DAL delay: final Spring Creek decision still unknown

December 2, 2021 BY

The question about whether houses will be built in Torquay's Spring Creek valley has been actively under debate for more than a decade. Photo: SUPPLIED

A FINAL decision on whether there will be development in Torquay’s Spring Creek valley is still up in the air, with the state Labor Government having less than a month to meet its self-imposed deadline.

Originally promised by then-South Barwon Labor candidate Darren Cheeseman ahead of the 2018 election, setting Torquay’s town boundary at 1km west of Duffields Road is one of the major outcomes of the Surf Coast Distinctive Area and Landscape (DAL) program’s draft Statement of Planning Policy (SPP).

However, the draft policy is not definitive on the issue, as it presents two options: Option 1 allows “low density ecologically sustainable development” 1km west into the valley, and Option 2 rules out development west of Duffields Road.

If ultimately realised, pulling the town boundary back would throw out the Surf Coast Shire’s precinct structure plan for the 1km west land, which proposed building more than 2,000 houses in the area.

The Surf Coast was officially declared a Distinctive Area and Landscape on September 19, 2019 and redeclared effective as of September 20 this year.

The Standing Advisory Committee ended its hearing of submissions and evidence into the Surf Coast DAL on April 29 and provided a report with recommendations to Planning Minister Richard Wynne, who will release the final SPP.

The Surf Coast DAL website states the final SPP will be complete in “late 2021”.

Independent candidate Damien Cole, who campaigned heavily on protecting Spring Creek during the 2018 election and preferenced Mr Cheeseman, acknowledged the difficulties of the pandemic but said the issue should have been resolved as a priority.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that this will drag on into an election year, given that the Surf Coast community has had this hanging over their heads for more than a decade.”

The Greater Torquay Alliance, which also wants Spring Creek protected, says the group is confident Labor will keep its promise but was disappointed there had not yet been an announcement on the DAL, particularly given the original timeframe had been extended by 12 months.

“We have discussed our frustration with Darren Cheeseman, who stated there would be an announcement by the end of the year,” GTA secretary Darren Noyes-Brown said.

“The community, including 94 per cent of the submitters who called for Option 2, are waiting very patiently for an outcome and they deserve an answer.”

Mr Cheeseman said COVID-19 was responsible for the Surf Coast DAL program not being concluded more than two years after the first declaration of the DAL.

“The global Coronavirus pandemic has had a substantial impact on the department’s ability to consult with the community, which has led to a delay in the original timeline.”

Asked if there was any chance the final SPP would be released this year, or before the state election in November 2022, Mr Cheeseman did not answer directly.

“I can’t speculate as to when the minister will make a decision,” he said.

“The minister will make his decision in accordance with the Act.”