VCAT rejects Lorne Pier development plan
In her decision, VCAT member Judith Perlstein said the proposal would have resulted in the loss of open public spaces. “This proposal is essentially for a restaurant in this location to attract tourism revenue, rather than providing support to the marine and coastal location and the activities planned within it,” she said.
Michael Buxton, professor of planning at RMIT, said precedent had an influence on the direction of future VCAT decisions, although each case was assessed on its merits.
“Precedents matter, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
Buxton said the restaurants were not “dependent on the coast”.
“You can put housing or restaurants or commercial uses anywhere.”
However, he said coastal development policies have been applied unevenly over the decades and governments have changed them over time.
Friends of Lorne chairwoman Penny Hawe said the court had rightly recognized that the proposed development did not belong to the coastline. “We believe that new and expanded hospitality and event space, much needed in Lorne, should be back in the town and not at a valuable coastal site,” she said.
The former Great Ocean Road Coastal Council (now Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority) submitted the initial proposal for the site. The Surf Coast Shire had agreed.
Planning is now underway on a new project for the site.
A video on the Coastal Authority’s website said the revised project at Point Gray would feature a simple new building that evokes the site’s industrial and commercial heritage.
Lorne Pier Seafood restaurant owner Spiros Gazis said he was willing to invest in repairs to the site, but wanted reassurance that it could stay for the long term.
He expressed his frustration with the uncertainty and said, “I love this place. I like what I do.
The Coastal Authority has previously said the fishing co-op building has reached the end of its life and needs major repairs.
Lorne resident Lawrence Baker challenged the original proposal in the VCAT, but died before the court delivered its decision earlier this year.
Baker had argued that the redevelopment would diminish the natural and scenic values of the site and that the original proposal failed to recognize the cultural, social and historical significance of the site and its association with port activity and the fishing industry.
The Angling Club also opposed the scheme, maintaining the proposed arrangements for car parking, boat washing and traffic management were unsafe as drivers would have to make multiple turns on the Great Ocean Road to move their trailers from the boat launch to the club building.
The restaurant on the site has operated continuously since the 1980s, but the shop housing the fishing cooperative is vacant.
Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority chief executive Jodie Sizer said she would continue to work with the community to move the project forward. “All elements of the Point Gray redevelopment project are currently under review following VCAT’s recent decision,” she said.
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