KINGSTON Council’s contentious bid to rezone land in the Green Wedge for potential residential development remains on the table after councillors voted to push ahead with seeking expert advice on the matter.
The News revealed last month that planning minister Matthew Guy wrote to council advising he would consider any formally made rezoning request “based on its merits” (‘Guy open to wedge review’, The News, 18/6/14).
Mr Guy’s letter prompted pro-development councillors to ask for consultants to be brought in to provide advice on drafting an official planning scheme amendment.
Councillors Tamara Barth, David Eden, Steve Staikos and Rosemary West opposed the move at Monday evening’s council meeting, while Crs Tamsin Bearsley, Geoff Gledhill, John Ronke and Paul Peulich voted in favour of the proposal.
Cr Peulich used his mayoral casting vote to push ahead with the plan. Cr Ron Brownlees was absent from the meeting.
The amendment, if approved by the minister, would see green wedge land between Kingston and Heatherton Rds and Lower Dandenong Rd rezoned to a Rural Living Zone with minimum lot sizes of 2000 square metres.
Council will also ask the minister whether 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.
Council officers will now seek expert advice via an expression of interest tender process.
Acting environmental sustainability general manager Jonathan Guttmann said a report should be available for councillors to consider in six to seven months’ time.
Consultancy firm Planisphere was hired by Kingston Council in 2012 to draw up Kingston’s Green Wedge Plan at a cost of about $300,000. Planisphere recommended the land now being considered for rezoning should remain within the Green Wedge.
Defenders of the South East Green Wedge secretary Barry Ross condemned Kingston Council’s latest decision to spend more money on consultancy fees.
Mr Ross said pro-development councillors were putting forward a “diabolical proposal for carving up the rest of the Green Wedge.”
“Council is spending more money and time to try and justify the unjustifiable.”
Cr Rosemary West suspected councillors who wanted to hire another consultant were engaged in “a delaying tactic” since there would now be no planning minister decision on the green wedge rezoning until after November’s state election.
Cr West said delays would mean Kingston landowners in the Green Wedge who have been campaigning for the rezoning would not have to be told it was not possible now.
She doubted Mr Guy would approve the planning scheme amendment.
“Perhaps a new planning minister will allow them to get away with it,” Cr West said.
However, she noted Labor opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said he “supported” the Green Wedge and would not approve “highly unorthodox measures”.
Kingston Council was wasting time and money, according to Cr West since the existing Green Wedge Plan supported the use of green wedge land for agricultural and farming purposes.
She noted Mr Guy had rejected a similar request to rezone green wedge land at Stotts Lane in Frankston last week put to his planning department by Frankston Council (see ‘Guy: no go for homes on wedge’).
“Instead of making an honest request like Frankston Council, Kingston is now proposing to spend more money on top of the $300,000 paid on top of the Kingston Green Wedge Plan for a consultant to undertake a further strategic plan which will undermine all the green wedges, as well as this one,” Cr West said.
n Councillors finally agreed to try to protect land north of Heatherton Rd from concrete crushers and waste-related businesses after they unanimously voted to ask planning minister Matthew Guy to rezone the Special Use Zone land to Green Wedge A Zone.
Waste-related activities are prohibited in Green Wedge A zones.
North Ward councillor Steve Staikos had pushed for council to effectively ban waste operations from the area on several occasions last year but found his notices of motions regularly voted down by five fellow councillors: Crs Tamsin Bearsley, Ron Brownlees, Geoff Gledhill, John Ronke and Paul Peulich.
The move to stop further waste activities in the area will come as a relief to residents of Dingley, Clayton South, Clarinda and Heatherton who often complain about noise and smells from existing landfills.
Kingston Council has never supported materials recyclings businesses in the Green Wedge, but this has not stopped companies from trying to open new facilities there.
In December last year, council rejected a Delta Group application for a concrete crusher in Heatherton.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy was forced to intervene and provide an 18-month interim materials recycling policy to protect Kingston’s Green Wedge from inappropriate developments, including concrete crushers.
Council now has ten months to exhibit a planning scheme amendment and ask the minister to permanently protect the Green Wedge from waste-related operations.
Mr Ross hailed the council move as “a really important breakthrough after two years of stalling” and hoped it would end Metropolitan Waste Management Group’s proposal that the area become a waste hub.