A 150-year-old tree will be able to be removed from a Lake Wendouree property following a decision by City of Ballarat councillors.
The red flowering gum tree, referred to by council as the 'Marri Tree', in the front yard of 113 Webster Street has been proposed to be removed to allow for the reinstallation of a wrought iron heritage fence at the front of the property as part of a planning permit amendment.
The fence has been removed from the site for repair works but has been unable to be reinstalled in the approved configuration without significant damage to the Marri Tree.
While council officers recommended the application be refused and the tree retained, councillors voted against the recommendation five to three.
South ward councillor Des Hudson then moved a second motion to include the removal of the tree in the planning permit and require the reinstallation of the fence, which was won six to two.
Council officers recommended council refuse the planning permit amendment, saying its removal would 'contravene objectives seeking to protect areas of natural and cultural significance and would adversely impact upon the established garden setting of the subject site and Webster Street in general'.
The council officer report said the removal of 'a healthy and rare Marri Tree that holds social, cultural and historical value would have an irreversible impact on the neighbourhood'.
Council officers estimate the Marri Tree could have been planted soon after the property's original dwelling was constructed in the late-1800s.
In August, an amendment was sought to alter the rear of the building, but also remove the tree. According to the officer report, council officers were not satisfied there was adequate evidence to justify the tree's removal and the application was amended to retain the tree.
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In November 2015, council approved a planning permit for the demolition the original dwelling, the construction of the present dwelling utilising original building materials and the removal of a different long-standing tree. In April 2018, the permit was amended to include a tennis court, a second vehicle entry point and a circular driveway.
Council officers said the fence was no longer associated with the site, its heritage was 'severely undermined' and its reconstruction did not outweigh the tree's removal due to the original dwelling being demolished and the fence being constructed in a different location.
Cr Hudson said it was a straightforward, common sense decision on face value, with the tree eventually dying while the fence could stand for another 100 years alongside a new tree planting.
"We've heard quite clearly that the tree and fence can't coexist, one is disrupting the structure of the other and while in an ideal world, people would love to retain both and have it there as part of the streetscape of Webster Street, but in reality, one is forcing the other out and just can't be," he said.
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