Golf plan for course ahead

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A PLANNING review by the state government has prompted Kingston Council to reiterate its policy of preferring sold-off golf courses be kept clear of development as open space.

Councillors at the latest public council meeting on 28 August discussed council’s submission to the state government’s Planning for golf in Victoria paper to be released later this month.

The paper will outline a 35-year strategy to “help golf navigate the issues facing the sport, such as pressure to rezone golf course land for residential use”.

A task force, including state bureaucrats and a representative from Golf Victoria, established by the government is assessing how best to help golf clubs survive and thrive amid declining membership numbers.

A preliminary discussion paper released in June noted: “290 hectares of golf land has been sold to developers in recent years”.

“The number of golf courses inside the urban growth boundary in Melbourne’s south east exceeds demand,” the discussion paper stated.

“A number may be suited to repurposing for other sports, community facilities or open space serving active recreation.

“Some clubs are keen to be rezoned for residential development but constraints on the land, unsuitable location and other considerations may limit how much land is suitable for rezoning.”

Councillors voted 5-4 to tell the state government Kingston Council wants any land vacated by golf clubs in future to be available for community use.

Cr Rosemary West suggested golf clubs could be more sustainable if function centres and other sports facilities are built at course sites.                

Cr Geoff Gledhill, the Liberal Party candidate in Mordialloc for next November’s state election, argued council needed to be wary of determining golf clubs’ futures.

“Every effort has to be made to retain that [golf courses] if possible, but we can’t do, I suppose, is second guess what’s happening in that industry and what people are doing with their spare time,” he said.

“There is pressure for active sports facilities all over the place. We’re encouraging young women to play sports that they traditionally haven’t been a part of and there’s just not room for them. It’s about getting a balanced outcome.”

He said there should be a “net community benefit” and this could take the form of more schools, kindergartens or “affordable housing”.

“A bland subdivision … is not an acceptable outcome,” Cr Gledhill said.

The council debate and submission to the state government comes as property fund manager ISPT finalises its planning application to Kingston Council proposing the Kingswood Golf Course in Dingley Village be rezoned for the construction of a residential housing estate.

ISPT bought the course for $125 million against a market value of about $80 million at the time two years ago.

Councillors will debate and vote on the planning application at a public planning meeting on 20 September.

Dingley Village residents who oppose the development have rallied under the Save Kingswood community group banner.

“This particular paper that’s being introduced by the state government is probably too late for Kingswood but it does affect and impact on urban golf courses within the city of Kingston,” Cr Steve Staikos said at the latest council meeting.

He noted green wedge zoned golf courses have “extra protections” against development.

“We do have golf courses in the urban area and we’re not going to give people carte blanche to start processes for development.”

Cr West expressed concern about the state government’s discussion paper “watering down” protections against residential development.

“All sorts of other things can be traded off against the golf course,” she said.

The discussion paper mentions open space may be an option to be provided elsewhere by developers or “social housing, crisis accommodation, libraries, education precincts, health or legal services” could be uses permitted on former golf course land.

Crs Staikos, West, Tamara Barth, the mayor Cr David Eden and Georgina Oxley voted to make a submission to the state government that amended a council officers’ report on the matter.

Crs Tamsin Bearsley, Ron Brownlees, Gledhill and George Hua voted against that course of action.

First published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News – 6 September 2017

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