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Kew Cottages Coalition Reg # A0044698H




June 2005

Kew Cottages

1. Who owns and controls Kew Cottages ?

The State Government owns Kew Cottages, and until November 2003, Boroondara Council, as the relevant local government body for Kew, was the 'Responsible Planning Authority' for the Cottages.

Until May 2000  the Crown Land was permanently reserved under the Kew and Heidelberg Lands Act, but the Bracks Government continued the policy of the previous Kennett Government in extending the sell off of public lands, and in downgraded the Cottages Crown land reservation status from "permanent" to "temporary".

Historically, the first local government body in the region was the Boroondara District Road Board, formed in 1854 and incorporating the areas which were to become Hawthorn, Kew and Camberwell (More..)

The Willsmere Mental Asylum was built on a large permanent reservation of Crown land stretching  from the Yarra River all the way  up Emerald Hill to Wills and Princess Street, Kew between 1868 and 1872. It is a notable Melbourne landmark.

Kew Cottages itself was built within the grounds of WIllsmere in 1887 to provide more appropriate accommodation for intellectually disabled children. The Asylum and the Cottages shared a common administration until the 1970's.

The Cottages were incorporated into Studley Ward in 1994, when the Kennett Government amalgamated the Kew, Hawthorn, and Camberwell Councils to form Boroondara Council. 

The State Government's Department of Human Services (DHS)  renamed its Kew Cottages administration body "Kew Residential Services" when the Government set out to sell the land to private developers.

The State Government's Minister for Planning, Mary Delahunty, formerly stripped Boroondara Council of its role as the "Responsible Planning Authority" for Kew Cottages on Remembrance Day (11th November) 2003. 

The State Government is now in the embarrassing position of not only being the owner of Kew Cottages, but also both the developer, and the "Responsible Planning Authority". 

2. Will the Cottages be Kew's First Casualty of Melbourne 2030 ?

a) What the former Mayor of Boroondara said to Neil Mitchell on 3AW in August  2003
MP3 Audio: Cr. Judith Voce interview, Neil Mitchell show 3AW 5th August 2003 (2MB file - use WinAmp on a PC, or Quicktime or similar on a Macintosh  to listen in real time. Otherwise, eg: if you have a slow dialup connection,  download the file first, and then use any MP3 player to listen.) 


b)  What the Bracks Government said  in March 2004 (More..)
c). What the Kew Cottages Coalition said in November 2004
To state "the obvious", we believe the development will only go ahead, besides anything else, if  it makes commercial sense for both a developer and the Government to proceed. Given the recent problems the State Government has faced both at Docklands, and elsewhere we do not think they will get such an easy deal from potential developers as they might have expected in 2001 when Bracks made his initial announcement on Kew Cottages. Times have changed. Melbourne 2030 has changed. There is now too much uncertainty about the difficulties a developer will face with Kew Cottages for them to easily quantify the nature and extent of the risks involved. We believe any developer will, therefore, seek  significant undertakings from Government to help them offset that commercial risk. However, the political cost to Government of making such undertakings may ultimately not justify the benefit. 

d). What is  the Kew Cottages Coalition current view (June 2005)

Six more months down the track, and there is still a very, very long way to go for the Government at Kew Cottages.

In our view they are running out of time, but it is still not too late for them to pull back.

We were right when we said 6 months ago that they would not get an easy deal from potential developers. 

We were right when we said a developer would seek significant undertakings from Government to help offset the commercial risk involved.

The Bracks Government  has now struggled for over four years to get to this point - selecting a developer. 

The next State Election is now less than 18 months away,  no new building work has started, the property market is down, and  alarm clocks are ticking loudly in Victoria's marginal electorates.

The Government will be taking a gamble with their fellow Victorian taxpayers' money on this one.    (more..)

3. When will the first residents be moved from their current home ?

Some residents have already been moved to accommodation in other suburbs. A number of units at the Cottages have already been closed, and fenced off.

10. What is wrong with the Bracks Government's claim on height reduction in the new plan ?

It is at best  half truth. To be charitable it is simply mischievous. To be critical it is fundamentally misleading. The facts are that whereas both Boroondara Council and the Minister for Planning each set a 'five story' height limit in their respective Spring 2003 plans (C38 and C53), the Minister  redefined 5 storeys to be equal to 17.5 metres high in her plan instead of the normally accepted 15 metres high.

In other words the Minister in fact raised (not lowered the height limit set by Boroondara Council ! 

How is it "half-true" ? Well it is true that the "draft plan" prepared by Council Officers for Council to consider at its August 4th Meeting recommended a height limit of 7 storeys - ie: 21 metres. Council however, rejected that recommendation, and set the overall height limit at 5 storeys.

The Minister for Planning it would seem is keen to ensure that the devil remains in the detail.

11.  Will  the Yarra River skyline be affected ?

Yes. The Government's  plan moved some of their redefined  5 storey buildings up the hill to the Yarra River skyline overlooking Studley Park, thus breaching the tree canopy vegetation. In the south-west corner of the grounds where the Council  plan proposed a height limit of 9 metres (3 storeys) the new Government plan now proposes a height limit of 17.5m (ie:5 'tall' storeys) - very nearly twice as high !.

12.  Has the amount of public open space been reduced ? 

Yes from a minimum of 50% public open space in the Council plan down to 27% in the Government plan.

13.  Do residents have right of appeal to VCAT ?


Normally that would be the case. But nothing with regard to Kew Cottages planning it would appear is "normal'. 

Third-party appeal rights were withdrawn without notice on 11th November 2003 by the Minister for Planning, Mary Delahunty.


14. Is the Government tender process public ?

No. The Government's tender documentation has been kept secret.

15. Plans. Are any of the Master Plan documents publicly available yet ?

Yes.   Heritage Victoria has made available the documents and plans lodged by DHS in support of their Demolition Permit application.

 The following documents are now available online:

The DHS/HLDC REPORT July 2005.
(Files sizes split to support dialup users)
Part 1.  Pages 1_6
Part 2.  Pages 7-14
Part 3. Pages 15-21

inc: Master  Plans:
HVS1B  Existing Conditions
HVS2B  Stages 1 &2
HVS3B Site Concept Plan
HVS4    Heritage Core Concept
HVS 5   Heritage Core Views + 5a & 5b pics
HVS6   Heritage Core Site Sections
HVS7   Heritage Core Views from  Outside Site
Plus  Closeups of small pics shown in plans:
HVS   6.1 & 6.2
HVS   7.0   7.1 & 7.2 & 7.3

N.B  You will probably  find the above online documents easier to understand if you have also  viewed the hardcopies available at Kew Library.
4. When are the first buildings due to be demolished ?

Kew Cottages now has the State's highest level of Heritage Protection. The Government has applied for a demolition permit from Heritage Victoria. A decision on the latter application is expected by the end of August 2005.

5. When are the first apartments due to go on sale "off the plan" ?

This has been left up to the selected developer to determine. No contracts have yet been signed. In March 2004 the Government said: It is not a requirement that the overall residential redevelopment of the site should be completed by late 2006 unless this is the wish of the selected developer. (More..)

6. When is  the first construction scheduled to begin ? 

The Government said in 2004,  "..Work is expected to start on site in early 2005," according to Minister for Community Services, Ms Sherryl Garbutt. The Government told potential developers in March 2004 that:"It is intended that the 20 new homes for existing residents be completed on a staged basis with progressive handover to DHS during the 9 to 12 months leading up to mid 2006, by which date all 20 houses are to be completed." (More..)

7. .Did Boroondara Council make available any traffic studies ?

No, none were made public.  However, The Council said it recognised the Wills/Princess Street roundabout was dangerous, that it could not accommodate more traffic from Kew Cottages, and should be further investigated.

8.  Did the Bracks Government accept that its plan raised serious traffic safety issues? 

No,  the Minister's  plan appeared to completely ignore the Council warning about the dangers posed by the Wills/Princess St roundabout.

9.  Does Government claim that its plan provides for lower building heights ?

Yes. The DHS website claims (2004):" A maximum building height of five storeys, down from the seven storeys proposed in the original draft plan" (More..)

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Reg # A0044698H