Blow for Bunnings in bid for new Brunswick store
VCAT rules against controversial $21 million development in Glenlyon Road
Updated: Sunday, April 10, 2022
A CONTROVERSIAL Bunnings warehouse development in Brunswick East has been blocked by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
In a decision handed down on Friday afternoon, VCAT reaffirmed the refusal of a permit by Moreland Council for the $21 million project in Glenlyon Road.
Bunnings has been seeking approval to build a a new retail store, in-store café, nursery and timber yard on the northern side of Glenlyon Road near Lygon Street.
The original plans were for a building 15.4m in height with floor space of about 8600 square metres across two levels and the timber yard, and include 236 underground car parking spaces. The development has been costed at $21 million and the new store would employ between 100 and 120 staff.
The hardware giant appealed to VCAT after Moreland Council refused to grant it a permit in late-2020 following a major community campaign which resulted in 538 objections being lodged against the project.
Twelve days of hearings in VCAT began almost a year ago, with tribunal members Rachel Naylor and Stephen Axford deliberating since July last year.
In their 77-page decision, they rejected Bunnings’ claims that its objective was to provide a ‘ “Brunswick Bunnings” rather than a Bunnings located in Brunswick’.
“Unfortunately, this proposal has failed to achieve this outcome in an acceptable manner when all relevant policies are balanced in favour of sustainable development and net community benefit,” the VCAT panel said.
The impact of the development on local traffic was also a factor in the refusal of a permit with the VCAT panel saying the proposal was not consistent with council and state government policies to reduce cars in the inner city.
They said traffic impacts would include “saturation” of the Glenlyon-Lygon streets intersection with resultant increased lengths of queues when the lights are red; increased car traffic on side streets; delays in public transport service times; loss of on-street parking; and increased danger for cyclists.
“In circumstances where there are other policies seeking street activation and prioritising street space for public transport, cycling and pedestrian use, we are not persuaded this proposal strikes the right balance,” the panel said.
Bunnings has not ruled out submitting different plans for the site.
“Naturally we’re disappointed with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s decision not to grant a planning permit for a new Bunnings Warehouse in Brunswick, and will now review our options with the developer of the site,” said the company’s Director of Property and Store Development, Andrew Marks.
“We remain committed to providing local customers in Brunswick with a wider range of home and lifestyle products.”
Nic Maclellan from the Brunswick Residents Network said that ultimately the impact on traffic was the biggest negative of the proposal.
“It was just the wrong site for it,” he said. “It’s a big blow for Bunnings.”
Mr McClellan added that VCAT’s concerns about the impact of traffic could have implications for future large developments in the Brunswick East neighbourhood.
The campaign against the development was led by Andrea Bunting, a nearby resident who formed the Glenlyon Bunnings Action Group in late-2020.
The group raised more than $44,000 in donations to hire a planning advocate and expert witnesses on the traffic and social impacts for the VCAT hearing.
Ms Bunting said despite heavy pressure to compromise, residents had remained determined to oppose the project because of its potential impact on traffic, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and residential amenity.
“This victory shows the importance of a united campaign and a clear goal,” she said.
“In planning disputes there is a lot of pressure to compromise. We were told that if we didn’t suggest modifications to the design, we could end up with the original proposal. But early on, GBAG agreed unanimously that our goal was outright rejection.
“Overall, this was truly a dreadful proposal. Whoever thought this was an appropriate site for a Bunnings Warehouse needs to seriously question their judgement.”
Faith Hunter, convenor of the Moreland Bicycle Users Group, said the traffic generated by the Glenlyon Road Bunnings would have compromised the existing networks used by people on bicycles and residents’ aspirations for the future of those networks.
“This is an area where families and others often get to school, the station and work by bike. It’s a huge relief to locals to see VCAT recognise this and decide against issuing a permit.”
Several Moreland councillors have also welcomed the decision.
Cr Sue Bolton said the outcome of the VCAT hearing had national significance.
“It sets a precedent that mega-stores like Bunnings shouldn’t set up in residential areas,” she said on social media. “If Bunnings had won this case, then people suburbs across Australia could face the prospect of a Bunnings or another Big Box retailer setting up beside them. Congratulations to all the community campaigners. This outcome also shows that community campaigns can win.”
Cr James Conlan, in whose ward the development sits, said he was “extremely surprised but thrilled” about the decision.
“[This is] a win for the community over an awful development that would have choked Brunswick with cars and trucks, caused huge disruptions to tram, bus, cycling and walking networks,” he said on social media.
This story was first published on April 9 and has been updated with additional reactions and comments.