Debney’s Park has an extensive and unusual history: tannery, tip, river bank, open space.
In the last decade, it has seen further reductions and improvements – and now it faces an uncertain future.
This timeline tracks these recent events in the life of Flemington’s largest and most important park.
May 2007: Moonee Valley Council resolved to give public notice of intention to sell 442 sqm of the eastern boundary of Debney’s Park abutting Mt Alexander Rd.
December 2009: MVCC resolved to give notice to sell 460 sqm of Debney’s Park as described above.
April 2010: After hearing submissions from the Flemington Association and one other, MVCC proceeded with the sale – providing the necessary road conditions for the development of the 23 storey ALT tower.
July 2010: $1.7m federal funding received for children’s adventure playground. Completed 2011.
March 2014: East West Link Panel hearing hears that an extension to the Bolte Bridge as a second stage of the East West Link would impact the Flemington Community Centre and the Adventure Playground.
December 2014: The East West Link does not proceed.
20 December 2016: MVCC resolves to work with DHHS to prepare a Masterplan for the Flemington Estate precinct and enter an MOU with DHHS.
The report to this meeting states Council and DHHS will work towards:
- Providing adequate community and supporting services for residents and the wider community
- Expanding facilities in a fit-for-purpose way that is open and accessible to all residents of Moonee Valley
- Embedding sustainability into the design of buildings and the public realm
- Exploring commercial needs to support the broader community in appropriate locations on the Estate to activate and support the community hub
28 March 2017: MVCC resolves to:
- Provide in-principle support for the relocation of the Flemington Community Centre more proximate to Racecourse Road in any future development outcomes.
- Support the Minister for Planning to be the Responsible Authority for the Debneys Precinct through the forthcoming planning process.
The Council report states: “One of the outcomes identified through the Stage One processes is that the optimum location for the community centre is proximate to Racecourse Road. Discussions with DHHS has indicated agreement to locating the Community Centre in a building to be developed on Racecourse Road. The appropriate location of the Community Centre extremely important to Council’s interest in the Precinct redevelopment.”
June 2017: DHHS and MVCC develop a joint Structure Plan for Debney’s Precinct providing for a new multi-purpose community centre fronting Racecourse Rd, and enhanced recreation facilities and a new sports pavilion on Debney’s Park.
22 August 2017: Council resolves to endorse its submission to the Panel for the Flemington Estate Renewal project subject to an alteration to change the preferred location of the community centre to “adjacent to Debney’s park on DHHS land”.
The Council report for this meeting notes “that DHHS has agreed to include a relocated Community Centre Facility within the DHHS land. The exact location and form of such a centre will be progressed through the next stage.”
The Council’s submission states:
14 September 2017: Panel Hearing for the Flemington Estate Renewal Program:
MVCC presents a Development Plan with the Community Centre located on Council parkland. Council says to the Panel: “we think we can get the best community facilities at this location.”
19 September 2017: MVCC’s Director of Planning and Development writes to the Chair of the Panel stating “the plans are concepts only and have neither been endorsed by Council not been the subject of community consultation … and provide a basis for further discussion”.
MVCC also tables a ‘Land Exchange Agreement’ at the hearings noting that the state government never completed land transfers to compensate the local government for the land consumed by the Department of Education for Debney Meadows Primary School.
Council asserts that the land originally offered to council as part of the land exchange (in the 1970s) is unsatisfactory. MVCC seeks 2698sqm of DHHS land and rejects as unsuitable the triangular and rectangular parcels offered in the 1970s (shown in hatching on the plans below).
March 2018: Planning Panel Report is released: The report does not make a specific recommendation about the provision of the community centre, but states:
“Council officers’ preliminary concept for new community facilities is an ‘iconic’ building, meeting the needs of both residents and the whole community with a major frontage to Debneys Park. Be that as it may, the Committee supports the proposal to include at least some of what will be necessarily expanded community facilities on the ground floor of the Racecourse Road building. Not only is this a location where residential amenity would be poor, it has excellent access for both the Estate residents and those from the wider Flemington community.
In addition, it frees up valuable space within the park. The Committee considers that the creation of a community hub within the redevelopment with frontage to Racecourse Road can reinforce the sense of community as sought by the Structure Plan. It can have both a beneficial urban design and community outcome.
Mr Patrick considered the proposed Community Centre option adjacent to the boundary of Debney’s Park is a poor location, as it would act as a barrier to the park. Of most concern to Mr Patrick is the proposed road to be constructed along part of the northern boundary, as he considered that the opportunity to provide direct access to the park would be lost.
The Committee strongly supports Mr Patrick’s view that the protection of the root zones of the trees along the northern interface with Debneys Park should be a fundamental consideration in determining building footprints.
22 May 2018: A Council report following the Minister’s approval of the C177 Amendment says that Council sought guidance from the Panel about Debney’s Park (Stage 2), but that there is “more work for Council to do alongside key stakeholders in relation to Debney’s Park and key facilities”.
Arguably ignoring the Panel’s comments about the preferred location of the community centre and the inadvisability of loss of parkland, the Council report states:
“The Amendment process allowed some of the issues and opportunities for a new FCC to be identified. The Advisory Committee recognised the need and the opportunities for redevelopment of the FCC, however no specific recommendations were provided.”
The Council report provides the following summary: (Committee recommendation means the outcome of the Panel hearing process. Amendment outcome means the Minister’s final decision.)
The Amendment included in the MVCC planning scheme a requirement that the second stage of the plans (Debney’s Park) be developed in consultation with DHHS.
“Develop Stage 2 of the Debneys Precinct – Structure Plan, in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services.”
July 2018: First meeting of the Flemington Neighbourhood Advisory Group (FNAG) formed to consider the Community Hub and Debney’s Park improvements. The group participates in consultation activities, but does not discuss the location or composition of the hub in any detail.
February 2019: FNAG is shown plans for a new community hub on a singular location having not previously discussed the location of the hub.
March 2019: MVCC resolves to put three options for the community hub out for 6 weeks consultation. All three options locate the hub on Council land between the estate and the park.
This timeline of events shows that at some point between August and September 2017, Council officers’ plan to locate a community hub on DHHS land changed to locating a community hub on Council parkland with no clear explanation to, and direction from, Councillors.
It also highlights that the planning panel process made clear comments about the future of a community centre and parkland that don’t appear to have been accommodated by MVCC’s plans for a community hub on parkland.
MVCC must consult with DHHS to develop plans for Debney’s Park. Residents are keen to understand how this consultation is proceeding and how it interacts with Council’s commitments to preserve parkland and open space, to explain how we found ourselves here.