FEDERAL MP Libby Coker is calling for the Drysdale community to be preserved until the Distinctive Area and Landscape report is handed down.
In a letter to Planning Minister Richard Wynne, Ms Coker called on him to halt the City of Greater Geelong’s decision to allow for major housing developments under Amendment C363.
“Like many on the Bellarine, I was shocked the City of Greater Geelong went ahead with the approval of Amendment C363 while the Distinctive Area and Landscape review was still underway,” she said.
The State Government declared the Bellarine a Distinctive Area and Landscape in 2019 but the onset of Covid-19 delayed the drafting of the Statement of Planning Policy.
When approved the policy will aim to balance growth with the preservation of distinctive features which Ms Coker claims will protect the rural ambience of the Drysdale region against further development.
Last month an independent panel supported the amendment which would allow for high density developments to commence in the semi-rural township of Drysdale despite the impending ruling.
The proposed development will rezone 28 rural living properties into 550 residential dwellings with many locals saying it will destroy the character of the town.
“The development will fundamentally change the landscape of Drysdale and goes against the decision to declare the Bellarine a Distinctive Area and Landscape,” Ms Coker said.
Council’s Planning portfolio chair, Cr Kylie Grzybek said it was a very difficult decision to make following the community backlash.
“The majority of councillors decided that, on balance, adopting the amendment was appropriate given an independent panel found that it was strategically justified,” she said.
“It has been adopted along with a number of conditions that aim to address some of the community’s concerns.”
Under council’s Settlement Strategy, Cr Grzybek said growth on the Bellarine would slow over the coming years, with the majority of new housing being directed to the north and west of Geelong.
The Independent panel acknowledged that the development would be completed within the town boundaries.
“Directing remaining growth on the Bellarine to pockets within existing town boundaries takes the pressure off the sensitive rural and coastal environments between townships,” Cr Grzybek said.
While the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) continues to work on the statement policy, the independent panel is anticipating the report will direct growth to land within the existing town boundaries of Drysdale, Ocean Grove and Leopold.
The adopted amendment must be approved by the Minister of Planning before any development in the area can begin.
“This development, and all others to be considered by the council on the Bellarine, should be put on hold until DEWLP hands down its Final Statement of Planning Policy,” Ms Coker said.
The official report is expected to be submitted this year.