November 2015 newsletter

This month's e-news includes: Merri footbridge proposal; VCAT rules on car parks, and noise; and local park upgrade plans.

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** Bridge over untroubled watersBridge campaign
The Merri Creek Bridge Group is seeking support from Darebin and Moreland Councils for a shared bridge across the Merri Creek for cyclists and pedestrians, which would connect the Northcote and East Brunswick communities.

Children living across the creek in Northcote who attend their local school, Brunswick East Primary (Stewart Street), need a safe route to walk or cycle to school. They are currently forced to cross on the busy, dangerous Arthurton Road bridge. The bridge would also give Darebin residents living between Arthurton Road and Normanby Avenue safe access the Merri Creek open space and CERES.

Brunswick Residents Network and Moreland Bicycle Users Group both support this initiative, and call on Moreland and Darebin Councils to jointly fund this bridge, in line with their stated policies to promote safe east-west bicycle and pedestrian connections.
* Sign the petition ( in support.
* Parents and cyclists call for middle bridge to create safer links between inner north suburbs ( , Northcote Leader, 30 June

** New Mayor for Moreland
Congratulation to Samantha Ratnam, who has been elected as Mayor of Moreland City Council at the ceremonial Council meeting on Monday 26 October.

Councillor Ratnam is one of three people representing South Ward - which covers Brunswick, Brunswick East and Brunswick West - and is the first member of the Greens to hold the Mayor’s position in Moreland.

North-west ward councillor Lita Gillies, who unsuccessfully stood for the top job, has been voted in as Deputy Mayor. Gillies obtained five votes from the ALP members on Council, but Ratnam won the remaining six votes (two Greens, one Socialist Alliance, one Liberal, one former DLP and independent councillor Helen Davidson, who had backed Labor candidates in previous mayoral votes).

On the Brunswick Residents Network Facebook page ( , there's an interesting list of suggestions from residents for priorities that the new Mayor might like to address.

** Resistance to conscription in Brunswick
A public meeting in Brunswick will discuss our suburb’s dramatic history in the 1916-17 conscription referenda during the First World War.

Vietnam-era draft resistor Michael Hamel-Green will discuss anti-conscription campaigns in Melbourne’s inner north - including the role of leaders such as Frank Anstey and John Curtin (later the PM), who was jailed in Pentridge along with other war resistors.

The meeting, on Tuesday 10 November, will be held at St. Ambrose Church in Sydney Road Brunswick, headquarters for the anti-conscription campaign in 1916.

WHEN: Tuesday 10 November 2015, 6.30pm-8.00pm
WHERE: St Ambrose Community Centre, 287 Sydney Road, Brunswick
FURTHER INFO: Michael on 0408 594 569


** Crucial VCAT ruling on cars and sustainability
A fight between two neighbouring developers in Brunswick has led to a significant VCAT ruling on parking provisions. The ruling affects whether new multi-apartment “eco-buildings” without any car parking spaces can be built in areas well served by public transport.

Last March, Moreland Council approved plans for the Nightingale apartment complex in Florence Street, Brunswick.  A VCAT objection was lodged by a neighbouring developer, Chaucer Enterprises Pty Ltd. In October, VCAT overturned Council’s grant of permit. The Nightingale developers will now resubmit the application with an addition of some car parking spaces on the ground floor.

The proposed $5 million project is managed by ‘Nightingale on Florence Pty Ltd’, designed by Jeremy McLeod of Breathe Architecture (which has already built the nearby ‘Commons’ apartment complex, next to Anstey Station). The new project, which is based on an innovative finance scheme, is a five storey building with 20 apartments and two ground floor offices, with a waiver of car parking and loading bay requirements. The original design had spaces for 64 bicycles, but none at all for cars.

Chaucer Enterprises Pty Ltd. has an interest in adjoining land to the Nightingale site and objected to Council’s total waiver for any car spaces.

Brunswick Residents Network has been critical of Moreland Council's action in approving Nightingale plans in breach of their own Council policy on setbacks and height restrictions, but the VCAT hearings only dealt with the issue of car spaces.  Earlier this year, Jeremy McLeod unsuccessfully sought funding from Moreland Council (i.e. other ratepayers) to pay for legal representation in his VCAT disputes.

The Nightingale developers argued that many people were lined up to buy the apartments knowing that there was no car parking. However VCAT Senior Member Russell Byard noted “although such a selective sales policy might be followed by the initial developer in relation to initial sales, I expressed concern that there appears to be nothing that would give continuing control over succeeding generations of apartments owners.”

The VCAT ruling notes that complete parking waivers are not simply a matter for the proposed purchasers: “What about other and nearby land owners, residents, tenants, commercial users and the public generally? Are they to be imposed upon, and parking opportunities in the streets nearby to be devoted to these two private developments to the exclusion of others and their visitors and customers, and where other developments are required to make a contribution to meet the car parking demand that they generate?”

Breathe’s case was weakened when their own evidence showed that some owners in the “car-free” Commons owned cars and were parking in nearby residential streets.

The VCAT ruling was also scathing over the developer’s claims that the Commons and Nightingale provide ‘affordable’ housing, noting: “A two bedroom flat there [at the Commons] is reported to have been sold for over $600,000 which, on today’s prices, does not strike me as justifying the description of being affordable.”

This argument is developed by the ‘Better by Bicycle’ blog, which attacked the claims of “yuppie urbanism” developers involved in the gentrification of working class suburbs: “The dirty secret of campaigns for parking waivers on specific projects is that some of these urban elites are cheating - escaping the cost of contributing to car parking supply while still owning private vehicles they park in free or highly-subsidised public space (e.g. on-street)…Why should the community give eco-hypocrite yuppies special exemptions worth $30,000 per apartment for not owning cars when they secretly own and use private cars anyway and externalise the cost to the public commons?”

The abusive style of this blogger hides a valid question: is there a fair way to manage free on-street parking, which allows community-owned land to be used at no charge to the vehicle owner, for storage of privately-owned vehicles. The VCAT ruling was critical of  Moreland Council for not developing a consistent policy on parking requirements for new buildings.

The decision will set a precedent for other car-free projects - it cites other projects approved with zero car spaces, but notes that these were generally smaller buildings rather than a large apartment complex. While accepting Moreland’s objective of reducing the number of car spaces to encourage cycling and use of public transport, VCAT ruled that allowing for zero spaces was not acceptable in a 20-apartment complex: “I find nothing to justify the claim of a strategic policy basis for waiver or reduction car parking to zero for projects like Nightingale.”

Most controversially, the VCAT ruling rules that despite nearby car-sharing systems, tram and train lines in Brunswick, “no such arrangements, whether by means of alternative cars or public transport, are as convenient as private car ownership.” It adds: “The advantages of private car ownership are sufficiently appreciated to suggest that it is a phenomenon that can be expected to continue in the decades ahead, even if an increasing number of people do without their own cars.”

This statement flies in the face of reality. In 2011, more than one in five Brunswick households had no car, and this trend is likely to increase. A new study by the University of Adelaide ( for the RACV shows a steady decline in young Victorians holding driver's licences: "By 2014, just over one-third of 18-24 year old Victorians were not licensed to drive."  The authors say this is an international trend: "A subtheme was found in the literature that, unlike previous generations, Millennials are not merely avoiding or delaying getting driver’s licences but are intentionally snubbing car ownership and car use."

The Nightingale location is ideally located for a car-free household with shops, a bike path, and every type of public transport a short walk away. This aspect of the VCAT decision was widely criticised by architects and planners, with Victorian President of the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) James Larmour-Reid stating:

“On an almost daily basis we hear news stories about the challenges of housing affordability, climate change and obesity. These issues must be given priority over concerns about the nuisance of on-street parking. Residents buying into this development will go in with their eyes open. They will know that there are no car parking spaces available, but they will also know that the neighbourhood is rich with alternatives ways to get around.”

The fullruling ( is worth reading, as it raises many issues about sustainability and inner-city development – check out the BRN Facebook page for ongoing discussion on the issues.

The ruling:
* Chaucer Enterprises Pty Ltd v Moreland CC [2015] VCAT 1615 ( (VCAT ruling, 14 October 2015)

* Green building with no car parking thrown out by VCAT for having no car parking ( , The Age, 23 October 2015 (The picture above is from The Age article)
* Nightingale sings despite VCAT snare (
* Nightingale rejected by tribunal that’s ‘losing the plot’ (
* The dirty secret of Yuppie urbanist's parking waivers: car ownership on the public teat ( , Better by Bicycle website

** Our meeting with the Planning Minister
Last month, members of the Brunswick Residents Network met with Minister for Planning Richard Wynne and Planning Department officials, to discuss a range of issues relating to planning and liveability in Brunswick.

We had a positive and frank exchange of views on a range of issues, including residential zones, traffic and services, and Amendment c134 to the Moreland Planning Scheme, which will introduce the Brunswick Structure Plan (BSP) into law. We highlighted the lack of proactive investment in services, open space, public transport and cycling infrastructure, to match - and anticipate - the investment in housing in the inner north. BRN re-iterated our support for mandatory planning controls, affordable housing and sustainability provisions and retention of resident appeal and review rights.

We put a strong case for mandatory controls to regulate development. The Minister has already approved Amendment 123 for the Coburg Activity centre, which came into force on 15 October 2015. The Minister’s decision rejected proposals for mandatory height controls around Bell Street, which doesn’t bode well for Brunswick, where numerous buildings along Lygon Street already breach many planning guidelines envisaged when the BSP was adopted in 2010!

We raised issues relating to the introduction of residential and growth zones in Brunswick, especially relating to the number of units per block and the removal of open space provisions from the Neighbourhood Residential Zones. Richard Wynne re-affirmed that there would be a panel appointed for a review of residential zones in Victoria, where the public will be able to make submissions.

* The Victorian Government is also undertaking a “refresh” of Plan Melbourne – the state-wide planning strategy first adopted by the Napthine Government. This is important for Brunswick, as Plan Melbourne designates the Upfield rail corridor, from Jewell to Batman Stations, as a location for significant urban renewal and population increase. You can make a submission to the Plan Melbourne review ( , by Friday 18 December.

** New regulations on developer contributions

Moreland Council has introduced a new Development Contributions Plan (DCP) into the Moreland Planning Scheme. The DCP is a new levy for developments that are proposing to increase the number of dwellings on a site or increase leasable commercial or industrial floor area.

On 10 April 2015, Amendment C133 was submitted to the Minister for Planning for approval. This amendment included a Development Contributions Plan Overlay and Schedule to the overlay, applying to all of Moreland.

Amendment C133 was approved, and was advertised in the Government Gazette on 10 September 2015.

Full details of the DCP levy can be found on the Council website:

** VCAT rulings on noise
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has made some interesting rulings on noise in recent months, focused on late night drinking, and car stackers.

For people living near the pubs and clubs on Sydney Road and Lygon Street, there’s a tension between the convenience of Brunswick’s social life and the late-night noise of drunken patrons. In March 2014, the Moreland City Council refused to grant an amendment to planning permit MPS/2001/962 for the extension of trading hours at ‘The Penny Black’ pub in Sydney Road, Brunswick.

VCAT rejected the Penny Black’s bid for 3am closing, noting “the proposed extension of trading hours will result in a decrease in the amenity of residents in the immediate vicinity and in the nearby residential zones. I am not convinced the security measures proposed will improve the safety of the public realm in 1.00–3.00 am period compared to the existing situation.”

VCAT noted the proposal to extend the trading hours at The Penny Black does not contribute to “a reasonable balance between the requirements of the noise maker and the nearby noise-sensitive residential use.”
* The Penny Black v Moreland CC ( [2015] VCAT 1614 (9 October 2015)

VCAT made an important ruling on noise from car-stackers for a proposed extension within the Melville Road/Albion Street/Victoria Street Neighbourhood Activity Centre.  VCAT refused a permit, noting “these impacts are important considerations when determining the effect the car parking system may have on the amenity of adjoining properties.” (A car stacker is a mechanically-assisted,  space-saving form of carparking, with a small one pictured here)
* Steg v Moreland CC [2015] ( VCAT 1247 (10 August 2015)

** Parks and gardens update
Brunswick Residents Network has campaigned for more investment in open space and community facilities. Here are some updates on changes to parkland and community spaces in our suburb:

Kirkdale park upgrade

The playground at Kirkdale Park, next to the Merri Creek between Victoria and Albert Streets, has been selected for upgrade this year with funding allocated from Council’s capital works program. The project is considering replacing the existing play equipment with a “nature play style play space.” Details of this and other improvements can be found here on the Council website. ( (The picture at the right shows just a small section of the proposed plan.)

Council will hold community consultations where you can have your say about what your kids would like in the park, or comment on other improvements.  You can talk to a Council officer at the park at these times:
* Wednesday 18 November 2015, from 4 - 5 pm
* Saturday 21 November 2015, from 10 - 11 am

To register your interest and to submit your initial comments, email the Council Open Space team: ( . You can also call contact Landscape Architect Alli Coster on 8311 4373.

Fleming Park plans

Moreland Council will allocate $100,000 this year for an upgrade at Fleming Park, following the adoption of the Fleming Park Master Plan in 2014.

Next year, Council proposes to implement a landscape plan for the park. Throughout November, residents and park users will – once again - have a chance to consult on the proposed landscape plan, which will include:
* Installation of low energy park lighting throughout the park
* A new play space in an appropriate part of the park
* New furniture including a park shelter, picnic settings, seats, drinking fountain and litter bin
* Improved park entries with particular attention to access from Cross Street
* Landscape works including tree planting, park signage and fencing (though there’s no detail of what type of plants will be used).

It’s worth noting that the map of the Fleming Park re-design ( does not include the old grandstand, despite current commitments to retain the building. Some nearby residents  lobbied hard for its retention, but many others believe the substantial funds needed for restoration could be better spent on other open space improvements.

One major concern is that the design process has little to say about the impact of the massive housing development underway near the park. The Fleming Park upgrade does not integrate any traffic management in the Master Plan and Council has refused to allocate the extra funding needed for shared streetscapes alongside the park (it’s no use refurbishing the landscape if it’s unsafe for children, the elderly, dog walkers etc. to access the park!).

More than a thousand new apartments are scheduled to be built - some almost finished - within a few hundred metres of the park – at the East Brunswick Village, Sires factory, French Avenue and three corners of Albert and Lygon Streets intersection. (The population of East Brunswick is projected to increase 107 per cent over the next decade). The East Brunswick bike shimmy, which runs through the park and along John Street, will be affected by the developers’ reluctance to fund more than a single speed hump in John Street, as thousands of vehicle movements a day impact on streets adjoining the park.

For more information on the upgrade, go to the Council website ( or phone 8311 4391 to speak with Andrew Blight, Landscape Architect at Council’s Open Space Design and Development Unit.

Merri Creek - from wasteland to parklands

With the work of many volunteers, Merri Creek has been transformed from a drain and dumping ground to a waterway and bushland corridor.

This month, a photographic exhibition will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Merri Creek Management Committee and the Friends of Merri Creek. Featuring ‘before and after’ photographs illustrating the transformation of the creek, the exhibition celebrates the ongoing collaborative efforts by community volunteers, local Councils, government agencies and others.

WHAT: Merri Creek - from wasteland to parklands photo exhibition
WHEN: 6 - 27 November 2015
HOURS: The exhibition is open during Coburg Library opening hours.
WHERE:  Coburg Library, Corner Victoria and Louisa Streets, Coburg

Wilson Avenue wins design award

In September at the Telstra Convention Centre in Melbourne, Moreland Council received a commendation at the Australia Award for National Design.

The commendation was given for the "Jewell of Brunswick" project in Wilson Avenue, a newly revamped public space, complete with climbing wall, identified previously as a crime hotspot. Project partners included Victoria Police, Department of Justice and Melbourne Water. Brunswick Residents Network supported this initiative.

The project previously won a 2014 Victorian Award for Planning Excellence, and commendation in the Australian Awards for Planning Excellence.

** Slow transport news
Sydney Road November traffic disruptions

Trams and traffic in Sydney Road will be disrupted over two weekends in November as Yarra Trams and Public Transport Victoria perform track maintenance and repair work in Brunswick and Coburg.

Track maintenance and repair work will occur in two stages:
Stage 1: Sydney Road between Moreland Road and Gaffney Street. From 12:01am Saturday 14 November until 4:00am Monday 16 November 2015.
Stage 2: Sydney Road between Brunswick Road and Moreland Road. From 12:01am Saturday 28 November until 4:00am Monday 30 November 2015.

You can get updates online from Yarra Trams. (,-brunswick-and-coburg-track-maintenance/)

Ride to the airport
Did you know you can ride from Brunswick to Tullamarine, most of the way on off-road paths? The Moreland Bicycle Users Group  (BUG) confirmed the existence of the mythical North West passage on one of their recent Wednesday rides along the Moonee Ponds Creek path towards Woodlands homestead. It's perfectly rideable, just lacking signs!

* The Moreland BUG Annual General Meeting will be held from 7:00 to 9:00pm on Thursday 26 November at My Handlebar (581 Sydney Road, Brunswick – in the upstairs room).
* Get on the BUG mailing list here for details of their fortnightly Wednesday rides and other bike news:

** Art and about in Brunswick
MoreArt along Upfield path and Sydney Road

MoreArt, the Moreland City Council Public Art Show, is an annual event, where artworks and artists appear in unusual, and unexpected public sites along the Upfield and Sydney Road rail, road and bike precinct.

Join a walking tour along the art show on Saturday 14 November at 11 am (Bookings through Art Aficionados).

There are also free bike tours on
* Sunday 22 November (midday to 2.30 pm)
* family tour Saturday 28 November (midday to 2.30 pm)
* a night tour on Friday 4 December at 6 – 8.30 pm

See Moreland Council ( for more information.

Black Art | White Walls: last chance!

The Black Art | White Walls exhibition at the Counihan Gallery draws on the extensive personal collection of Indigenous art accumulated by Adrian and Anne Newstead while working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander artists over the past 30 years.

WHAT: Black Art | White Walls exhibition
WHERE: Counihan Gallery, 233 Sydney Road (at Brunswick Town Hall)
WHEN: The exhibition runs until Sunday 8 November

Making it in Moreland

Moreland Council is running a series of professional development workshops for artists and creative folk in Moreland - from funding and digital marketing to public art and working with communities. Details are on the Council website. (

** Next Moreland Council meetings
All Council meetings - held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month- and Urban Planning Committee meetings - held on the 4th Wednesday of each month - are now held at: Council Chamber, Moreland Civic Centre, 90 Bell Street, Coburg. Council meetings are on:
* Wednesday11 November 2015 - 7 pm
* Wednesday 19 December 2015 at 7 pm

The next Urban Planning Committee meetings are on Wednesday 25 November and Wednesday 16 November 2015  at 6.30 pm.

Check for all meeting details at the Council website ( . Council meetings can now be watched online, either live, or later - you can find details here ( along with the agenda for this week's Council meeting.
* Hint: If you go to an evening meeting at 90 Bell Street and find the doors locked, you can probably get in through the back door via Urquhart Street.

Welcome to new readers! Please forward this e-letter to other Moreland neighbours who’d like a say in the way their community is changing. It's easy to sign on, or edit your details to include your interests - just go to

To contact organisers of the Brunswick Residents’ Network, or to offer help with future activities, please email ( . For meeting details, survey and newsletter archives, go to:

Check out our Facebook page: Brunswick Residents Network ( . Help us reach more people by liking our page, commenting, sharing news and this newsletter

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