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Huge excavation for large shoreline car park at Mid-Brighton Baths and large scale of Baths redevelopment

Unsuccessful

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Submission to VCAT re Appeal No. 2000/075213: Car Park on Foreshore, Esplanade, Brighton

Port Phillip Conservation Council Inc. is a federation of 15 conservation organizations around Port Phillip Bay. Its Constitution, dating from 1970, appears on the above Web site, and states that its aim is “to work for the better conservation of Port Phillip Bay”. It details how that can be promoted. Brighton Foreshore Preservation Association Inc. is one of its Member Organizations.

Port Phillip Conservation Council Inc. asks the Tribunal to require that the approval for the above Car Park project be modified in the following respects:

1. Main Change Sought: Siting Car Park Away from the Shoreline, and As Far North as Possible

The main change sought is that the Car Park should be as close as possible to the Baths building and to Beach Road, which is a feasible and less damaging option, rather than being close to the shoreline of Port Phillip Bay as presently proposed. The reasons for that change are:

(a) Saving of Shoreline for Water-based Activities:

The narrow strip of the earth’s surface that is the boundary between land and sea is well recognized as an attractive and important part of the public domain. There is a large area of land on the planet, and an even greater area of sea, but the area in which both land and sea are close to each other is minute by comparison. That type of surface also forms a tiny, but very highly regarded part of the Melbourne metropolitan area.

It has been longstanding Victorian Government policy that such zones are managed in a way designed to protect and perpetuate their special attractive features for the aesthetic and recreational benefit of the general public and for water-based activities. There has been recognition of the need to provide for passive recreational pursuits such as viewing the constantly changing moods of the edge of the sea, and the different forms that edge takes as one walks along the coast, from a close vantage point. Those shoreline moods are always changing as tides, weather, the quality of the natural light, natural lifeforms large, small or profuse, and water and wind-borne natural materials affect the shoreline and its appearance. Such shoreline pursuits require access to a shoreline and immediately adjacent land that is not excessively modified or made unsuitable for access. The shoreline is a favourite destination for walkers, artists and photographers, enjoying the experience of the natural aspects of the coast impinging on them, and enjoying a “sea change”.

Of course there are many other pressures on the coast, but these have largely been limited to uses that absolutely require a location next to the water, such as boat launching facilities, piers, ferry and shipping terminals etc. The good management principles that have enabled the public to receive and enjoy their present heritage of open uncluttered seaside space after some 160 years of industrialization and continuing rapid urban growth around Port Phillip need to be constantly maintained. Retrospective correction of any mistakes is very expensive and dislocating for all concerned. Every piece of coast that is reduced in attractiveness for passive recreation increases pressure on the precious remaining resource, which is surely extremely bad planning.

(b) Feasibility and Desirability of a Car Park Closer to the Baths Building and to Beach Road:

There is no significant reason why the less damaging option of concentrating the Car Park closer to the northern end of Bayside City Council’s foreshore land should not be required by the Tribunal, and there are very good reasons below, in addition to (a) above, why it should be so required.

Bayside Council owns the foreshore land in question as the successor of Brighton Council, which in 1875 was able to purchase its freehold from the successors to the 1841 Dendy Special Survey. The Council did that after a Supreme Court action, and after significant pioneering community concern demonstrated the strength of the newly forming Australian ethos that coastal land should be in public hands for the enjoyment of the public. People saw that such protection is essential if the unique recreational advantages of coastal land are to be secured for continuing generations.

Later that ethos was exemplified in a more modern and satisfactory form, by the creation, from Crown land in various designations, by Acts of the Victorian Parliament, of Permanent Public Recreation Reserves along much of other sections of the Port Phillip coast. The 125 years continuance of the Brighton municipal foreshore land as generally in a state that maximizes water-related activities gives a powerful message that it is desirable in the short and long-term public interest for such continuance of a publicly-valued feature to be upheld by planning authorities.

Bayside Council thought it advisable to hold a public “mediation meeting”in late 2000, presumably because it had to recognize the considerable extent of public expectations about the protection of foreshore land. That meeting provided no “mediation” or reconciling of views whatsoever. It was not chaired by a neutral or an independent chairman. It had no mechanism for, or even pretence at, apart from the title of the meeting, finding a solution to the development proposal that would come some way towards allaying public concerns about the undesirable effect of this proposal on the amenity of the public foreshore land.

A member of the public attending it asked a senior council officer, its Environment Manager, why the Car Park could not be sited alongside Beach Road rather than alongside the sea. The reply was that it would not look attractive. The obvious conclusion from that answer is that it would not look attractive from the sea or when approaching it along the coast either. We ask the Tribunal to ensure that the Car Park is better screened from view by requiring screening by appropriate indigenous vegetation as at many other Car Parks around Port Phillip.

Siting the Car Park at the very northern end of the Bayside Council foreshore land would certainly minimize the substantial adverse changes presently planned for the landform in question. It is proposed to level the earth bank beside the sea by up to 3 metres, entailing the removal of several thousands of cubic metres of soil from the public foreshore, which would be largely unnecessary if the flatter land further north and nearer Beach Road were used instead. Removing soil from an area of natural significance is an inherently retrograde and disturbing activity. The view of the shore from Port Phillip will not be enhanced by the construction of the long, high masonry retaining wall proposed as a replacement for the present bank of soil. That bank is now covered with grass and shrubs and the indigenous Coast Saltbush (Atriplex cinerea), which is found only in the spray zone. Despite the late Dr Jim Willis, former Assistant Government Botanist, having listed that plant in his published list of foreshore indigenous plants, the written report the decisive Bayside Council meeting of 4th September 2000 received from an officer erroneously called that plant a “weed”.

The Victorian Government has policies on the impact on the Victorian coast of Greenhouse Effect increases in net sea level. There is also concern about higher tidal excursions, which would result from plans by the Victorian Channels Authority to deepen The Rip at Port Phillip Heads. We suggest that the Tribunal should maintain the stance of VCAT’s predecessor, the former Administrative Appeals Tribunal, about shoreline developments affected by potential sea level rises. That stance was evidenced in the AAT’s decision over a Rosebud foreshore development proposal successfully argued against by the then MLA for Dromana, Dr Ron Wells.

That northernmost Bayside Council foreshore land is also, unlike the foreshore land further south where the Car Park is proposed, bordered by developments on three sides – the Baths building, the Royal Brighton Yacht Club lease and, on the other side of Beach Road, a group of shops. It is cut off from the sea by the Baths Building registered by the Australian Heritage Commission, so that land is less significant as foreshore recreational land while that building remains there than the land open to the sea further south. The land in front of the Baths already used for car parking should be used more intensively for that rather than suffer the exotic and contrived ground layout proposed.

There is a final, and very practical, reason for the Tribunal to require that an alternative proposal be submitted by the applicants for a Car Park away from the site planned along the sea wall. There is the very real likelihood that the major salt spray problem frequently present there will cause the Car Park to obtain a reputation as a place to be avoided if patrons want their cars to be spared from extensive and pervasive rust problems. That spray is a result of the strong prevailing south-westerly winds frequently causing substantial wave action against the vertical sea wall, and the wind carrying the spray inland. The present 3 metre high bank provides a setback from the sea wall and acts as a useful barrier to that spray. Prudent people do not park their valuable car along the existing paved area along the sea wall, and that same behaviour could lead the proposed new Car Park to become a white elephant on many days of the year, and cause parking problems. A Car Park sited inland of the Baths and alongside Beach Road would be spared that risk of frequently becoming unusable, or producing recriminations and resentment by users whose cars had been damaged.

2. The Other Change We Ask the Tribunal to Consider: Reducing the Scale of the Development:

The most important change we are seeking is certainly the resiting of the Car Park as stated. However, we also ask the Tribunal to investigate the reduction in adverse impact on the foreshore environment, and the effect on the the applicants’ prospects, if it decided to require a more substantial decrease in the scale of the development than the minor 5% reduction in the seating capacity (from 200 seats to 190 seats) made by resolution of Bayside Council. A greater decrease, to at least 150 seats, would represent a useful compromise between the aim of the Council to generate funds, and its duty to administer the foreshore land that it effectively holds in trust as a public recreation resource, and not a generator of revenue. If a 150-seat restaurant could be shown to produce an adequate net return, allowing a larger restaurant would not appear to be justified. A 150-seat restaurant would always be more economical to operate than a 200-seat restaurant when the patronage was below 150. The applicants should be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Tribunal that the patronage would, in the long-term, be above 150 for a sufficient percentage of the opening hours to justify the extra scale as being more than mere guesswork or an ambit claim.

Geoffrey Goode, President, Port Phillip Conservation Council Inc. (sourced from website – http://www.ppcc.org.au/abe_vcat.htm – 11/11/2021)

Organising group website

Year begun:

Campaign Issue:

Organising group:

Geographic sphere:

Location:

Year outcome assessed:

2000

Conservation & Protection

Port Phillip Conservation Council

Local

Port Philip, Victoria

2018

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