Hot springs ‘no’ in green wedge

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A PLANNING application for a multi-million dollar hot springs and restaurant complex near Rye has been refused by Mornington Peninsula Shire because the proposal was “contrary to the purpose of the green wedge zone”.

A failure by the applicant to “adequately address unknown environmental issues regarding groundwater contamination”, was one of eight reasons the shire gave for not permitting the complex planned on a 15-hectare site in Browns Rd, Fingal.

In a report to the shire’s planning services committee on Monday 4 September planning services team leader Rosa Zouzoulas said the proposal “satisfactorily responds” to relevant planning policies “in particular, the objectives of the green wedge zone”.

The hot springs development is planned on the Hilltonia Homestead bed and breakfast property, which lies between the northern part of the Moonah Links Resort and the shire’s Rye landfill. Peninsula Hot Springs is about one kilometre south.

Cr David Gill later predicted an appeal against the failure to secure a permit would be made to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

“This was a very important vote on what we [councillors] consider as being appropriate for the green wedge. It’s the type of development that usually ends up in VCAT,” he told The News on Friday. He said the shire’s planners seemed to usually recommend supporting applications in the green wedge.

“But this is a turning point as to what councillors see as appropriate in the green wedge.

“There are at least four other hot springs developments being talked about in the same area.”

The Hilltonia application was originally due to be considered by the planning services committee August but a report – which also recommended approval – was pulled “due to an administrative error” (“Shire bungle delays decision on hot springs” The News 22/8/17).

At that stage senior planner Alia Slamet also recommended a permit be granted to Hao Yang Australia for the Tea Tree Hot Springs Resort.

Ms Slamet said it had been decided not to hold a meeting between objectors and the developers because it would have been “unlikely to result in resolution between the two parties”.

However, councillors have now ignored the recommendations of the shire planners and sided with the 18 objections which included uncertainty about the spa’s effects on groundwater; increases in traffic; loss of native vegetation; concerns that the site was too small  for its intended use; effect on livestock; and building designs not being “sympathetic” to the landscape.

A planning assessment report prepared by consultants GHD shows ownership the land was transferred to Hao Yang Australia in March 2013 for $3.5 million.

A since-lapsed permit issued by the shire in October 2007 allowed a 52-room hotel, conference centre, spa and lap pool to be built on the site. Two extensions were subsequently allowed but a third application for more time in 2013 was refused.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 12 September 2017

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