Council defers contentious issues to December meeting

[By Dave Holmes] The gallery was packed at the November 13 Moreland Council meeting. Some 100 residents crowded into the Glenroy Senior Citizens Centre determined to make their concerns felt over several contentious planning issues. First and foremost was Amendment C123 which, if passed, will turn parts of Coburg into a mini-CBD with 10- and 8-storey buildings permitted, irreparably changing the character of the area and sharply reducing people’s quality of life on a whole number of fronts (and removing residents’ right to appeal against proposed developments).

In the event, in an important victory for residents, the council voted to defer a decision on the Coburg plan to its December meeting. Save Coburg has spearheaded opposition to the plan and their agitation has informed and mobilised residents about the plan, putting the pro-development council majority under some pressure on the issue. (It was reported that council had received 253 submissions on C123!)

Council also voted to defer consideration of Amendment C134, the Brunswick structure plan, to its December meeting. In addition, a request from SP Ausnet, the operator of the Brunswick Terminal Station, for an exemption from planning requirements (to cover works already done), was rejected by council.

Also represented in the gallery were Pascoe Vale residents opposed to council’s plan to build the new expanded Sussex Neighbourhood House on Rogers Memorial Reserve, significantly reducing the area’s green space. Activists are calling on council to build instead on the nearby Yooralla site.

Question time was extended to two hours to enable residents to voice their concerns. One constant refrain throughout the evening was that council had not responded to residents’ letters and emails and had not kept people informed about what was happening despite promising to do so. Also, more than a few people thought that a council meeting dealing above all with the future of Coburg should have been held in the area concerned.

Today, as never before, residents in Melbourne’s suburbs are under attack as powerful commercial interests push forward with their profit-making agenda. The state government, whether under Coalition or Labor administration, is their servant. Local councils are also under ceaseless pressure from the ‘development’ lobby. Only by getting active, organised and vocal can residents hope to stem this assault.

The impressive turnout at the November council meeting, as well as at the previous night’s meeting on the East-West Link (see article), shows that this idea is spreading.