Residents fear 500 new homes in Mount Helen will destroy character

HOME: Mount Helen residents Linda Zibell and Robert Elshaug are concerned for their neighbourhood’s semi-rural character.
PICTURE: JUSTIN WHITELOCK

HOME: Mount Helen residents Linda Zibell and Robert Elshaug are concerned for their neighbourhood’s semi-rural character. PICTURE: JUSTIN WHITELOCK

BALLARAT residents fear a contentious plan that has earmarked 500 dwellings for Mount Helen will irreparably change the face of the leafy region.

Mount Helen resident Linda Zibell said residents had been left in the dark about the City of Ballarat's Draft Greenhill Road Development Feasibility Study.

The purpose the study was to outline a vision for the future of land between Mount Helen and Mount Clear, east of Geelong Road.

At the moment the land is zoned "farming" but the report deemed the area fragmented and no longer considered viable for agricultural use.

Instead it proposed to rezone the land for an urbanised residential development.

Ms Zibell said the plan also proposed to extended the southern urban boundary from Mount Clear to Mount Helen’s Federation University campus, destroying the green break of land which has long distinguished the two suburbs. 

She said she believed it was the council’s intention   to approve the plan, which would result in an “irreversible and drastic alteration” of Mount Helen’s semi-rural neighbourhood character. 

“More than two-thirds of Mount Helen will be impacted, this is not a small conceptual change, it has the ability to fundamentally change the whole character of the area,” Ms Zibell said. 

In 2000, Ms Zibell spearheaded a campaign to protect the area.

After five years of fighting to protect the land, residents developed the Canadian Valley Outline Development Plan with the council in 2005.

The plan outlined environmental, wildlife and landscape protection of the 1000 acres of land between east Ballarat and Buninyong. 

Ms Zibell feared if the recommendations of the study were implemented, it would make the principles of the Canadian Valley report redundant. 

Large parcels of land are earmarked for housing and a third of the dwellings are proposed to be 600-metres-square and below 450-metres-square.

It is expected the dwellings would bring an additional 1000 residents to the area. 

“If this is the only beginning of development for this region, where can we go to from here?” Ms Zibell said. 

Her concerns were echoed by Mount Helen resident Robert Elshaug, who has lived in the area for 37 years.

Mr Elshaug said if the hundreds of dwellings were built in the region, pressure would increased on an already heavily congested Geelong Road.

He said residents understood growth was inevitable, but he added sections of the housing proposed would be clearly visible along Geelong Road and destroy the longstanding “rural vista”.

The council’s manager of planning strategy and design, Deon Van Baalen, said public comments and submissions would be taken into account when preparing a final the plan for council’s consideration. 

It is expected the report will be considered by the council later this year.

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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