growth that may be not be anticipated and there is a lot more work to be done behind this motion,” she said.
Cr Anderson warned there were mistakes from council’s past to learn from. She pointed to timing issues that complicated the Urban Growth Zone and structure plan for Riddells Creek.
“My experience has told me that if you put something out that you don’t like, it can often times erode and still not be what you want at the end,” she said.
Cr Anderson’s motion to defer the decision and workshop submissions and ideas was defeated 5-4.
“IMPOSSIBLE TO ENDORSE”
Glen Junor inclusion or not, Cr Helen Radnedge said the documents were “impossible to endorse”.
She said councillors had sought protection from the planning minister in the past against three-storey buildings to protect township character from inappropriate development.
“These changes that are described as ‘incremental’ or ‘minimal’ will have a devastating effect on the ground and for the amenity of residents. These changes are huge in regard to the township character and their impact,” she said.
“Previous consultation clearly states what residents value about Gisborne and New Gisborne is the town village atmosphere in terms of semi-rural character. We also received many objections to the business park.”
A division recorded councillors in support of the draft plan with inclusion of Glen Junor were Crs Mees, Pearce, West, Twaits, Jukes and Bleeck. Against were Crs Radnedge, Anderson and Gayfer.
After community consultation and before the council reaches a final decision on the documents, significant strategic assessment to support Glen Junor’s inclusion in the Gisborne settlement boundary will be required. A further revised version of the documents will be provided for consultation.
GISBORNE AT A GLANCE
– The Gisborne township is located 55 kilometres from the Melbourne city centre and includes the settlements of Gisborne and New Gisborne. It is located at the southern end of the Macedon Ranges Shire, which sits within the peri-urban region of metropolitan Melbourne that acts as an interface between city and country.
– As a regional centre where growth is to be managed, Gisborne is the primary town in the Macedon Ranges Shire where growth will be focused.
– In 2016, Gisborne had a population of 12,831 residents. The 2020 population estimate is 14,406, and strong population growth is predicted to continue, with a population of 20,454 residents expected by 2036 (Forecast ID).