Owners defend designs and decry delays

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HOMEOWNERS in Mt Eliza’s prestigious Ranelagh Estate have defended their rights to embrace modern architecture in the wake of claims that new developments are changing the character of the 1920s “garden estate”.

Their claims come in the wake of protests from a group opposed to what it calls “inappropriate” development.

The Ranelagh Residents Association and several other property owners have appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) against a planning application for a two-storey house in Rendlesham Av.

The association, led by architect Victoria Grounds, is trying to retain what it says is the estate’s unique neighbourhood character.

The estate was designed in the 1920s by renowned architect Walter Burley Griffin and is known for its low density housing and development overlays that protect the parks and gardens and nature strips.

Michael Poulter, whose planned Rendlesham Av house is the subject of the VCAT appeal, said the association had no right to “deprive a hard-working, tax-paying family” of their dream.

Mr Poulter said he commended the association for its work on keeping units out of the area, but believes “Victoria Grounds is completely out of touch on this one”.

“The reality is that change is upon us all the time,” he said.

Mr Poulter established the Bluestone Lane Vineyard in Balnarring 20 years ago and sold up to buy the Rendlesham Av double block two years ago. He and his wife hope to build their retirement house on the site and another house for their daughter and her autistic child, who requires full-time home care.

He said the two-storey house he planned to build was not a “monstrosity” and would retain significant garden space in keeping with the “garden suburb” ideals. He said the planned building’s street height was 6.400 mm less than many of the neighbouring two-storey houses.

The association has lodged the appeal on the grounds that the development will result in “visual bulk”, is contrary to neighbourhood character, and contradicts the shire’s own planning scheme framework.

The owner of another house under construction which was the subject of an objection to council by the association, has also defended property owners’ rights to build within the limits of their legal obligations.

The man, who preferred not to be named,  said he had gone through all necessary planning requirements in order to build his family home.

“Ms Grounds of all people should acknowledge that design and people’s preferences change in time,” he said.

He said his new dwelling reduced the site coverage from the previous “termite ridden” dwelling that was on the property, and adhered to all planning overlays.

While the council’s design and development protection overlay (DDO3) requires that “proper regard” is given to established streetscapes, and development patterns and be “responsive to the environment, site conditions and character of coastal villages”, the heritage significance of the estate was limited to the road reserve and nature strips.

The house owner said insinuations that planning overlays were being ignored or watered down incorrectly suggested that he had done something wrong.

“We went through the planning process as required by council and were made to undertake various amendments as a result of objections by the Ranelagh Residents Association,” he said.

He said development was helping to improve the area, as all new dwellings were required to plant native vegetation, preferably indigenous, as part of the landscape plans.

Ms Grounds said the fault lies with the council’s approval of plans that contravened conditions of the development overlay.

“What is the point of having this overlay if it is ignored?”

Mornington Peninsula Shire did not reply to requests for comment.

First published in the Mornington News – 21 March 2017

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