On 24 May 2021, Knox City Council resolved to refuse Glengollan Village a planning permit for the building and works of a two-storey aged care facility at 2-8 St Elmo Ave, Ferntree Gully.
A lengthy journey through the processes of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) followed, with Council and residents together fighting for appropriate protections in the Dandenong Ranges foothills area. And on Friday 8 July 2022, the VCAT decision was finally handed down, refusing Glengollan’s application.
The whole process has been difficult and disappointing to all concerned. It is not the usual ‘residents against an unknown developer’. As readers of Gully News know, Glengollan is deeply embedded in the Gully community. Its founder in 1956, Shire President Councillor Violet Lambert, had a vision of a ‘village community’ embedded in the wider community, offering affordable, secure care for older people. It will surely continue to be that and today’s Chandler Ward Councillor Jude Dwight offers an insight about the urbanisation of Knox that may indicate a way ahead.
‘Given an ageing population’, she says, ‘the State Government has recognised that we could well face an aged-care crisis in coming years. In efforts to avert this, State planning provisions offer exemptions for aged care facilities. But while broad brushstrokes may be appropriate statewide, the local context may not support such developments, regardless of their intent to address a stated need.
‘2-8 St Elmo Ave is part of a big picture. It is not an island. In what is now the city of Knox urbanisation has, over time, created little islands that all sit disjointedly alongside one another, in the west on the fertile flat lands, and in the east among forested foothills.
‘As residents wrestle with opposing demands, Knox City Council is seeking to be a functional urban landscape. It is apparent that everything that happens within its boundaries impacts the whole, that the canopy trees create vital habitat corridors, that the stormwater carries all the way to the sea, and personal vehicle dependency comes at a cost to the neighbours. So while Glengollan Village may not be allowed to build an aged-care facility according to the submitted plan, Council is processing numerous applications all the time.
‘All these things impact our neighbourhood amenity, our social and environmental cohesion. If we say that this building is not ok, that the load on our street is not ok, that the impact on our wildlife and habitat is not ok, then we must also own those actions of ours which might have similar negative consequences for our neighbourhood and society.’
Anne Boyd and Cr Jude Dwight