A group of Richmond residents who banded together to fight a Church St development proposal and won at VCAT last month have called for better scrutiny of Yarra City Council processes to avoid poor planning decisions.
Members of the group, Friends of Ben Alexander Reserve, have now received new plans for the site from developers Pacasa JV Pty Ltd, which resident John Durham said were likely to be acceptable to most of its members.
The original plan for the mixed-use development at 268-272 Church St topped the discretionary 15m height limit of the area's design and development overlay by more than 5 metres, overshadowing the reserve.
The new design was "a shade over 15m" but "pretty much meets the requirements in terms of height and setbacks," Durham said.
He believes the appeal to VCAT should not have been necessary.
Nineteen parties, who were long-term residents of the area joined together to take their case to the tribunal after the council's planning decision committee approved the application last August in a process that left objectors feeling they had been ignored.
With the hearing held online due to COVID-19 restrictions, the objectors were allotted a "strictly-policed" five minutes each to speak, after which they were muted for the rest of the meeting, Durham said.
Representation at VCAT had cost the Friends around $26,000, with the group's members contributing around $1500 each, which was "not insignificant" to them, while "the developer probably spent hundreds of thousands of dollars".
Early this month Durham wrote to the councillors who formed the planning decisions committee that approved the application to express "extreme displeasure" with the process and called for future planning decisions to be scrutinised "much more closely".
"It is incomprehensible that the planning department has recommended that a permit be granted when it clearly does not meet its own guidelines," the letter stated.
"I would be happy to hear how council proposes to address these issues so that other residents do not have to endure what we have just been through," Durham said.