In 2017, Planning Panels Victoria recommended that the Minister for Planning become the Responsible Authority for the Debney’s Precinct, including Debney’s Park, for the renewal of the housing estate.
The next year, the Planning Minister became the Responsible Authority for the DHHS land but said that “it is not necessary to become the Responsible Authority for [Debney’s Park] at this time”.
Which raises the question – will there be a time at which the Minister thinks it is necessary to become the Responsible Authority for Debney’s Park, and have control over all planning for the parkland?
This would be a concern for residents who are trying to make sense of Moonee Valley Council’s plans for a massive $40 million community hub on precious green open space.
Is Moonee Valley Council under some pressure from State Government to deliver community facilities for the 1300 new residents expected to move in when the Flemington housing estate is redeveloped?
If Moonee Valley doesn’t deliver the new facilities, will the Minister for Planning take over as planning authority for our community park? Surely not. Such a move would outrage residents.
But the plans for the community hub are being rushed through consultation and council processes with such surprising inattention to detail, that residents are worried something more sinister is afoot.
Residents are particularly concerned that while three options for the hub have been presented for community feedback, they are all in the one location – right next to the housing estate and in the best, safest part of the park with beautiful mature trees.
Many residents are asking:
- Why is MVCC only proposing only one location?
- Why is this location on the ‘dress circle’ of the park – not in the area further from the estate but closer to transport, and better suited to built form?
- Why do two of the designs propose a road through the park to an underground car-park with a big gaping entrance?
- Why does the Council want to put ponds next to children’s playgrounds?
- Why is the $1.7m playground constructed in 2011 removed from two of the designs?
- How much of the space in the building will be for council offices and government agencies, and how much for community use?
- Will the community have access to the building after hours and on weekends?
- Why does the entire $40m need to be spent on the hub, and not outdoor facilities?
- Why is the school removed in two of the plans, when the Department of Education says they have no plans to move the school?
- Why are these plans being developed before we know what is going to be built on the DHHS housing estate land?
The three proposed concept plans appear so light on details – including internal plans, location of sports change rooms, disability parking, how roads through parkland and water will be managed with children running around … it is bewildering that Council is willing to rush plans for a $40 million facility.
Pressure from the State Government might explain the circumstance residents are finding so confusing.
Any pressure may also be related to prospective development on the housing estate, and a desire by the State Government to locate all community facilities on the parkland, rather than in amongst the new housing as suggested by Planning Panels Victoria.
The Amendment to facilitate the housing renewal program, C177, requires any developer wishing to build the new private and social housing on the currently public land, to potentially show community facilities, and to prepare a Social Infrastructure Assessment:
If the facilities are all provided on the parkland, a developer need not do any heavy lifting with respect to community infrastructure on the housing estate.
Residents are feeling worried.
Debney’s Park needs a new sporting pavilion and change facilities – this is undisputed.
The park could also do with some extra planting and places for children to play and explore, and natural settings for people to enjoy. A facility for young people to hang out safely would also be beneficial.
Whether it needs a $40 million architectural masterpiece is more contested.
Whether there is pressure to rush through plans and ignore basic planning – like avoiding roads through children’s parks – is perplexing, and worrying.
You can find the Council plans here – and the forms to send in feedback.