Neighbourhood Character Review of Beaumaris: 2003

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Introduction: The present freehold land in Beaumaris has been freehold since the 19th Century. Almost all of that freehold land, except that owned by the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, had become subdivided into thousands of lots of about 800 square metres each by the 1960s. The character of each of the numerous freehold lots in Beaumaris has now been changed from its natural state. The spectrum of changes has ranged from the minimum change – constructing a modest house on the lot and maintaining as much original vegetation as practicable – to the removal of all pre-existing vegetation and the covering of nearly all the block by one or more two-storey dwellings and paving or gravel. Increasingly a new pattern has developed where 300 kilolitres or more of soil and subsoil is permanently removed from blocks for underground constructions, thus irrevocably changing the geological character of the land involved.Many decisions on the character of these thousands of lots have been made, independently of each other, and over a considerable time period. Those decisions have been made individually by the very great diversity of owners those lots have had over more than a century, and continue to have at any given time. Despite that potential and actual diversity a degree of uniformity has also occurred. Many decisions have to some extent been influenced by the prevailing fashion, but they have been subject to the limitations of the available funds and technology at the time, and the decisions have been broadly constrained by the limits set by municipal and government laws.

Until 1994 Beaumaris consisted of a corner area of each of three abutting municipalities, Sandringham, Mordialloc and Moorabbin. The municipal laws and decisions under those laws, including municipal rates, differed as they were determined by separate bodies of electors. Nevertheless the whole of Beaumaris was subject to the same planning system, ultimately controlled by the Victorian Government. Those planning laws had, for a long period, prescribed good setbacks from streets and neighbours’ boundaries that ensured that adequate areas of sunny, well-watered and well-drained natural land surface was available to enable the widespread retention of original bushland vegetation that was a notable feature of Beaumaris remarked on by many, such as the architect, Robin Boyd, in his 1960 book, The Australian Ugliness (Page 164). An official change of attitude occurred later that allowed an approximate doubling of the number of dwellings per block, which might have given a brief, opportunistic spurt to building activity, but caused a permanent loss of the environmental quality in most parts of Beaumaris.

Major Continuing Influences on Character: Notwithstanding the above effects on the character of Beaumaris freehold residential lots, the character of those lots can still be readily grouped into three broad categories, which date from the broad character they possessed at the onset of the intensive and complete urbanization of Beaumaris in the 1950s, as is seen in map attached to the CSIRO Report of the 1944 Beaumaris bushfire, and the 1951 Victorian Lands Department aerial photograph of Beaumaris:

· B – Bushland influence: Heathland and manna gum woodland not yet subdivided into residential lots in 1951, and similar land that had been subdivided and partly occupied by housing, but that noticeably retains a considerable extent of the former indigenous coastal and semi-coastal vegetation among it, together with areas, principally lots in western Beaumaris and eastern Beaumaris covered by the Special Building Overlay for flood control but also lots at the north end of Bonanza and Wells Roads, that are the main remnant areas for River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) in Beaumaris,

· C – Coastal influence: Land fronting Beach Road, and the nearest continuous thoroughfare inland of it, nearly all developed early, often on large lots within sight of the Foreshore Reserve, and often within sight of flying seabirds and the sound and smell of the sea and wind from the sea, occasionally with coastal vegetation, including large Coast Banksia trees (Banksia integrifolia), and

· D – Development influence: Pasture and market garden land not yet subdivided into residential lots in 1951, and land that had been occupied by housing but that generally retains relatively little of the former indigenous vegetation among it, and that is further from the coast, and where much of its coastal identity has been carelessly or deliberately suppressed.

The Area D (Development Influence) is the more eastern section of Beaumaris not included in the Areas B and C, which overlap in part. Areas A and B can each be described as all the lots fronting onto a closed loop made up of the following thoroughfares or sections thereof:

Area B (Bushland Influence): Surf Avenue, Stawell Street, Keating Street, Iluka Street, Fairleigh Avenue, Balcombe Park Lane, Balcombe Road, Reserve Road, Weatherall Road, Morey Road, Balcombe Road, Oak Street, Hardy Grove, Tramway Parade, Cloris Avenue, Reserve Road, Nautilus Avenue, Coral Avenue, Point Avenue, Lang Street, Reserve Road, and Beach Road, but this area also includes lots within the Special Building Overlay, and those near the north end of Wells and Bonanza Roads, that have substantial River Red Gum trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). 

Area C (Coastal Influence):  Surf Avenue, Stawell Street, Page Street, Bruce Street, Olinda Avenue, Haydens Road, Florida Avenue, Coral Avenue, Nautilus Street, Reserve Road, Reid Street, Ward Street, Tramway Parade, Ray Street, Cromer Road, Lileura Avenue, Deauville Street, Harfleur Avenue, Wells Road, Bonanza Lane, Charman Road, and Beach Road.

Maintenance of the character of Area B: This is important both historically and contemporarily to Beaumaris and to the Melbourne metropolis as the great benefit of a continuously existing and maintained ambience of a consistent indigenous bushland community as an integral part of a well valued and regarded urban Australian setting is extremely rare as close to central Melbourne as Beaumaris is.

Maintenance of the character of Area C: This is important to Beaumaris and the Melbourne metropolis as Port Phillip and its coastal fringe constitutes by far the largest and most significant natural area adjacent to that metropolis. If the atmosphere and landscape, both natural and built, of the coastal fringe is degraded, both Melbourne and Beaumaris will be degraded overall in standing ranging from a very local aspect to a national and international aspect.

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