Apollo Bay, Victoria - on the Great Ocean Road

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Fore! No, five!

By Hamish Brooks in Surf Coast Times

November 22 2011

VCAT under fire as RACV golf club development takes shape

The fifth storey is going on the RACV golf club development.

The RACV Golf Club redevelopment has reared its five-storey head, with a number of parties expressing a helpless outrage at the size of the development and the chunk of view it’s obscuring, both of the ocean and of the sky.

Surf Coast Shire mayor, Councillor Dean Webster, said the council’s position to reject and oppose a fifth storey on the building has been vindicated as the addition of the fifth storey in construction last week has made the development intrude significantly into the sky.

“Council was right to resist the fifth storey on the grounds of extreme intrusion into the skyline,” he said.

“We’re very disappointed that VCAT didn’t acknowledge Council’s position and it’s clear that many members of the community have expressed disappointment at the decision and how the building is taking shape.

“VCAT disagreed with our position that 19.6 metres was too high for the building. In short they said that because the two surf clubs protrude into the skyline it doesn’t matter if the golf club development does too.

“It’s clear VCAT has failed Council and the community in this instance.”

Federal MP Darren Cheeseman holds some strong views about the development, saying the people of Torquay are owed an explanation by the president of VCAT over how the RACV building was allowed.

“I have written to Justice Iain Ross, the president of VCAT, asking him to personally visit the site to see what VCAT have done and to explain how this could ever be justified,” he said.
“(The building) is clearly obliterating the first ocean views and the first coastal landscape tourists get right at the gateway to the Great Ocean Road.”

“The first view (tourists) get of the Great Ocean Road is of a monstrosity that is a cross between a Soviet era tower block and some of the architecture on the prison island of Alcatraz.

“I think this is a classic case of people who are ticking things off from diagrams on a desk who clearly had no idea of the landscape.”

Justice Ian Ross said that he hadn’t received any correspondence on the matter and that he had no authority to intervene in a tribunal decision.

“There is an appeal provision in the VCAT Act and that’s the appropriate course of action,” he said.

“It’s clear from the hearing notes the decision was a variation on a previously granted permit and objectors’ views were taken into account. It’s also clear that the VCAT member visited the site before making the decision.”

Doug Clifford, who owns a house in Great Ocean Views Estate (GOVE), said that VCAT’s approval of the RACV development had created a measure of distrust in residents.

Mr Clifford, who is lodging an objection at VCAT about a motel development in the Great Ocean Views Estate, asked how the RACV development got approved.

“This has taken a large section of the sea views from all houses in the GOVE,” he said.

“It’s corporate greed. I suggest the development has taken $100,000’s of value from each of several hundred permanent GOVE residents/ratepayers. We had to build to a strict 7.5 metre height limit.”

Mr Clifford said that when the initial planning application was made to develop the golf club he and other residents didn’t think much of it.

“We thought it would be much smaller. We’re up high and thought we’d be able to see over it, but it kept growing and growing. It is no longer the Great Ocean Views Estate, more aptly now the Great RACV Club Views Estate.”

Torquay Golf Club member Greg Giampicollo said that whilst he felt for the people who had lost their views, some of whom were friends of his, overall the development was good for Torquay.

“I’ll be honest when they got the extra rooms I thought it was a bit over the top,” he said.

“I feel sorry for the people who’ve lost their views but the good side about it is that it’ll get people working, create jobs. The bit I don’t understand is as a soon as we (the members) voted on it and it went through they doubled the amount of units in the building.

“There’s a lot to be happy about, though. It’s going to be a great resort and a magnificent course.”