Planning – environmental and neighbourhood protection

By 13 February 2024July 6th, 2024No Comments

Box Hill Precinct Plan

Vincent Mennilli JP and Greg Buchanan

The state government’s planning vision for Box Hill is to consolidate the activity centre as a residential and employment hub with more people living close to public transport, jobs and other services.

To achieve this Box Hill is earmarked for residential and commercial towers reaching up to 40 floors, designed to increase the number of people living in the Box Hill precinct from 29,000 to 77,500 by 2056.

The risk is that development will be adhoc and fall short on liveability without adding commensurate amenities such as public open space.

Whitehorse Council forecasts that public open space could reduce from 19 square metres per person to just 7.15 square metres if no additional open space is provided (World Health Organisation minimum is 9 square metres green open space per person).

The loss of a quarter of Box Hill Gardens (for the best part of a decade and possibly more) and the loss of large trees through Box Hill also means it is crucial to make tree canopy and greening the environment a central feature of the plan.

The pronounced shift to high-rise housing reinforces the need for quality open space. All residents, especially families and children living in apartments, need easy access to passive open space where people can be among trees and nature.

The Box Hill Brickworks site, the last green expanse in the heart of Box Hill, must be a key part of this future.

Melbourne’s inner suburbs have experience with high-rise housing, mainly in the form of the Housing Commission towers built in the 1960s and 1970s. While they have been maligned recently their communities enjoy the amenity of surrounding gardens, play areas and trees – something totally lacking in the Box Hill tower developments.

The need for parkland, for trees and open areas in Box Hill for communities to gather and play could not be more important. Research has shown that green open space is important for children’s development and the mental wellbeing of all. The Brickworks site can become an amazing environment, the green lungs of Box Hill, and a cultural and social meeting place for everyone.

We  invite people to check out the petition requesting the government and Whitehorse Council to work together to secure the Brickworks site for parkland. We have over 2,100 supporters, but we need your support in getting the government to act.

Further information can be obtained on the Facebook page ‘Box Hill Brickworks Parkland’ and in the petition

Click on the QR code  to access the petition.

Planning to protect the natural and social amenity of our neighbourhoods

John Mosig

Here we are, at the backend of an El Niño summer. At least, that’s what we’ve been told. While it’s certainly been a scorcher elsewhere, we’ve had regular bursts of cooling rain that has kept the subsoil moist and the lawn mowers active. But how long has the Leafy East got before the only trees are along the nature strip?

This summer has been a nature wonderland for us here in Kew. It started with a pair of tawny frogmouths rearing their offspring in the peppermint gum right outside our sunroom window. They nest somewhere nearby most years and hang around our yard till the young’uns are fully fledged.

Bright Copper Butterfly

The wet early summer has brought an abundance of insect life. (Some welcome, some not so welcome) We’ve even had an orange winged butterfly that I haven’t noticed before. It has a furry moth like head and body and can’t seem to make up its mind if it’s a moth or a butterfly when it settles, but they’re mainly open. And returning ladybirds and miniature spiders to the garden is a regular part of preparing the leafy greens and herbs for cooking.

Then there was the dance of the cabbage moths. I know; not everyone took a romantic view of these mothers of the green brassica eating grubs, but you have to admit; it was pretty spectacular to see them in such numbers. And there’s plenty of organic sprays around to minimize their impact on the kale.

Recently we’ve had a ringtail possum sleeping on the sunroom window ledge amongst the bells-of-summer vine that shades the area. Our family have deliberated over the possible reason she/he has abandoned his/her usual abode in the roadside melaleuca. At this stage, a matrimonial breakdown is the clubhouse leader. Maybe it’s a summer thing. You’d imagine those stick nest would be stifling even in the mildest of summers.

Right now the spiders are dominant. Everywhere you look there’re spider webs harvesting the smorgasbord of insects the benign season has brought. We’ve got an orb spider near the back door whose engineering skills are nothing short of incredible. As the warmth of summer gives way to autumn, they’ll get a hammering from the paper wasps that build under our eaves. It’s an annual realignment, eh?

While this embrace of nature feeds the soul, it has to be asked: how long can it last? Maggie and I aren’t doddering, but we’ve accepted our dotage. No one with the money to buy a house in Kew is going to accept a 120-year-old Federation weatherboard with one, albeit renovated, bathroom and no lock-up car space. One by one, the old free-standing homes will be dropped, the trees removed, and the natural habitat concreted over. These remnant natural worlds will be replaced by two storeys piles of air-conditioned space.

With no open ground to sponge up the rain, the flood of urban detritus flushed down into The Yarra will surge, carrying with it the urban chemical residue that this year made half the beaches of Port Phillip too polluted for swimming.

It doesn’t have to be like this; nor should it. Somewhere, say 20 years or so ago, municipal planning, based on ecological outcomes rather than rateable value, would have given us by now, exceptionally liveable suburbs. The irony is, land prices are based on their amenity, and a suburb where birds wake you in the morning, the houses aren’t heat banks, and everywhere you walk or ride a bike is shaded would be just as rateable as the ecological timebomb we’re building for ourselves today.

Ringtail possum

Tawny Frogmouth

Orb Spider

Box Hill Brickworks site

Vincent Mennilli JP and Greg Buchanan

A community campaign has begun to save the Box Hill Brickworks site for parkland. The former quarry and landfill site is off Elgar Road only a couple of streets from Box Hill Central. The site is the last untouched greenfield expanse in the heart of Box Hill.

The Suburban Rail Loop Authority now has control over the future planning of Box Hill and has earmarked the Brickworks site for a major housing development and possible extension of Mont Albert Road. The Authority in its recent ‘Vision Statement’ anticipates that the resident population of Box Hill will almost triple by 2056.

Box Hill has many new high-rise residential towers and more planned. These provide much needed accommodation for Melbourne’s growing population – but there is a pressing need for more public open space. The Brickworks site could provide new passive open space in the heart of Box Hill; a permanent green oasis amidst the urban density, with picnic areas, playgrounds, canopy trees, water features, winding trails and recreation areas for everyone to enjoy.

This could become a reality similar to Darebin Parklands in Fairfield and Northcote’s All Nations Park. They are just two examples of many around Melbourne, where former quarries and landfill sites have been transformed into vibrant, beautifully landscaped public spaces.

The Box Hill Brickworks ceased operations in 1988, and the landfill was closed 25 years ago, in 1999. Environmental audits have deemed the site suitable for recreational open space.

A petition has commenced to advocate for a partnership between the state government and Whitehorse Council to bring this new parkland to reality.

Further information can be obtained on the Facebook page ‘Box Hill Brickworks Parkland’ and in the petition

A towering dilemma in our backyards?

Mike Daly

From our first-floor bedroom windows, we can watch the sun and moon rise and set. At the top of the street Wattle Park beckons, while nearby there’s a little grassy park and children’s playground. It’s all part of the suburban dream in an area that real estate agents smugly describe as ‘tightly held’. But in innumerable suburbs like ours, across Whitehorse and Boroondara, thousands of suburban dreams are reportedly in danger of becoming urban nightmares, because of the State Government’s $34.5 billion, Suburban Rail Loop East scheme.

When I first read reports in The Age of the scheme’s anticipated building upheaval, I experienced outrage, followed by a sense of inevitability. Thousands of us will be affected, but is this the price of urban progress? Building tower blocks around (and presumably over) the new SRL stations would apparently fulfil the state government’s pledge to help solve our housing crisis.

Yes, from our house we’d eventually see the first of several high-rise towers (the tallest – thankfully not in our immediate area – will reach 25 storeys) that will spring up in the SLR scheme’s initial stage. A couple of streets away from us, developments potentially up to 10 storeys are part of the plan — and we’ll get off lightly compared with Box Hill North’s $1.57 billion Vicinity Centres project, involving towers up to 50 storeys high. This already tower-heavy suburb would reportedly acquire 1700 new homes, in the upcoming Box Hill Central North Masterplan.

While I don’t relish more development on our doorstep (we recently fought a plan to build multi-storey units in an adjacent street – a futile battle in retrospect, under the new SRL rules) I can readily understand the urgent need to house residents in Australia’s most populous city. After I arrived in Australia in the ’60s (as a “ten-pound Pom”) it took another 10 years as a flat-hopping tenant until I could afford to buy my first house – a rundown 50-year-old California bungalow.

I had spent my childhood and teen years in suburban London, where renting was the norm, and I’ve experienced high-density cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. So, dear readers, I pose the obvious question: should we hang on doggedly to our comfortable suburban existence dominated by spacious, detached houses with gardens in tree-lined streets — or should we accept that Australia’s traditional suburban lifestyle (fictionalised in TV soaps like “Neighbours”) is fast becoming an anachronism in our modern, multicultural society?