Mixed verdict on townhouses

by Cam Lucadou-Wells

Two multi-townhouse proposals in Noble Park have received vastly different verdicts at the state’s planning tribunal.

A trio of double-storey townhouses on a 638 square metre site at 34 Shepreth Avenue was knocked back during a recent VCAT appeal.

Meanwhile, three similar-sized townhouses were approved on a larger block at 25 Ardgower Road.

Greater Dandenong Council had refused both applications. Both sites are currently occupied by a single house and in Incremental Change zones.

At Ardgower Road, the council took issue with parking and traffic impacts – there were too many units on the street, too little on-street parking and it was near a five-way roundabout.

Residents were already reporting parking and traffic problems, the council argued.

“Ardgower Road is commonly reduced to a single lane for vehicle travel in both directions.”

Neighbours were concerned about increasing traffic due to other redevelopments, the kindergarten and Yooralla facility in the same street.

However, the council’s own transport planning department had no objection, VCAT member Tracy Watson noted.

Watson concluded that the traffic and parking impacts were “acceptable”.

Each townhouse would be provided with a double garage, in accordance with the planning scheme. There would be up to 13 extra vehicle trips along the street each day – which meant traffic was still “well below its maximum capacity”.

“I also note that many local streets in Melbourne operate with a single lane of traffic at points where cars are parked on both sides of the street.

“This situation currently occurs within Ardgower Road, and the proposal has a negligible impact on this existing condition.”

Watson agreed with a council officer’s report which found the proposal “fully compliant” with the Incremental Change Zone, but for a “very minor issue of design detail”.

“Indeed, Ardgower Road has undergone a reasonably high level of medium density housing redevelopment, with many nearby examples of redevelopment that are either comparable to, or are more intensive, than the proposal before me.”

However, VCAT agreed with Greater Dandenong Council that the Shepreth Avenue townhouses didn’t fit the neighbourhood.

Objectors argued it was an overdevelopment, had inadequate landscaping, and would cause traffic congestion and amenity impacts.

VCAT member Shiran Wickramasinghe noted the site’s proposed two driveways went against the area’s landscaped character, particularly with the absence of canopy trees in the front garden.

“I do not find the inclusion of the grassed area within the driveway to provide a meaningful opportunity for landscaping.

“Due to the trafficable nature of driveways and the potential impact of cars on these areas their ability to make a landscape contribution to the site and neighbourhood is limited.”

Wicramasinghe stated the street was filled with 1950s single-storey homes and newer infill dwellings up to two-storeys.

The future character included well-designed townhouses up to three storeys high.

“Whilst the proposal generally complies with the numerical standards, I find the proposal will not contribute to the preferred character for this neighbourhood.”

The member didn’t agree with objectors that there would be “unacceptable traffic congestion”.