Feature Image: Trees along the Great Alpine Road near Bright, Victoria, Source: Mattinbgn (Wikimedia Commons)
A planning permit application to subdivide 78 lots has caused controversy in the township of Bright due to the risk the subdivision and development would pose to the avenue of deciduous trees along the Great Alpine Road.
In 2005, Alpine Shire Council conducted a Residential Land Review and identified the land on the southern side of the Great Alpine Road (between Tower Hill Road and Stackey Gully Road) and other parcels, as areas for future development to meet housing needs. In 2011, the Alpine Shire Planning Scheme was amended and in 2015 the land was re-zoned from Farming Zone to General Residential Zone with a Development Plan Overlay (DPO3). Due to the DPO, the current planning permit application, which was submitted to Alpine Shire Council in November 2022, was exempt from the usual requirements of notice and third party review options. The Bright Western Gateway Development Plan was already approved by council on 5 July 2022 which automatically put these exemptions in place. It is not only this planning application which is exempt from notice and third party review, but future planning applications for this site will also be exempt. The Development Plan which was approved by Council clearly identified the proposed 3 side streets from Great Alpine Road.
The land is approximately 40 Ha in size and consists of paddocks which were once part of the Herb-rich Foothill Forests prior to European settlement. The current development proposal has multiple stages and the current subdivision application is only the first stage. As the development progresses, Great Alpine Rd would need to be widened and the new road entrances would need to be constructed into the residential estate which would result in the removal of at least 8 out of 15 trees (7 Pin Oaks and 1 Elm, owned by Council) that form the avenue into Bright. These figures are the best-case scenario according to modelling and it’s important to note that the retained trees may be impacted and harmed during works. The trees have no current protections.
There has been substantial community opposition to the removal of any tree that forms the scenic avenue leading into Bright and Alpine Shire Council has stated that they have engaged a landscape and heritage consultancy “to assess the significance of the boulevard.” The landscape, heritage, cultural and vegetation significance assessment of the avenue will consist of historical desktop research and a field survey.
The Bright community continues to oppose the removal of the attractive deciduous trees which provide an aesthetic entrance into the township especially during the autumn. Concerned community members have formed the Bright’s Gateway Protection Group Inc. Alpine Shire Council is currently receiving submissions on the subdivision application to allow community members that may be affected to voice their concerns. More details about the development and the scope of the study can be found on Alpine Shire Council’s website.
The National Trust has contacted Alpine Shire Council for information regarding their current tree protection measures but has not received a response. Members of the public who are concerned about these trees are advised to contact the Council directly or contact Bright’s Gateway Protection Group Inc. The current development planning application is a reminder to take proactive action where possible to protect trees in your locality. You can nominate a tree to your local council’s significant tree register (if they have one), advocate for planning scheme overlay protections or nominate them to the National Trust Significant Tree Register (does not provide statutory protection).