In March 2014, Council wrote to residents who live near each of the five vacant school sites to inform them of the Minister's decision to place a Development Plan Overlay on each of the sites. Council invited people to share their views via an online survey.
Community opposition to the Minister's decision has been strong, with about 170 people completing an online Council survey and almost 20 letters received.
The following is a summary of the community feedback:
- 96% of respondents advised they did not support the State Government's decision to impose a Development Plan Overlay; and
- 94% of respondents advised they were worried that the right to object to planning applications and to appeal to VCAT have been removed.
When giving reasons for their opposition to the Development Plan Overlay, respondents generally said it was undemocratic in that local residents should have both the right and opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the decision-making process concerning the future of these significant local sites. Many respondents expressed concern that the sites would be overdeveloped, and that they would have no legal recourse to challenge overdevelopment.
Respondents were also asked "what kind of development do you think would be acceptable on these sites?" and were asked to tell Council any other thoughts they had on this matter. There were common themes in the residents' responses, with some of these themes outlined below:
Desire for public open space
Many survey respondents expressed a strong wish that public open space be provided on the school sites. This ranged from a desire that entire sites be transformed into parkland, through to some respondents saying some residential redevelopment was acceptable, provided open space was included.
Concerns about the height/density of redevelopment
Many survey respondents said some residential redevelopment on the sites was acceptable, provided it was respectful of the existing neighbourhood character in terms of heights and density. Concerns were regularly expressed about overdevelopment.
Concerns about traffic congestion
Many survey respondents expressed concern that redevelopment would increase existing traffic congestion in the areas near the school sites.