PLANNING minister Matthew Guy has indicated he will consider Kingston Council’s contentious bid to rezone land in the green wedge to a minimum lot size of 2000 square metres, possibly paving the way for residential development in the environmentally-sensitive area.
The News can reveal minister Guy wrote to council late last month to advise he would consider such a request from council “based on its merits” should it be formally made.
The correspondence from the minister seems at odds with previous public statements he has made on the matter, including a pledge in state parliament as recently as March this year that he had no intention of “approving anything” on green wedge land near Southern Golf Club (‘Guy ‘no intention’ to rezone wedge’, The News, 26/3/14).
Kingston Council asked the planning minister late last year for advice on rezoning green wedge land between Kingston and Heatherton Rds and Lower Dandenong Rd to a Rural Living Zone with a minimum lot size of 2000 square metres.
Council’s proposal, expanded in March after a narrow five to four councillors’ vote on the issue, also now includes a request to rezone 53 hectares of green wedge land within the boundary of Braeside Park, Southern Golf Club, Springvale and Governor Rds to “an appropriate residential zone” by moving the Urban Growth Boundary to include the land.
This land includes Mentone Grammar’s Keysborough playing fields near Southern Golf Club.
In February this year, The News revealed the elite private school had made a request to council in April 2012 – kept confidential by council at the time – to move the playing fields into the urban growth boundary and out of the green wedge (‘Exclusive letter lands’, The News, 9/4/14).
Minister Guy’s latest correspondence advised council “to speak to the Metropolitan Planning Authority regarding any change to the Urban Growth Boundary”.
The letter stated one of the initiatives of the governement’s Plan Melboune strategy “is to protect Melbourne and its suburbs from inappropriate development”, including the need to “lock in a permanent Urban Growth Boundary” with “a process…to be established in the near future.”
Defenders of the South East Green Wedge secretary Barry Ross said the recent communication from the minister to Kingston Council was “disappointing”.
“We believe he [minister Guy] should come out of the long grass and nip all this in the bud,” Mr Ross said.
“The minister makes public statements about protecting the green wedge and that letter is disappointing.”
Mr Ross said he hoped Mr Guy would end uncertainty over the potential rezoning of green wedge land so “everyone knows where they stand”.
He said market gardeners in the green wedge could not make future business plans until the green wedge’s future was secured.
“It would also put landowners who believe they stand to make windfall gains [from any rezoning] out of their misery,” Mr Ross said.
Kingston Council did not respond to requests for comment before publication.
A spokesperson for Mr Guy advised The News the planning minister was unavailable for interview before deadline.
A statement from Mr Guy was provided: “Our Office has not received any formal request to alter schedules – so we can’t comment on this council matter as such.”