VCAT Diary


Monday 7th September 2009

Just a quick report on our first day at VCAT.

Today the hearing got going with the Council's legal representative  strarting her presentation. This covered all the background to the application and a thorough review of all the relevant sections of the planning sheme and other documents. The folder she handed over was one of those large lever arch files and it was full!

Then the Council' expert witness on urban planning gave his presentation, which included slides. It was the first time we have seen the plans in colour - and i have to admitt that i thought the colour would make the design look slightly better but alas did not! Perhaps nothing can dress up a box!

The applicants lawyer then proceeded to rip right into the expert witness, making us feel glad that as community objectors we can't be cross-examined. This seemed to go on for ever and for little obvious point. It seems that the developer is trying to argue that the supermarket is a fulfilling a community service and that to be a viable business needs to be a certain size regardless of the surroundings! Hmmmm.

One of the community objectors, made an excellent slide presentation that showed why people choose to live in Tecoma and what made it different from any other suburb. This presentation is available here. (Warning: this is a 23.1 Mbyte download)

The Council's lawyer then redirected the tribunal and reaffirmed the expert witnesses points. And the day ended.

Tomorrow, we may get our chance to present - probably after lunch.

Hi everyone


The third day was the applicant's turn to present his case.  As yesterday

was objectors' day, only two of us from TVAG were present today, and we were

invited to sit up at the table, an interesting experience!

The day started with the applicant's lawyer calling upon their Urban Design

consultant to present his case on why a large supermarket was relevant,

important and necessary for Tecoma and its community.  He talked about the

building facades, setback and interaction with the current shoppping strip,

pedestrian access and carparking.  Council's lawyer then cross examined him

followed by others at the table.  This took up the whole morning session.

It had already been acknowledged that there is no argument between the

parties that a supermarket can be built on the site. The question is, what

form of  building is appropriate for the site.  As a defined Neighbourhood

Centre we understood Tecoma to be a strip shopping centre with characterstic

shop frontages.  It seemed to us that the developer was basing his argument

on a Commercial Centre definition and a lot of discussion on the relevant

planning policy clauses took place.

After lunch the applicant's traffic expert witness presented her report

followed by the same process of cross examination. The Sandell's Road access

/ exit understandably generated a large amount of discussion.  Problems

raised yesterday by TVAG's traffic expert were put to the witness and, unsurprisingly were largely discounted!

 We asked if a survey had been done on increased traffic on local residential roads and were told projections showed minimal impact.

The day concluded with a third expert witness called to talk on the

proposed landscaping.  An espaliered east wall and landscaping with various

sized trees and shrubs screening the northern interface with the residential zone were

described.  Watering was an issue raised by cross examination and we pursued the type of vegetation to be used, maintenance and dealing with vandalism.

VCAT will visit the site and undertake a tour of local Hills centres this

week and will reconvene on 19 October.  One day will probably be enough to

finish the hearing.

Stay tuned ... !

Wednesday 9th September 2009

TUesday 8th September 2009

Council's lawyer started the morning session by pursuing three vital apsects

*  the appropriateness of the built form

*  the impact on amenity to the north of the site 

*  conditions to mitigate traffic development

The question posed was whether this was an appropriate development for this site, which is very different to any other township in the State. The focus has to be on retention of the township's character.


And yet again, more discussion on the implications for traffic and what changes would be desirable for Burwood Highway and Sandells Road.  Little consideration appears to have been given to the McNicol Road intersection.

The representative from VicRoads then presented his report, which was followed by further legal cross examination.


We were reminded that the development is 'retail space', that is more than a supermarket. The supermarket will be about 2000m², a similar size to Belgrave Safeway, while the whole site covers approx 2600m² .  As there is no planned growth for Tecoma, it is not a regional centre and it currently serves local needs, why is there a need for a supermarket? It was noted as being a visual intrusion and inappropriate response to the topography.


Then it was the turn of TVAG's traffic engineer whose report identified various problems that would need to be addressed. The same routine of cross-examination by the legal representatives followed.


Finally the objectors were invited to present their cases. Before lunch, three submissions were made - by a resident from Upwey, a tabled document from Dr Gration on the McNicol Road intersection and an objection submitted on behalf of a resident in the adjoining units.  


After lunch it was time for more objectors to make their verbal submissions. First off was a local real estate agent and resident of Sandells Road, this presentation detailed a large number of the traffic problems that would worsen if the proposed development went ahead. This objector also provided an account of how the development would look from their property nearby in Sandells Road - "a huge shed". Next was the Tecoma Village Action Group, us! We divided the submission up into sections and each presented part of it. The speakers were Barbara Crisp, Jo Tenner, Anita Dealy and Melanie de Bree. We will make our submission available online shortly here.

We were the last of the objectors and the hearing then proceeded to be addressed by the lawyers for the developer. They seemed to be arguing that because the planning scheme permitted the site to be used as a supermarket that they had some right to design and operate it in whatever fashion they desired. Clearly the planning controls require that a net community benefit is demonstrated. One that we do not believe can be shown to exist.

Friday 11th September 2009

Two members of VCAT were due to visit the site in Tecoma today.

The Tribunal has now gone into recess until the 19th October to study the presentations and lodged documents. On the 19th October, the applicant’s lawyer and one more expert witness will present to the Tribunal after which the Tribunal will go into deliberations. It is unknown at this time when the Tribunal will make it’s decision known publicly.

TVAG VCAT Submission

Click on link below to download our submission to VCAT

(Size: 800kB Format: pdf)


Monday 19th OCTOBER 2009

This was the final day of the hearing.  Four members of TVAG attended and 2 other concerned residents also attended.


In the morning the applicant's architect expert witness presented his report and was cross examined, followed by the acoustics expert witness in the afternoon.  The hearing wound up with the applicant's lawyer responding to and proposing amendments to the Conditions of Permit, to be applied should the application prove successful.  Again we were able to comment and the final Conditions will be determined by VCAT.


At the end of the hearing the Chairman announced that he and his associate would undertake a second site visit and therefore reserve their judgement.  We were given no indication of when a decision will be brought down but would hope this would occur before Christmas.


It is still disappointing that our environment continues to be ignored in the interests of big business.  Much reference was made today of developing the supermarket as an Activity Centre to be the central focus of the town, despite Tecoma being designated as a low residential area by Council.  So our small township could be treated as an urban development area instead of a haven away from the suburbs.  We hope that our hard work will yield the outcome we have been striving for."

Tuesday 24th November 2009 - Round 1 to the community !!

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Council today announced their decision in favour of the community and have rejected the current application by Freeman Tecoma Pty Ltd to build a massive supermarket in Tecoma.

Their full decision is P3747 2008 Freeman Tecoma Pty Ltd v Yarra Ranges SC (bs bs 140909).doc. [123kB Word Doc]


For the above reasons we will affirm the decision of the Council and direct that no permit be issued.  In doing so, we are not suggesting that a supermarket cannot be developed on this site.  Indeed, given the size of the land, we consider that a supermarket could be accommodated on this site to serve the local community.  Such a development will, however, need to be much more modest than that proposed here.  The design, siting and scale will need to better acknowledge and respond to the character of the area, the topographical conditions of the site and the interface with the residential properties.  We consider that it will need to provide a lesser floor area with a commensurate reduction in the size and extent of the resultant built form.