Evidence of objectors questioned in Aspire Precinct tribunal hearing

NOT FAIR: Max Turner and Alan Ellis are part of a group of residents challenging the approval of the Aspire Precinct. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
NOT FAIR: Max Turner and Alan Ellis are part of a group of residents challenging the approval of the Aspire Precinct. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

A barrister representing the Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst said those challenging the approval of an interfaith precinct in central Bendigo had “breached natural justice” during their tribunal hearing.

Andrew Burnett made the claim on day two of a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing into the Aspire Precinct, arguing evidence submitted by the objectors’ representation was not put to the expert witness in the case, traffic engineer Charmaine Dunstan.

“A very small amount of the material (for the objectors) was put to the expert witness. What's being proposed by the applicant is a breach of natural justice,” he said, suggesting VCAT member Geoffrey Rundell should give little weight to the documents.

The evidence primarily in question was a series of photographs taken by residents of nearby streets, which objectors claim will be overwhelmed by traffic if the precinct is to go ahead without a certain amount of car parking allocations.

COGB councillors voted in favour of the development in December, which waived the requirement to create 40 car parks at the site.

The tribunal heard the Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst agreed to make a financial contribution to the COGB for the equivalent of 14 spaces – believed to be $150,000 – but in her closing submissions for the objectors, town planner Sarah Watts said the cash contribution should be doubled to equate to 27 spaces, with a further 14 spaces provided on site.

“Paying for (the equivalent of) 27 spaces would enable the council to provide sustainable transport options for the site,” she said. 

Mr Burnett disagreed, saying: “The presentation of cars next to the (Sacred Heart) Cathedral would really detract from the magnificence of the building.”

Member Rundell asked Ms Watts what her applicants wanted from the hearing – for him to reject the current permit granted by the COGB or to grant a permit with conditions relating to amenity like noise, waste management and bus parking. 

Ms Watts answered: “Should a permit be granted, residents would like their amenity to be protected.”

Discussion also focused on the liquor licence granted to the precinct’s proposed function centre, which Ms Watts argued was inconsistent with the COGB’s liquor licence policy, and waste management plans at the facility. 

The tribunal heard, from COGB legal representation Mimi Marcus, the council would welcome an imposition that limits patrons being outside from a certain time or a noise and amenity-type action plan in addition to a waste management plan. Member Rundell will make his decision at a later date.