Planning Committee recommends refusal of permit for five-storey Portarlington building

Council’s Planning Committee has recommended the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) refuse a planning permit for a proposed five-storey apartment building in Portarlington.

The proposed building, on a visually prominent site at 49 Newcombe Street, would feature 13 apartments, two shops and a basement car park.

Given the slope of the land, the building would have the appearance of being three storeys from Newcombe Street, and five storeys from the parkland and pier to the north.

It would have a maximum height of 14.3 metres above ground level.

The application is also seeking a reduction of five car parking spaces on the statutory rate.

A public notice about the plan attracted 125 written objections and eight letters of support.

Objectors’ concerns centred on the development’s overall height and size, the likely conflict with the existing character of the township, its impact on important view lines within the town and the adjoining kindergarten and heritage building, the reduction in parking, the potential increase in traffic, and pedestrian safety.

There were also objections relating to the location of waste disposal (with bins to be placed on the nature strip), the building’s lack of environmentally sustainable design, the precedent it would set for future development, and the building’s potential impacts on the local tourism industry and businesses.

The City of Greater Geelong’s Strategic Planning and Urban Design, Social Planning, and Waste teams all determined that they did not support the proposal, as did the City’s Heritage Advisor.

During Thursday night’s hearing, the Planning Committee unanimously voted to accept a recommendation from City planning officers to advocate that VCAT refuse a permit.

Planning Committee Chair, Cr Kylie Grzybek, said the local community had justifiably been vocal in its opposition to the proposed building.

It is clear that the development wouldn’t fit with the seaside holiday village character of Portarlington, and in fact there is a real risk it would change the character of the town.

Maximum residential building heights for this site are recommended to be two storeys, so this proposal is well above that and is simply too visually imposing – especially given its prominent location on the main street, where it would also be very visible from the foreshore and pier.

Mayor Stephanie Asher, who moved the motion to recommend a refusal, said concerns about the impact on neighbouring buildings were also valid.

There are a number of issues that are contrary to the desired character of the Portarlington township.

The incongruous nature of the modern building next to a heritage-listed post office, the height on such a gentle slope and the bulk of the building are contrary to the lowscale character of the township.

The proposed use also poses traffic, parking, pedestrian safety and amenity issues when what local residents want is a passive garden space.

While I appreciate that the applicant has made some compromises, ultimately the applicant has chosen to take the application to VCAT and I support the officers’ view to recommend refusal on multiple policy grounds.

Alongside Mayor Asher and Cr Grzybek, the committee included Deputy Mayor Trent Sullivan and councillors Jim Mason, Sarah Mansfield and Belinda Moloney.

VCAT will hold a compulsory conference on 23 June ahead of a case hearing from 30 August to 3 September.

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