Streets to nowhere in Sunshine North

Melbourne is an ever growing city, but only 10 kilometres from the CBD lies a curious grid of abandoned roads, in the industrial backblocks of Sunshine North.

Light industry at Sunshine North

The grid of proposed roads can be found in Melway Edition 1 on map 26 and 27.

Streets to nowhere in Sunshine North - Melway Edition 1, map 26

In the decades since the land on the western side of the railway line has been developed, but the other side lays empty – aerial imagery from Google Maps shows a grid of dirt tracks.

Streets to nowhere in Sunshine North - Google Maps

So why has such a large subdivision sit empty for so long?

I found the answer earlier this year, when a paper titled “Solomon Heights: A Zombie Subdivision?” was published. From the abstract:

Solomon Heights, 10kms west of the centre of Melbourne, Australia, on what has now become prime riverside real estate, is a case in point. Although subdivided into a residential pattern during the 1920s, the site had been rezoned industrial in the mid-1950s under Melbourne’s first comprehensive city plan. It was thereafter left fallow, for reasons unclear, without basic urban services like water or sealed roads. Environmental social issues have since come to impact on the site, while landowners seek the opportunity to build.

The rest of the paper is well worth the read, as are these other links:

Other abandoned subdivisions

Turns out the list of abandoned subdivisions in Victoria is quite long – here are some more examples.

I spotted ‘Scenic Estate’ at Phillip Island a few yeas ago – it has since been redeveloped as a nature park.

Abandoned subdivision - Scenic Estate, Phillip Island

Phillip Island is also the home of ‘Summerland Estate’ – a topic I’ve touched on before.

Abandoned Summerlands Estate, Phillip Island (2016 imagery from Google Maps )

Closer to home for me are two Geelong examples – ‘New Corio Estate‘ on Shell Parade, and ‘New Station Estate‘ on Broderick Road.

Abandoned New Station Estate, Corio (cadastral data from Land Victoria)

Abandoned New Corio Estate, Corio (data from City of Greater Geelong)

And finally, over in Altona the ‘Burns Road Estate‘ has lay empty since the 1920s, with council working to find a way forward.

Abandoned subdivision at Burns Road, Altona (cadastral data from Land Victoria)

Created by bureaucratic bungling

Cemetery Estate in Hastings – approved for housing in 1960 with 230-plus lots sold. The Long Island Point gas fractionation facility was then built next door, rendering the unsuitable for residential development. Six households and 100+ privately owned allotments remain today.

And victims of dodgy developers

Midway between Werribee and Rockbank is Chartwell Estate – a subdivision created in the 1950s and marketed to new English migrants.

From Volume 2 – The Environmental Thematic History, Shire of Melton Heritage Study by David Moloney:

Rosedale Estate, Chartwell (commonly known as the ‘Chartwell Estate’) was a 1957 subdivision of 491 township sized allotments situated on the eastern corner of Boundary Road and Downing Street (Crown Allotment 5, Section 4, Parish of Pywheitjorrk).

The English mansion Chartwell, best known for its twentieth century ownership by Sir Winston Churchill, overlooks the ‘The Weald of Kent’: a rolling green woodland. If the name Chartwell was meant to inspire images of such British landscapes, the Melton South Chartwell – isolated, flat, dry, and totally devoid of trees – was a grand fraud. The Estate’s street names – The Mall, Oxford Street, Downing Street, Mayfair Avenue, Eaton Court, Wandsworth Street, Stratford Street, Macmillan Parade, and Finchley Court – seem to be intended to inspire rich images of England. Most are famous English streets or places; others, including Macmillan Parade (probably named after Harold Macmillan, the English Prime Minister who assumed office in 1957), had more contemporary associations.

The original subdividers, an English couple, went bankrupt before selling the entire estate, which was then taken over by a real estate company. The estate was marketed to new English migrants in western suburbs migrant hostels, many of whom purchased their allotment ‘site unseen’ on the basis of the estate’s proximity to Melbourne, and affordability.

The original approval of the estate in 1957 had apparently been an oversight on the part of a Council which at that time had little experience with legal processes for residential subdivision. The Council later attempted to redress the situation by not allowing building permits on the small allotments, and ultimately by declaring the subdivision as ‘inappropriate’. The estate did not have water and, more significantly, sewerage; the high rock bedrock of the district would not accommodate 491 septic tanks. Compulsory acquisition was enforced, and residents were compelled to buy four adjacent allotments before a building permit was issued.

And still more

Old and Inappropriate Subdivisions” is the official term for areas of Victoria where development is permitted but not desired:

Old and Inappropriate Subdivisions along the coast is an issue that planning has been attempting to deal with for some time. Most subdivisions occurred prior to formal planning laws being introduced. Issues being grappled with include: potential coastal erosion; climate change impacts; and development thresholds.

Ninety Mile Beach being yet another example:

Inappropriate subdivisions along the Ninety Mile Beach and Lake Reeve are major Hotspots in Wellington Shire.

Approximately 11,700 inappropriately located and un-sewered lots exist. The majority are situated on the coastal foreshore and/or on low lying, flood prone land. These issues make development difficult on nearly all allotments.

The linear nature of these inappropriate subdivisions, if developed, will also commit to ribbon development along the Ninety Mile Beach.

And the Dandenong Ranges another.

The bulk of the Dandenong Ranges is zoned for nonurban uses but there Is a growing danger that the area will be sought for residential purposes. This is because much of the land zoned for landscape interest or conservation is already subdivided into small blocks, many less than 0.1 hectares (1/4 acre). Most of these blocks were subdivided early this century and have remained undeveloped ever since. With improved access and the increasing expansion of Melbourne, many are now being built on.

The problem first emerged in the 1970s, resulting in State Government funding the restructuring of inappropriately subdivided areas, a process that continues today through a “Restructure Overlay” applied to the affected land.

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12 Responses to “Streets to nowhere in Sunshine North”

  1. Andrew S says:

    Another ghost subdivision is on the Southern boundary of Essendon Airport where there is a ‘First Avenue’ which was part of a series of streets intended to go north to Seventh Avenue – expansion of the airport land from its original 1921 parcel in 1935 and again in 1943 saw only First and a short section of Second ever built – with the latter now part of the Tullamarine Freeway. Expansion of the airport can be seen below
    The freeway also removed Hood Street and its houses either side from existence between Pascoe Vale Road and Napier Street hence the wide road reserve in that section.

    It is not unusual for a cadastral plan and streets to be laid out in a country town much more substantially than was ever built. Working on a flood study in Port Albert in South Gippsland the digital data shows properties and streets on the eastern side of town which has only ever been swamp, with more never-developed lots on the western and north eastern edges of town. A 45° change in direction for Gibson Street at Lawrence Street is the only tangible reminder of where the town’s long-forgotten railway terminus was located.

    Another interesting layout is in Lorne where I was also involved in some consulting work some years back – we were informed the layout of the original part of town was prepared in England with little thought to the steep terrain of the town site back from the water.

  2. andrew w says:

    You can find any number of ghostly towns in rural Victoria where a town was surveyed, but never developed. Here’s one at Galah:,142.173516,17z

    (zoom in until you can see the title boundaries). In this case, the streets have tracks along them, but in other cases it’s all just paddock.

  3. andrew w says:

    Having now read the paper you’ve linked to on Solomon Heights, it’s only unusual in *still* being undeveloped.

    The great Melbourne land boom of the 1880s (and crash in the 1890s) left a multitude of such zombie subdivisions. Some had a few houses doted around dirt tracks. Most were eventually developed in the 1920s – 30 to 40 years later. If you’ve got an eye for house styles you can easily pick them. There will be a very small number of Victorian houses surrounded by houses from the twenties and later. Have a look at this example of two lower middle class Victorian cottages in Ormond surrounded by much later building stock:,145.0334394,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1swht342FLPl0tlXUPpRinzw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    It was still happening in the ’20s. The VC Estate in McLeod (,145.0646721,17z) was subdivided in the ’20s – the streets are all named after WWI VC winners. It remained essentially barren of houses (or services) until the ’50s and ’60s when the suburban sprawl caught up with it.

  4. Alan says:

    There was a particularly interesting “zombie subdivision” on Sandstone Island in Western Port, which you can see at . It laid out a completely inappropriate level of development for an island surrounded by tidal mud flats. Titles to the lots were never sold, and I also remember reading that the subdivision had been abolished, but I can’t find any evidence that that has happened.

  5. Andrew S says:

    Not far off topic my old secondary school took up a few streets in an estate that would have otherwise been built.

    An infill estate along the Mulgrave Freeway near Police Road was built in the mid 1980s around 10 years after the surrounding streets to the west, north and south. The 1984 Melway shows it dotted in formed by completing Manning Drive and Shelton Crescent on Map 80 K6/7

    Manning Drive and Keech Close were built but Nazareth College took up the remainder opening in 1986. A short section of Shelton Crescent was built now serving as the school entrance …,145.1961372,3a,75y,13.5h,82.46t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sT2uVIQz10STPH29V-GemsQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

    At the back the mid 70’s sections of Shelton Crescent and Linda Road (now ‘Court’)still end abruptly ready to be completed …,145.1946095,3a,75y,112.85h,78.35t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sAJNwsozrsxNOstZIzF2jnA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

    The park on Linda Road remained jutting into the school site as per the original plan until the school eventually bought the parcel from Greater Dandenong Council to build a hall/gymnasium

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