HERITAGE CALL: Race to block subdivision and protect Phar Lap tree

May 12, 2022 BY

Neighbour Kevin Neville and real estate agent Renay McIntyre are concerned about the implications of a proposed St Albans Park subdivision. Photos: BILLY HIGGINS

RESIDENTS and real estate advocates fear a proposed St Albans Park subdivision could open the floodgates for high-density development in the quiet suburb and break a promise of long-term security for their properties.

Objectors are urging authorities to apply heritage protections to the site, which has links to Australian racing royalty Phar Lap, in a bid to derail the plan and preserve the area’s nationally significant history.

A planning application for 7-8 Oakwood Ridge submitted to the City of Greater Geelong proposes to split a 3.5-hectare block in two, creating a new 1,013-square-metre site for development of two further residential properties.

The plan has already caused controversy due to the site’s links to the former St Albans Park horse stud and the identity of the applicant; the City of Greater Geelong’s director of city services Guy Wilson-Browne.

Legal advice obtained in 2019 and submitted as part of the application indicated that covenants on the property prohibit further subdivision or development of new dwellings without approval from the city.

A neighbour of the property, Kevin Neville, launched a petition against the plan that has collected 1,000 signatures.

Organisers are also crowdfunding for a potential legal challenge and have committed to diverting unused cash to an equine or environmental charity.


St Albans Park resident Kevin Neville is leading a campaign to save the neighbourhood’s “Phar Lap tree”.


Geelong real estate agent Renay McIntyre joined the cause last month out of fear a subdivision could undermine protections and set a precedent for future development.

“The covenant clearly states its intention that the land could not be further subdivided, unless this covenant is overturned by council,” she said.

“The residents have the right to quiet peaceful enjoyment of their investment in the St Albans Park estate without having the stress of whether adjoining properties are going to be cut up for high density living.”

Mr Neville was among the first buyers in the initial St Albans Park carve-up in the early 1990s.

He said that he and his neighbours feared the promise of spacious living and the site’s historical importance were under threat from the application.

“We’ve always felt proud of our heritage, knowing that there’s history in our backyard. We’re scared that that’s going to be taken away from us,” he said.

“All of us who have lived here peacefully for 30 years, we just want to continue going on with that existence.

Mr Neville’s opposition to the plan centres on a locally significant tree – which he and his family have dubbed the “Phar Lap tree”.

Local scuttlebutt contends the tree is the burial site of a host of the former stud’s finest horses, including Phar Lap stablemates such as Freeman and his ancestors, though official records are hard to come by.

“When a horse dies, no one gives you a death certificate,” Mr Neville said.


St Albans Park streets are named in honour of the horse stud’s most famous thoroughbreds, like Phar Lap stablemate Freeman.


The stud itself is well documented as the hiding place of Phar Lap following the horse being shot at just days before the 1930 Melbourne Cup – a race that became the fabled horse’s most famous victory.

The tree is inside the boundary of the potential subdivision lot and just metres from the area proposed for sewage and drainage infrastructure.

Opponents to the subdivision have applied to local, state and federal bodies for heritage protection of the tree, similar to overlays that already apply to the horse stud’s homestead and stables.

The city said it had yet to decide on next steps for the application or a decision-making forum.