Below is an email received from the BHCA group, who mounted an extremely effective, community based campaign against the proposed re-development of the Calvary Healthcare Bethlehem Hospital site located in Kooyong Road, South Caulfield. During the course of their campaign, the original proposal for inclusion of a 19 storey tower was modified to 10-11 stories.
As per the email, the just published VCAT decision has approved the modified proposal (ie. 10-11 stories) on the basis that “retirement villages are exempt from height limits”. In this case, the surrounding residential areas is zoned Neighbourhood Residential and has a 2 storey height limit.
As this VCAT decision can be expected to have significant implications for future similar developments in Glen Eira and across Metro Melbourne, it is disturbing to note the comment
“that had we relied solely on the promises of our elected councillors and allowed the Glen Eira City Council to prosecute our objections alone, it would have been a major folly”
I am not usually in the habit of looking back, but as we have learned of VCAT’s decision, I remember that horrible sinking feeling that we all experienced when we learnt of Calvary’s proposed 19/20-storey tower. While everyone recognised that the Bethlehem hospital site was ripe to be updated and improved, we all understood the deep impact that development on the scale proposed would have on the neighbourhood character and the direct effect on surrounding properties.
The community knew that this proposed development needed to be resisted. It was with your support – moral, practical and financial, that we, as a community, forcefully expressed our objection in this administrative VCAT process against the high-powered team of barristers and experts engaged by Calvary.
The decision issued by VCAT has not stopped the redevelopment of the Bethlehem Hospital by Calvary. It has, however, fundamentally reshaped it.
VCAT has directed the Glen Eira City Council to issue a permit for the redevelopment of Bethlehem Hospital that is now 10/11 storeys. The appearance of the buildings is more articulated with a finer grain exterior. The retirement village, aged care and ancillary uses are now more evenly spread over the site. The 90 place childcare centre has been abandoned. The inadequacy of the car parking arrangements were acknowledged and the at-grade car park on the corner of Saturn Street and Kooyong Road reserved, as a condition of the permit, as a permanent carpark, serving to somewhat alleviate the pressure on the surrounding streets.
I hate to think what might have been the outcome of the VCAT process without the local community’s engagement of strong legal representation and expert witnesses. Attending each day of the hearing demonstrated to me that this was the right approach and that our well-argued objection contributed to a revised development that is substantially reduced in scale. It also confirmed to me that had we relied solely on the promises of our elected councillors and allowed the Glen Eira City Council to prosecute our objections alone, it would have been a major folly.
Significantly, and notwithstanding our expertly constructed legal arguments about the application of height limits on retirement villages, VCAT determined that retirement villages are exempt from height limits, setting a new legal precedent that I am sure will be adopted by other developers throughout the suburbs of Melbourne. (Incidentally, it appears that VCAT’s decision has introduced an even bigger loophole to the planning regulations for applications made prior to the current act – time will tell what impact this has).
For those that wish to read the VCAT decision, it is attached.
As the spokesperson for the BHCA Group and the local community, and in what will be the last communication to the group, I would like to thank everyone for the energy, financial contributions and support to defend the character of our local streets and the amenity of our own properties. I am firmly of the view that without it, we could not have achieved any amendment to the original scheme.
on behalf of BHCAGroup Steering Group