The Block abandons Daylesford location after planning dispute

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Renovation program The Block has abandoned plans to film in the historic country town of Daylesford for its next season after a planning dispute involving the state planning minister and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Producers had planned in February to start filming contestants building five luxury homes on former farmland on the outskirts of Daylesford.

Debora Semple with other locals with concerns around the planning process for the Daylesford farmland.Credit: Jason South

But after locals voiced objections and sought to take the proposal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, producers and Channel Nine, owner of this masthead, decided to abandon the location.

Nine declined to comment, but production insiders confirmed that the location for next year’s 20th anniversary series would not be at the resort town famous for its natural mineral springs.

“I do think they wouldn’t say they are out of Daylesford without being confident they had somewhere else to go,” a production source said who declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak publicly.

“But they do have to get going.”

The parcel of land on the corner of Raglan Street and Midland Highway at the entrance to Daylesford. Credit: Jason South

But the fate of the proposed development is unclear. Last month the developers and The Block’s official architect submitted an application to Minister Sonya Kilkenny that would give the minister planning power and avoid a VCAT challenge from locals. That process is still ongoing.

The land intended for The Block sits amid a larger development site owned by Hygge Property called ‘Middleton Field’ for which it intends to place more than 60 new homes.

Hepburn Shire locals Debora Semple and David Moore have led VCAT objection cases against numerous phases of the Middleton Field development. They are concerned with overdevelopment, the removal of historic trees and its impact on a natural waterway through the site.

They also voiced concerned that approval from the minister for the fast-tracking program would nullify any concessions they had already achieved via council.

Architectural designs for the five dwellings proposed for 1 Raglan Street, Daylesford by Julian Brenchley, architect for The Block.Credit: Hepburn Shire Council documents

“There’s no people power in the fast-track scheme. It bypasses democratic checks and balances. Locals know best. Let it play out and let it play out fairly,” said Semple.

Developers Hygge Property and architect Julian Brenchley — the official architect of the TV series since 2003 — sought to subdivide two large former farm lots into 26 parcels of land and construct five large similar homes at the intersection of Raglan Street and Midland Highway at the eastern entrance to the 3000-person town 110km north-west of Melbourne.

“The attraction for us is [Daylesford] is not rural, it’s not suburban,” Brenchley told The Sunday Age earlier in the week. “It’s a lovely town. We think we’re adding to that.”

Concept design for the style of homes for The Block.Credit: Group Architects

“I’d move into one of those houses tomorrow,” he said.

Brenchley did not confirm the production had abandoned the site, but said The Block had a policy of walking away from sites that became embroiled in tribunal disputes.

“From the objectors’ point of view, I would say, ‘be careful what you wish for’,” he said. “We’ve convinced Hygge to create five big lots for our show. If we walk away, they may have to revert back to their original plans [for higher density] on the site.”

A spokesperson for the minister said the application met the criteria for being considered for fast-tracking as it was “shovel ready” and was in a region with a shortage of housing supply.

Hygge Property Director Adam Davidson said the application was made to avoid the project being bogged down in VCAT, and that was made regardless whether The Block films at the location soon or not.

Hepburn Shire Council chief executive Bradley Thomas said the council was supportive of the wider Middleton Field development.

Public submissions to the minister close at 5pm on Monday, September 11, and the government spokesman said, “the community is encouraged to have their say before a decision is made”.

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