THREE state government departments have objected to a contentious plan to build a series of luxury townhouses next to the Yarra River, in the heart of Premier Ted Baillieu's electorate.
Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment have joined a list of opponents trying to thwart the $10 million proposal, which critics fear could set a bad precedent for development around the Yarra.
The Sunday Age reported last week that a private developer has sought planning approval to build three four-storey dwellings on a picturesque site near the water's edge, in Coppin Grove, Hawthorn.
Local residents and the Yarra Riverkeeper Association describe the plan as a critical test case. They fear that, if allowed, it could pave the way for more large-scale development along the river corridor.
Over the past few years, several controversial projects have been approved around the Yarra, raising concerns about encroachment. These include the 11-storey Haven/Eden multi-tower in Richmond; the Riverwood in Alphington; and a series of residential waterside homes in Toorak.
Asked what Mr Baillieu thought of the Coppin Grove proposal, given it sits within his electorate, spokesman Paul Price told The Sunday Age: ''The Premier doesn't take positions on planning matters. The matter in question is currently before VCAT [the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal].''
But some government departments have formally objected, warning the development would ruin the amenity of the Yarra and be ''contrary to good planning'' around its edge.
Boroondara Council was meant to rule on the proposal early this year but failed to do so within 60 days, partly due to the complexity of the project, resulting in the matter being passed to VCAT.
In a submission to the council earlier this year, Melbourne Water argued the development ''is not appropriate or in keeping with the existing character of the Yarra River corridor due to its density, size and bulk''.
In a separate joint submission, the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Parks Victoria raised similar concerns.
''Because of the bulk of the development, the proposal represents an unreasonable intrusion and encroachment into the river corridor and will have a detrimental effect on the visual quality that currently exists along this part of the river,'' they said.
Planning applicant Peter O'Brien declined to comment, but a permit application by Fulcrum Urban Planning, which is assisting him with the development, has rejected the concerns.
The group argues the development will offer an ''innovative and quality lifestyle choice for future residents'' and make ''a positive contribution to the adjoining Yarra River corridor''.
An ecology report conducted on behalf of the group found the impact on local plants and fauna would be insignificant, because much of the area comprises ''seriously weedy'' trees and shrubs.
''The proposal will not have an unreasonable impact upon the amenity or character of the Yarra River environs, or on the amenity of nearby residential properties,'' the application says.
As revealed by The Sunday Age last week, the Baillieu government is considering introducing tighter controls to protect the Yarra from being overrun by inappropriate development.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy is looking at a range of options, such as mandatory height and setback limits, or an overlay around the river in a bid to limit ''overdevelopment'' and inconsistent planning decisions.
''There were policies in the 1970s and '80s in particular - and even in the '90s - in relation to controls along the Yarra, and I think it is about time that the state government revisited that, and … that we do have a focus back on the protection of the Yarra,'' Mr Guy said.