Residents’ last stand

Yarraman Village residents Alannah Smith, Shawna Lavis, Simon Smith, Gordon Dann and Jess Brown stand up for the river red gum treeland. 218917_05 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Residents at a Noble Park housing estate feel duped after developers were given VCAT’s green light to bulldoze “the only trees in the village”.

Homeowners say they’d bought into the 158-dwelling Yarraman Village in Hanna Street in 2016 after a salesperson promised them that the stand of mature river gum trees would remain.

This claim is denied by the developer, The Village Building Company.

“I was told, while I signed my contract of sale, that the trees were staying … and not told they were going to keep putting in the application until they were successful,” a “gutted” resident Shawna Lavis said.

“We’ve been left with nothing.

“I feel the greed of the developers and the bottom line of money has been put before the environment and the people of the community.”

Ms Lavis says the neighbouring trees were a major selling point for her family moving into the high-density estate. It was a community space for gatherings and children’s play.

Then on the final inspection of the property, she told a developer how happy she was to look out at the trees from her balcony.

“Not for long,” the Village Building Company representative allegedly said, revealing plans for further nine townhouses.

She describes the estate as an “absolute nightmare” with dwellings crowded along narrow, stark streets.

Residents hire a private garbage collection service because the municipal garbage trucks can’t fit in the confined space, she said.

To add insult to injury, Ms Lavis was among nine formal objectors but wasn’t notified of the VCAT hearing.

“As a result of Covid, the case was suspended and that was the last I heard until the shock news of the ruling yesterday,” Ms Lewis said.

Neighbour and objector Gordon Dann was also not invited to take part in the VCAT hearing.

Mr Dann labelled the VCAT decision to remove the stand of about 25 “beautiful old trees” to add a further eight townhouses as “outrageous and gut wrenching”.

The deletion of one of the planned townhouses to preserve the most prominent tree was of little consolation.

“My wife and I chose … our homesite for the bush outlook,” Mr Dann said.

“For Village, it’s success is a victory for avarice, even gluttony, and downright pigheadedness.”

The land parcel was the only public open space within the village. The alternative open space at the top of the adjoining Mile Creek’s banks was an “insult”, Mr Dann said.

“A mad, last-minute planting and pavilion-building program falls well short of what occupiers expected from the original sales brochure, not to mention dangerous eroded creek banks, blackberry infestation and rats’ nests.”

Mr Dann urged City of Greater Dandenong to appeal the decision to the Victorian Supreme Court.

The developer The Village Building Company denies making representations to prospective buyers that it would retain the trees.

“The contracts of sale and marketing documentation for the first three stages of development clearly display Village’s intention to develop this land with housing,” state general manager Tom Maidment said.

“No such representations that it would remain as treed land were made to prospective buyers.”

Mr Maidment said the homes, directly opposite a train station and near Greaves Reserve, would provide “much needed affordable accommodation which is exceptionally serviced”.

Greater Dandenong Council weighs its options, page 3.