Research urges change to prevent the Sea Change phenomenon from destroying what's left of our character...
The battle to retain Queenscliff’s built heritage has reached a critical stage, according to the co-author of new research mapping the impacts of the so-called Seachange phenomenon on small coastal towns.
Deakin University Associate Professor Ursula de Jong says the fight to protect neighbouring Sorrento's character from development pressures was all but lost because of an apparent VCAT desire for “progress.”
Queenscliff can still be saved, she said.
“From Sorrento’s point of view, they think Queenscliff is much better off than they are, you actually have a lot more of the [heritage] fabric here. Sorrento’s is literally – since we started this project – disappearing,” she said.
“I guess we’re at a critical time for your town, like really critical… the escalating property prices go up faster than any of the graphs we’ve got here but they run in parallel with those, so that’s what you’re fighting against - it’s the balance between this so-called progress and understanding our heritage towns and I think for Sorrento, we’ve found VCAT is headed in the direction of progress.”
Professor de Jong – together with Deakin School of Architecture and Built Environment colleagues Robert Fuller and David Beynon - was releasing the preliminary findings of Sea Change Communities: Intergenerational Perception and Sense of Place, an extensive study which used Queenscliff and Sorrento as test cases to measure the impacts of sea changers on the prevailing character of coastal communities.
Its findings clearly show both communities have changed considerably over recent decades, with a push for larger, modern architecture consuming heritage and vegetation.
“Many new owners have aspirations involving change and development,” the booklet states.,” stated an accompanying booklet (Improving Planning Outcome in Small Coastal Towns).
“This has not only led to conflicts with long-established residents but it has placed a great deal of pressure on local councils to clearly define the existing character of their towns’ built and natural environment.”
The research has involved mapping of streetscapes and coastlines dating back some 50 years, documenting the perceptions of residents across all ages and evaluating the effectiveness of current planning schemes governing the two towns.
"Achieving better outcomes requires a multi-pronged approach. The key areas can be summarised as better education, improved processes and clearer planning provisions."
The final report is due for release in July. It will include five key recommendations for protecting heritage and vegetation into the future:
- More clarity in the vision of local governments and a clear connection to the desires of the community
- Introduction of plot ratio guidelines in planning controls to prevent inappropriate massing of new developments
- A review of the rules governing the amount of land a development can cover
- Greater clarity in the planning process to remove ambiguities, and
- Ensuring the character of precincts are the primary guides for decision-making.