Diocese to gift nature reserve to city under $6m development plan

BACKGROUND: Aspinall Street fight goes to VCAT

BACKGROUND: Aspinall Street plans vetoed

THE Diocese of Sandhurst will gift a 7.15 hectare nature reserve to the Bendigo community under revised plans for a $6 million land development at Golden Square.

The reserve will be protected by a Trust For Nature covenant and cover almost 50 per cent of the church’s 14.98-hectare property on Aspinall Street.

The remaining land will include the Bishop of Sandhurst’s residence and a new 87-lot residential development.

Plans for the development have been submitted to the City of Greater Bendigo who would oversee the nature reserve on behalf of the community.

An original plan for the Aspinall Street site was approved by Bendigo council in 2010 but later rejected by the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal after protests by residents including the Aspinall Street Action Group.

Diocese of Sandhurst business manager Cameron Fraser said the new proposal differed markedly from the earlier development plans.

Mr Fraser said the church and consultants had addressed issues raised by VCAT in 2010, including the suggestion to set aside land on the northern side.

“We believe the proposed development is sensitive to the concerns raised by VCAT and others in 2010 and compatible with surrounding housing developments,” he said.

“At the same time, it will provide sorely-needed new housing stock in Bendigo, only five kilometres from the CBD.”

The Diocese has owned the land since 1888.

The land is remnant bushland and woodlands with a number of medium and large old trees and flora species ranging in significance, including the Rustyhood Orchid.

Most of the significant flora is in the northern half which will become the public reserve.

Another three large old trees will be retained in a smaller reserve on the south-west boundary of the development.

Mr Fraser said Bishop Tomlinson’s decision to downsize the expansive property set aside as his personal residence was important to the new development.

Bishop Tomlinson said that while Bishops’ residences were once expected to be large and stately, having a residence with 15 hectares of gardens and grounds no longer met community expectations.

He quoted Pope Francis’ call for bishops to show austerity and be an example of humble living as part of his desire to sell the property.

The average size of the blocks in the housing development are 600 square metres, within a range of 343 square metres to 918 square metres.

The size of the blocks in surrounding residential developments range from 360 to 1400 square metres.

The development application includes an expert environmental report.

Tomkinson Group are assisting with the design and planning of the development in conjuction with other consultants.

Subject to planning approval, work would begin in 2014 and would involve three stages.

The estimated value of the development is $6 million and the income from the project would go towards promoting the Catholic faith and in other areas such as social services, education and healthcare.

How the new Golden Square development differs from the 2009 proposal

These are the key differences between the 2009 proposal and the new proposal:

A total of 7.146 hectares of high-significance vegetation will be protected. This land will include a substantial number of large old trees and native flora species.

Residential development will take place on land containing introduced gardens and native vegetation of lower conservation significance.

Donation of existing private land to Council as a Flora and Fauna Reserve.

Placement of Trust for Nature covenant on title of Reserve to ensure ongoing protection and management of existing vegetation.

Residential lots that have been designed with north-south facing yards to achieve optimal solar orientation.

Improved lot size diversity, allowing a greater range of housing sizes and styles to be constructed to fit the needs of future residents.

An improved subdivision layout creating rectangular lot shapes serviced by an east-west road network.

The Bishop’s residence will be retained and will serve as feature of the estate.

Inclusion of a perimeter road will separate the residential area from vegetation to be retained. This will provide an appropriate fire protection to future dwellings and will protect the integrity of the Flora and Fauna Reserve.

The subdivision has been designed to integrate with development in the surrounding area, including the character observed in the neighbourhood, the existing transport network and existing drainage patterns. 

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