THE Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has knocked back Ryman Healthcare’s proposed retirement village at Mt Eliza.
The VCAT hearing centred around the New Zealand-based company’s attempts to overturn Mornington Peninsula Shire’s 2020 refusal.
On 23 March this year the shire reaffirmed its earlier decision by saying: “The council also affirms the view that the proposal for a large scale residential aged care facility and/or retirement village, on land which is outside the urban growth boundary, is an inappropriate development at odds with the amenity of the surrounding green wedge.”
The 82-page VCAT determination, handed down Friday 2 July, confirmed the council’s opposition saying: “… the decision of the responsible authority is affirmed” and that the Ryman permit application would not be granted.
“We accept that the proposal for a modern, integrated aged care and retirement facility would have the capacity to meet the future needs and expectations of an ageing population,” the VCAT finding stated. “[However] this is not a preferred location for aged care, neither is there strong evidence of unmet localised demand”.
The $80 million project had included plans for six four-storey buildings, two four-storey wings attached to the existing mansion, three three-storey buildings, a chapel and 362 car spaces. The buildings would house 272 apartments, including 55 assisted living units and 217 independent living units, and 124 aged care beds. Up to 400 people would have lived there.
The mayor Cr Despi O’Connor said on Friday the “protection of the green wedge and the essential separation of the built environment to the natural environment” was important to the character of the peninsula.
“Today’s decision by VCAT upholds the importance of that issue for our community,” Cr O’Connor said.
Ryman’s Victorian development manager David Laing said the company was “digesting the ruling” over the 8.9 hectare site.
“We are pleased that the [VCAT] commissioners agreed that we can develop a retirement village on the site,” he said. “We’re pleased everyone got to have their say and that we had a good hearing.”
Mornington MP David Morris said he would write to Planning Minister Richard Wynne “immediately” asking him to rezone the Kunyung Road site to green wedge to prevent any other use than what is allowed in that zone.
Mr Morris praised the strength and commitment of community efforts to thwart the Ryman bid, adding: “I am very pleased we have won.”
He said the aged care provider would now have to make a “commercial judgement” on whether it was viable to submit a new proposal.
The Save Sir Reg’s Wedge group said the developer “totally underestimated our community’s willingness to stand against inappropriate development in our area, and on the Mornington Peninsula, with its unique environments”.
“This community, and the wider Mornington Peninsula community, has demonstrated time and again that this place holds a special place in our hearts, and we will fight to preserve it, in the present, and for future generations.
“This has never been about opposing aged care, or Ryman’s ability to provide appropriate care in its facilities. This site, with its historical and environmental value, was never a good choice for a high density development.
“With this decision, the next course of action open to Ryman is to reapply to council with amended plans, which council can then refuse.”
Opponent and former Mount Eliza Ward councillor Leigh Eustace said VCAT saw the proposal as an overdevelopment of land outside the urban growth boundary and an intrusion on the green break between Mount Eliza and Mornington. “This is a fantastic result for the community.”