Response to Croydon Major Activity Centre draft

Maroondah’s draft Activity Centre Plan 2050:
A considered response from Croydon Conservation Society

Precious gateways

Croydon conservation society has recommended on many occasions that the buildings facing the north side of Mount Dandenong Road between the railway overpass and Main Street Croydon be retained in the existing built/architectural styles with the existing street setbacks, freestanding houses and including the retention of both native and exotic species of mature trees that form this ‘green and leafy’ gateway into Croydon.

The removal of front gardens would necessitate killing numerous canopy trees with established existing wildlife habitat highways. Clearing this land and adding new central trees does not come close to a replacement. The row of front gardens creates a linked series of canopy trees that is an important part of our increasingly important local wildlife corridors.

It is our opinion that any rezoning must exclude the properties lining Mount Dandenong Road. Losing this vista would destroy our town heritage and potentially create a four story wall of highly visible apartments which would erase the fundamental personality of Croydon. The photo above shows the original “feel” that we need to protect into the future along high profile corridors such as this, Croydon Rd, Kent Ave and what’s left of Wicklow Ave.

Please think about what you are devaluing.

Properties fronting Mt Dandenong Rd are already being used for commercial purposes while keeping their architectural style and street setback including the mature trees. CCS sees this as a definite, achievable planning goal. It is appropriate, aesthetically pleasing, and necessary for wildlife. The mature trees that exist in that area will provide localised cooling and wind abatement that we are sorely lacking after the trees were totally denuded during the LXRP work and removed from Starcross Avenue and Gallipoli parade.

Our heritage

Along Mt Dandenong Rd, there are at least two Heritage properties one being the original red brick Croydon primary school the other being the Art Deco house on the corner of Ridgeway Avenue. These buildings and gardens should set the tone for the entry to Main St.

The cream brick house at number 1 Mount-view Street was the home of Dr Burns. Dr Burns was one of two doctors practising in Croydon in its early days. This property is not only a building of interest but should be considered as another heritage property with the vast triangular garden and mature trees assisting in keeping that area of Main Street shady and cool and adding to the character of views down Main Street towards Mt Dandenong Rd. The massive trees welcome the visitor to Croydon.

These huge mature canopy trees are currently growing happily on land on the point of Mt View St and Main Street Croydon. They provide a visible backdrop of what Croydon trees add to the Croydon community, all year round, when the Main St trees are bare. They give scale to the shopping precinct.There is no need to rezone that block of land for development, as it is in keeping with the properties fronting Mt Dandenong Rd, all of which we have asked Council many times to keep as original architecture with the large front gardens, with mature trees and a good setback from the road.

On page 20 of the document, it states… quote

The impact of the urban heat island has resulted in some parts of the centre being significantly warmer than nearby non-urban areas. This issue also impacts on community well-being and liveability. The increased urban heat increases the vulnerability of particular groups (e.g. lower socio-economic and elderly) to heat events. The reduction in vegetation cover and the habitat it provides, restricts the potential for community to connect with nature locally, impacts local amenity which intern(sic) in turn, can impact on community health and active lifestyles.”

With a view to the proposed area for the boundary of activity centre, it makes absolutely no sense to include properties within the area of Starcross Avenue, Gallipoli Avenue, Ridgeway Avenue, Lemnos Street, Anzac Street and Mount View Street; as these areas are in very close proximity to where the massive tree removal has occurred recently along Starcross Avenue and in Gallipoli Avenue as well as on the opposite side of the rail line in Wicklow Avenue, all done for the new railway uplift.

Encouraging increased housing density and large built footprints of multi-level housing in this area, will create a large slab of hard standing materials and built form, which will add to the heat island effect. This contradicts the stated aim above, and disregards the effect on liveability. At nighttime the heat radiation from this extensive area of thermal mass, will rise and affect the areas opposite the Rail line in Alto Avenue, Glenora Avenue and residents in Mingara Retirement Village.

The following graphic shows a wing shape area for development out to the left side of the boundary map which, for the reasons stated above, we believe is a ill-considered choice. Instead, we suggest a substitute area being the precinct of Jackson Street, Hague Street, Plumber Street and up to Surrey Road finishing at Dorset Road. This fits the pattern on the opposite side of the Rail line, up to Kitchener Road, and given it is lower lying land, the development will not be so conspicuous, on the skyline. Referencing the contour map on page 13, the linear contours of both areas are very similar, so there is no reason for choosing an area which has now been significantly impacted by extreme vegetation removal.

This square area is already in close proximity to Cool Store Road and Windsor Road which is to be rezoned to commercial and is in equal walking distance of the railway station as it would be for residents walking from the west side of Ridgeway towards the station 
Heat sink area in the “wing” due to serious vegetation removal already from LXRP work in Wicklow Avenue. Image showing the potential for tree loss. All trees at threat of removal are mature in this area if it is to be both a two and three story development area. Figure 5 Page 33 Also image P73

Given our priority is to protect properties lining the north side of Mount Dandenong Road, it would be advantageous to swap out the wing shape area between the rail line, Starcross Ave and Mt Dandenong Rd with the existing mature trees, and instead replace it on your plan with the area noted above which features far fewer mature canopy trees.

Existing canopy trees are highlighted in the photo above. The area bounded by red, features many of the Algerian Oaks planted to honour family members fallen in war. The oaks at the front of the school are already on MCC’s notable tree register.
Please consider what you are going to throw away.

In a horrible irony, if you remove the trees, any new buildings will be even more reliant on air conditioning, one of the biggest drivers of increased power requirements.

It is the opinion of Croydon Conservation Society that swapping one area for the other should pose no significant problem. There is no reason why four-story developments comprising three levels of residences and one of ground level carparking should not be seen as appropriate. Any potential water issue or flood mitigation can be accommodated within underground car parks using underground retarding basins as part of the development plan. , or indeed to feed some local grassy swampland. It seems Dorset Rd will soon be a uniform wall of ugly apartments and townhouses. Mature trees are being cut down every day and it will be depressingly barren.

Our proposed swap area is already in close proximity to Cool Store Road and Windsor Road which is to be rezoned as commercial land. It is equidistant from the station and equally within walking distance of the railway station as it would be for residents walking from the west side of Ridgeway Avenue towards the station.

On page 22 where there is a view of main street in the Dandenong ranges it’s already evident that 4 story buildings cause a significant “dead zone” in the tree canopy. In particular we reference 211 and 211D Mount Dandenong Road which backs onto the tennis courts. There is no way that this building can be made less of a blight on the landscape since there was no provision for planting on site along the side boundary or for a green roof. This was one of many lost opportunities to set a better standard for Croydon.

211 & 211D Mt Dandenong Rd highly visible due to no tree cover along side the built form.

Within Croydon’s local vicinity, there is also plenty of scope for some redevelopment along Vernon Street as well as that which is already occurring in Lusher Road and Springvale Ave.

Properties bounding Alfrick Road are further away from the railway station so zoning the ‘wing’ of land adjacent to the new railway line for high-density development makes no sense. The damage to vegetation retention and preventing species decline, to bird life and their food source, is too great. The LXRP has already significantly damaged the wildlife corridor along the track.

The land use currently suggested in your plan for the Starcross Ave wing would create potential for a serious heat sink, as it would become an extensive area of hard-standing paving and built form with very little opportunity for vegetation. This would be a poor outcome for any non-developed parcels of land with one or two homes, as well as houses opposite the rail line fronting Wicklow Avenue.

On page 28 there are some very worthwhile recommendations about increasing vegetation, increasing habitat and maximizing biodiversity outcomes. Obviously existing habitat is better than new habitat. Once displaced, bird species don’t always return.

Also on page 28, a typo must have been made beside Points 16 and 17, as it recommends an increase in ‘impervious’ surfaces. Surely it should be permeable surfaces rather than impervious.

Large canopy trees along pedestrian roads, Points 15 at 16, are great opportunities for improvement through harvesting rainwater and increasing vegetation cover using WSUD. Another positive aspiration is the placement of undergrounding powerlines to allow for larger canopies along streets.

We also note on page 30 map that there appears to be a plan to establish new canopy planting along the length of Mount Dandenong Road. We hope this is on nature strips and not in the median strip.

It is worth noting that before amalgamation Croydon council employed a planner who was very sympathetic to the Philosophy of Croydon. Chris Chong Gum was an environmental planner before that role was common in local Government, and it was he who chose the Ornamental Pistachios which are such a beautiful feature of the planting within the median strip especially in Autumn when they are a spectacle. CCS is certain that any suggestion of removal of those Pistachio trees would meet with severe community backlash.

Retaining mature trees would also support the stated aim on page 32 where it says specifically ‘to manage the interface to protect amenity between new development and existing sensitive uses.’ As mentioned, we suggest maintaining the existing original architecture on the north side of Mount Dandenong Road complete with setbacks, established gardens, mature trees and wildlife. This would allow Croydon to continue to put our best foot forward and would soften the inevitable development shock.

Point 40. Page 35 Removal of carparking and the tennis courts at the rear of the shops adjacent to Town Park, and proposing that the land be used for redevelopment is a poor idea. This will make access to available car spaces more competitive and with this increased pressure of not finding parking nearby it will encourage shoppers to go elsewhere. This will do nothing for the traders of Main St unless replacement parking is supplied by developers at no cost to local residents.

Page 46 With regard to losing the tennis courts, Council prides itself on providing many opportunities for sport and removal of the tennis courts contradicts this aim, unless replacement courts are to be provided elsewhere in the Wellbeing hub, taking space from other public use. If four storey buildings are a must, at least dictate a setback on the north, east and south property boundaries and protect our existing mature trees. It may seem like ‘only fifteen trees’ to you but we have watched multiples of fifteen trees vanishing over the last ten years. 5000 cooling, beautiful canopies that people enjoyed and where our birds lived, gone.

On a positive note, point No. 42 requiring new car parking areas to provide electric vehicle charging infrastructure, disability compliant parking and EV charging for at least 10% of carparks is a good start.

After all the dust has settled and the Station precinct is delivered as a finished project,
there will be some positive changes e.g. connecting the two sides under the newly elevated railway station. In spite of the tremendous vegetation loss that has been suffered, we hope that the LXRP project follow through on their design and that with time this enormous expanse of hard-standing material will be softened and shaded with vegetation, as promised in the LXRP plan.

Figure 11, on page 49. shows an area adjacent to the Station where it mentions discretionary height limits of up to 6 to 7 Stories. This is unacceptable to the majority of residents, who are accustomed to a carpark surrounded by trees.

The section indicated on the current car park at Croydon Central is definitely over development. It is inappropriate to put in buildings of 6 to 7 stories, which tower above vegetation and cannot be camouflaged even if they’re articulated back from the street frontages.

The general feeling of residents is that they are still shocked by four story developments and there is plenty of opportunity to create more of those, rather than allow 6 or 7 which would set a precedent. A precedent like this will only serve to open the door to unscrupulous developers wanting the same discretion applied to their parcels of land all over Croydon.

This is bad for Council, as developers will take on Council at VCAT. Setting a discretionary height at six stories is a frightening change that most Croydon residents would think is overkill in terms of providing housing for the increased population anticipated in our Croydon precinct.

There can be development without throwing our town away. Compromise is key.

Croydon Wellbeing Precinct draft masterplan
as shown below, also requires extra consideration. Page 21.

Our response to this community infrastructure framework is varied.

We have previously written, and now reiterate, that we reject the plan to dig a lap-laned open air pool with narrow concrete space around it, when the pool already exists at the Croydon Memorial pool. The existing pool has mature canopy trees that provide shade and amenity. It is universally loved by the local residents who have memories of growing up with the pool. The history of its funding by the community for returned soldiers and their families must never be forgotten, which is why it is The Memorial Pool.

The proposed pool adjacent to the leisure centre will require the destruction of the architecturally significant library which features on TripAdvisor as a place of note in Croydon. It has enormous value to the community in general.

It is the most visited and used library in the Eastern region – because we love it.

In the Library, seats next to the window overlooking the duckpond are highly prized. It’s obvious that this location has enormous appeal to patrons, providing natural light, a water view, an opportunity to observe the birds and a place that is both heated and cooled. As costs of living become more expensive, for example power bills are escalating at an alarming rate, demands on the library facilities for sitting in comfort, reading newspapers, and doing homework is going to increase. The community library is a safe and restful haven and a magnificent asset to our community.

Commenting specifically on the Croydon community well-being precinct master plan from 2020; we do not understand how glimpses of the lake are going to be possible from the area labelled a community well-being hub Stage one. This building is totally separated by a walking path and features an indication of vegetation beside the lake. It will be a very poor second-rate facility compared to what we currently have with the Library’s appealing architecture and the visible runoff from rain into the lake. The library is an egalitarian success. Don’t break it. 

Talking to our members, it is a community preference to maintain the library in its current position and spend the money on upgrading and fixing leaks and any other issues rather than removing it entirely and using that space for yet another sporting facility! As for a new outdoor laned swimming pool, it is unnecessary if you fix or renew the outdoor pool that already exists in a beloved location with war memorial plants and grown trees.

While change is inevitable, Council can propose sensitively planned, measured development while retaining the character and of Croydon for the current residents as well as those joining us in the future. We have lost 30% of our tree cover in the last ten years. This is nothing less than an appalling tragedy for residents.

MCC asks for community input and CCS always contributes. Is community input highly valued? Will it make a difference? Or will the MCC allow the required density to destroy everything we love about Croydon’s community and environment? Please, choose to leave us some non-sport related open space, protect our beautiful trees, respect our heritage and recognise the features our community values.

Liz Sanzaro, President

Neroli Wesley, Secretary

Ken Whitney, Treasurer