Green Wedge church rejected

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A proposed Coptic Orthodox Church for up to 500 worshippers in Lyndhurst’s Green Wedge zone has been rejected by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

VCAT member Joel Templar stated on 20 November that the “key failings” were the building’s “extent, height and colour” in the rural setting at 785 Thompsons Road.

“I find that the height, relatively small setback to Thompsons Road, extent of floor area and proposed predominant colour of white all combine to create an unacceptable built form response in this location,” Mr Templar stated.

Though an allowed use, the church would be a “dominant feature” in the landscape, he stated.

The towers up to 22 metres tall and the main building of up to 14 metres were well above the 8-metre height limit.

The application also included a multi-purpose hall, indoor plant nursery, soccer pitch, horse stables, a priest/caretaker’s dwelling and 150-space car park.

The proponents, represented by consultants Progress Planning, had argued that the scale of the building was “inherent” to the religion.

It also proposed planting 179 exotic and indigenous trees such as River Red Gums up to 25 metres tall as screening.

Mr Templar said there was too much reliance on screening to integrate the building.

“If there are religious or traditional ‘requirements’ of this faith to have a building of such grand proportions, significant height and bright colour, then perhaps this location is not the appropriate location.”

The proposal had been approved by Greater Dandenong Council in September 2017. The decision was appealed to VCAT by Defenders of the South-East Green Wedge .

The defenders group’s assistant secretary Diana Donohue said the surrounding area was predominantly grazing land and market gardens.

“It was a gross overdevelopment, unimaginable in the pleasant, rural countryside

‘Rejection of this application is a warning against further opportunistic proposals with large inappropriate buildings and intensive activities that defeat the whole purpose of the green wedge.

“Melbourne’s Green Wedges are very much a finite resource that need to be cherished and protected, because once they are gone they are gone forever.”

Greater Dandenong Council defended its approval of the proposal at the VCAT hearing.