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Doncaster Hill - Jan 2013.

Are we building a civic and cultural centerpiece - or a retirement village?

If you read the planning cases that find their way into VCAT, you get a good idea of what Doncaster Hill will look like in the future:

"The character of Doncaster Hill is changing. Originally a quiet suburban area made up of single detached dwellings, it is quickly evolving into an area for high density living. This change did not happen by accident. Manningham City Council’s Doncaster Hill Strategy, prepared in 2002, provided clear strategic directions for the redevelopment of the area. Council has implemented this plan over the last ten years. New taller buildings have been constructed around the Westfield Shopping Centre. Homes have been purchased to create a new park. Road strategies have been prepared and the land within Doncaster Hill has been rezoned to reflect the strategic intention for the land.

State Planning Policy encourages higher density development on sites that are well located in relation to activity centres, employment centres and public transport. This policy direction is echoed in the Local Planning Policy Framework, which identifies Doncaster Hill as the prime location within the municipality for higher density forms of housing.

The strategy projects that Doncaster Hill will be home to an additional 8,300 people. The average household size for the precinct will be two persons per household. The strategy notes that there is likely to be a strong demand for apartment living, especially for the people aged between 20-44 and 55-79. Based on the figures within the strategy, an additional 4150 dwellings will be required within the area.

I note that the objectives of the schedule encourage the greatest area of higher density development along the Doncaster Hill ridgeline. This is reflected in the height controls for the precinct, which place the taller forms on the ridgeline. In essence the planning scheme, rather than seeking to moderate the height along the hill, is seeking to celebrate it.

As such policy is calling for a tall, proud and very prominent building on the subject site."

See: VCAT 1353 (4 September 2012)"

Also ...

Council considers the intersection [of Williamsons Road and Doncaster Road] to be a suitable location for high quality public art to identify a distinctive place. Council would prefer Doncaster Road, where it passes through Doncaster Hill, to be more a "main street for people” and less an arterial road that efficiently carries high traffic volumes. This could be achieved by reducing the number of lanes to two [no!], allowing on-street parking [and turn Doncaster Road into a bottle neck], improving street tree planting and encouraging retail and food and drink premises to directly front Doncaster Road."

See: VCAT 1324 (25 August 2011)

It is clear that the Doncaster Hill area is slated for massive redevelopment with tall buildings along the ridge line and in other places. Development has already begun in places and you can get an idea of the type of buildings that will line roads in the area.

 

VCAT tells us that our Council has comprehensively planned the redevelopment of these areas.

Have they?

I don't think the character of the area has changed that much in the 11 years our council has been implementing this plan. Doncaster Road largely remains a commercial area defined by concrete and asphalt though which a busy main arterial road passes.

It is rapidly becoming a place where large numbers of people live but not a place where people go for entertainment, relaxation or meals. The things spoken about in VCAT such as: on-street parking, street-side tree planting, food and retail premises directly fronting Doncaster Road are a bit hard to find.

It appears that the new high-density dwellings approved to date, largely provide customers for Westfield Shopping Center. This supermarket is, for now, the only attraction in this area for people looking for entertainment and relaxation.

 

Is this the right way of doing this?

Instead of adding people to Doncaster Hill with little to attract them, other than a supermarket, I would have thought higher priority would be given to building the character of the area in terms of shops, restaurants, parks, tree lined paths, markets, boutiques etc. and make the area somewhere where people choose to go.

This people-oriented approach to Doncaster Hill is curiously absent both on the ground and from council thinking.

 

Just how good is the Council's plan for this change?

In reply to a question from the public at the January 2013 Ordinary Council Meeting, a senior council manager said "Doncaster Hill Boulevard" is in the Council Planning Scheme. And that Council wishes it to become an area of high density dwellings, where large numbers of people live and work. And for Doncaster Road near it's junction with Williamson Road, to be a place were people shop and go for entertainment and meals. [Do they mean Westfield Shopping Center?].

The person asking this question then went on to challenge the Council to think creatively regarding the shopping areas all along Doncaster Road, that is: Devon Plaza, Jackson Court, Tunstall Square, etc. The Council was challenged to use these existing shopping areas to build the boulevard character of Doncaster Road - to make it a place for people. 

This appeared to be a little beyond the council manager. Instead, the council manager spoke of their residential and integrated transport strategies for Doncaster Road, their landscape and street tree planting components of their overlays. 

This senior council manager was not able to articulate a plan for Doncaster Road to give it the cultural and social things that give life to a community.

Does our council expect the additional 8,300 people they plan to add to Doncaster Hill to spend their free time in Westfield Shopping Town?

 

What is the future vision for Doncaster Hill?

Tree lines streets, parks, art galleries, theater and performing arts are important and are in the councils plans, but are these enough for the large numbers of people they plan to add to Doncaster Hill?

I was surprised by what the council did not give thought to. Where are the boutiques, shops, restaurants and the like, that attract people and make it a place a fun and interesting place to live?

I think this council senior manager missed the point of the question. I get the impression that the council's vision for Doncaster Road appears to be somewhat unimaginative and restricted in scope. (You can find the audio tapes of the 2013 Jan meeting on the council web site. See agenda item 16 for this question.)

If the population of Doncaster Hill increases dramatically without a significant number of places that attract people, the Doncaster Hill area might not be a very nice place to live. From what the council has told us to date, it certainly will not be a very vibrant or interesting place to live.

 

12 Feb 2013.

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