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15th June 2005

The Mayor and Councillors

Bayside City Council
Dear Mayor and Councillors,
Amendment C42 & Application 04/0681: Objection to Proposed Intensive Development on Beaumaris Hotel site

Beaumaris Conservation Society Inc. objects to the granting of a Planning Permit and to the proposed Planning Scheme Amendment for the excessively intensive scale of the proposed development on the site of the Beaumaris Hotel on the grounds set out below.
Overdevelopment and Excessive Scale: The Society considers that having 75 car parking spaces whether at or above ground level, or underground as proposed with an inevitably unsightly and very busy CBD-style ramp, on such a small site would introduce a highly urbanized ambience more appropriate to the Melbourne Central Business District than to the very edge of the Melbourne Metropolitan area and the edge of Port Phillip Bay, at a point 20 km distant from the Melbourne CBD. The whole historic point and raison d’être of the original Great Southern Hotel, the physical structure of which the proposal seeks to reconstruct* rather than to restore* (see Burra Charter*), was the difference between the setting* of the Hotel and that of the Melbourne CBD. This proposal would very much reduce that difference to the detriment of the setting and historic associations of the structure, which was, and still is partly, notable for the contrast between its bulk and its low density surroundings, which gave full unobstructed daylight and views of it and from it, and a fairly low level of discordant and extraneous activity at its side and rear.
Having so many more cars regularly entering and leaving the site, particularly at peak times, will surely lead to very much higher levels of congestion and traffic standstill on the short length of Bodley Street before the already busy and most difficult access point onto Beach Road. The Society considers that the density, traffic and parking load for a planned 16 apartments in the hotel structure is excessive. If that number were reduced to 11, and the limits recommended below for the number of dwellings to be built on the existing car park and bottle shop land were to apply, there would be no need for any underground car park, and the proposed extra storey could be dispensed with.
Planning Scheme Amendment C42 seeking an Extra Storey: The photograph of the Beaumaris Hotel in the 1950s on the State Museum Web site shows a handsome Victorian structure before the final despoliation of its exterior in the 1960s, but with the original higher Mansard roof already removed. It would be enlightening in the consideration of this proposal if Council could establish how early the Mansard roof was removed, and whether its removal was the result of its being expensive and difficult to maintain, or the fact that it fell into disuse, or both. Reconstruction of the hotel building just to its state in the 1950s photograph could provide great visual appeal. That appeal would account, by far, for the major presence and impact of the hotel from ground level on the nearby Bodley Street and Beach Road, which are the viewing places most people will see the reconstructed building from. The hotel’s history shows the original did not endure, so entrenchment of legal protection against repetition of such earlier remodelling, and a very stringent specification of durable high quality construction materials and methods is essential.
A third storey would conflict with the sound policy that has been adopted and is expressed in Bayside planning documents that the view of whatever is built on the land from Port Phillip Bay is most important. As it would impair the existing and very long-standing views of the skyline of the Beaumaris Cliff from Port Phillip Bay and its coastline to the south-east, and on the grounds of the extra financial demands of cost recovery and long-term maintenance that it would burden the development with, which would entail pressures for unnecessarily intensive development to make it economic, the Society opposes the building of an extra storey and the associated Planning Scheme Amendment C42 required to exempt the site from the existing sound and wise provisions for the Port Phillip coastline.
Underground Car Park: The Society opposes such a large-scale alteration in the soil and geological structure in Beaumaris, with its permanent dispersal and loss elsewhere and inevitable disturbance to the existing water table and subterranean water movement regime, particularly as the site is very close to the major geological fault line represented by the Beaumaris Cliff, which the Australian Heritage Council has placed on the Register of the National Estate for its significance as a fossil site, but which also has very great environmental and landscape significance. Any ultimate impairment or destabilization of the cliff or surrounding properties should not be risked.
Existing North-east Car Park: The north-east car park has a frontage to the Mentone side of Bodley Street of some 39 metres and a mean usable depth, allowing for a safe retaining wall along the rear properties, of some 48 metres. That area and shape would provide sufficient room for four two-storey dwellings and a 5-metre wide driveway to reach the rear two lots of 429 m2, and the two front lots of 442 m2. That density is well above the Beaumaris average, but would allow some usable land for each of the sets of occupiers, including an adequate setback from Bodley Street. Increasing the density to provide for five two-storey dwellings might be considered, but it would reduce environmental qualities for little real increase in density. The land is too small for more two-storey dwellings.
Existing South-west Car Park and Bottle Shop Land: The rectangular piece of land that comprises the south-west car park and the land occupied by the Drive-in Bottle Shop has a frontage to the Table Rock Point side of Bodley Street of approximately 40 metres, and a usable depth of some 45 metres. That area and shape would provide sufficient room for a similar development to that indicated as being the maximum acceptable in this area for the similarly-sized north-east car park above. That density is well above the Beaumaris average, but would allow some worthwhile open space for each of the sets of occupiers, including an adequate setback from Bodley Street. Increasing the density to provide for five two-storey dwellings might be considered, but it would reduce environmental qualities for little real increase in density. The land is too small for any more two storey-dwellings.
Remainder of the Hotel Land: The hotel land on the Table Rock Point side of Bodley Street is all covered by the Heritage Overlay HO66. That hotel land, less that section of it on which the historic structure stands, is a somewhat smaller parcel of land than either of the two parcels above. It differs from those two parcels in that it has a frontage to Beach Road, and that frontage is not very suitable for direct access by vehicles, but it does have vehicle access from a rear laneway that connects to Keys Street. The Society considers that there should be a distinct break of open space between the reconstructed hotel structure and any development on that land. Such development should of course be no higher than two storeys because of the coastal height limits there, and the need for it to be less dominant than the hotel structure. In view of that break, and the need for parking of 22 cars for the adjacent apartments, whose number we would scale down to 11, there would only be room for one two-storey dwelling on that remaining land.
Social Considerations: The Society recognizes that privatization of an existing public facility is also of concern.
Overall Size of the Development: The maximum overall scale of development that the Society would consider tolerable is 11 apartments and 9, or perhaps 10 two-storey dwellings. The curtilage of each of the two-storey dwellings could accommodate space for two cars. The land on the south-west side of the historic hotel structure, south of the existing car park adjoining the Bottle Shop, could accommodate 22 car spaces. That would result in a maximum of 40 or perhaps 42 car spaces, which would produce some congestion in surrounding streets at least on weekdays, but that would be very much less severe than what would occur under the existing proposal for 75 spaces.
Other major benefits of a scaled-down proposal would be avoiding an uncalled-for intrusion on the foreshore skyline, no major permanent loss of Beaumaris soil, no ugly and unpleasant car ramp leading underground, and something much closer to the Beaumaris neighbourhood character in terms of trees and vegetated open space around structures.
Yours sincerely,
Adrian Cerbasi
Beaumaris Conservation Society Inc.
cc. Bayside City Councillors, Mr M. Thompson MLA, Mr C. Strong MLC, Mr N. Pullen MLC, Bayside Leader