Monday, April 01, 2013

rochford becomes uncapped

report from the roundtable – 26 mar

At the most recent council meeting we had to consider a ‘secondary consent’ request from Rochford Winery, a popular live music venue for the Day on the Green concert series.

At the moment Rochford are zoned as a special use zone, which means every time they want to change the conditions around their concert series they need permission from council (secondary consent). A way to stop this in the future is run a ‘planning scheme amendment’ to rezone to a more appropriate zoning so constant and ongoing requests for secondary consents aren’t required from council.

This has a couple of benefits, a planning scheme amendment is an open and transparent process with full public participation whereas a secondary consent is not.

The decision around the secondary consent request was before council as it was ‘called in’ by Cr McAllister (councillors can ‘call in’ or ‘call out’ applications in their ward). Planning officers had recommended that the annual concert series be capped at 7,000 with additional capping provisions for concerts on Sundays whilst the applicant was seeking to remove any cap on numbers for the next 3 years, including Sundays.

Cr McAllister put up an alternate motion that included conditions for capped numbers on Sundays but uncapped numbers for the rest of the concert series for 13/14.

I was perplexed by the motion, councillors were well aware of the advice provided by the Victoria Police based on consideration of 10,000 patrons as detailed in the Planning Scheme Amendment which said “….discussed this proposal at length with Sub Officers here at Lilydale each of which have working knowledge of this venue. The overwhelming view is we object to this proposal.” The Victoria Police concerns were around safety of pedestrians and risk to them, lack of car parking and interaction of traffic and pedestrians.

Vic Roads shared similar concerns to the Victoria Police and said “VicRoads considers this aspect of the amendment unacceptable as a 10,000 person event is yet to be successfully managed on the site, in terms of its impact on the efficient operation of Maroondah Highway and on public safety.”

Councillors heard first hand concerns from a local resident who highlighted amenity and traffic impacts as well as the ineffectiveness of the Rochford Stakeholder Reference Group. He raised many planning issues that need further exploration. It was unfortunate that the applicant chose not to have his planning consultant speak to the application as it would have provided the opportunity to explore these issues more fully.

Cr Cox proposed an amendment to the motion inserting provision for 2 concerts at 10,000, with a cap of 7,000 on all other concerts. I was happy to second this amendment. It would have given Rochford the opportunity to test drive concerts at 10,000 capacity to provide both evidence to the Victoria Police and VicRoads on how concerts at this capacity would operate.

Cr McAllister questioned where the figure of 10,000 came from, what if a concert is 10,200?

Cr Witlox said the figure of 10,000 came from the nanny state.

At this point I interjected and asked our Director of Planning where the figure of 10,000 had come from. Mr Paxton responded by saying the 10,000 came from Rochford as the carrying capacity of the venue. 

Cr Child said he was against the amendment, he said you should be able to sell your product with no restrictions and congratulated Cr McAllister for her motion uncapping numbers.

The amendment was voted on with only Crs Dunn, Cox and Avery supporting Cr Cox’s amendment. 

Cr Callanan said he echoed Cr Child’s and McAllister’s comments, there shouldn’t be a cap.

In speaking against the motion I talked about the advice received by the Victoria Police and Vic Roads, to me it seemed if these authorities were highlighting concerns and objecting to 10,000 then we should be following their advice. I also highlighted the risk to Rochford’s concert series should an objector decide to take the matter to VCAT (although this would be seeking a ‘declaration’ rather than an appeal as it’s a secondary consent). I was concerned that there was ample evidence to suggest that there had been a transformation of the original permit, putting at risk Rochford’s upcoming concert series (I had received planning advice that confirmed this).

I also highlighted the need for Rochford to continue with a Planning Scheme Amendment process, this is the most legitimate way to formalise amendments to the concerts and would alleviate ongoing uncertainty with secondary consent requests.

Cr McAllister in closing said she didn’t agree that it was a transformation. She also said we didn’t have updated views in writing from Victoria Police and VicRoads (even though our Manager of Planning had confirmed to councillors in our briefing earlier that night that the Victoria Police views were unchanged).

She also talked about concerns that had emerged with the Stakeholder Reference Group but failed to include any conditions on the permit to ensure this was more robust and rigorous process. She strongly encouraged Rochford to progress the Planning Scheme Amendment, something we all want to see happen. 

The motion uncapping numbers for the concert series for 13/14 (except on Sundays) was put to the vote:

Councillors in favour: Crs McAllister, Child, Witlox, Callanan and McCarthy

Councillors against: Crs Dunn, Cox and Avery

Councillors absent: Cr Cliff

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