Council has produced a survey seeking community input on its proposed multi-storey car parks in Bentleigh & Elsternwick. Whilst this latest effort is a vast improvement on recent surveys, there remain a few glaring problems. (see: https://www.haveyoursaygleneira.com.au/glen-eira-multideck-car-parks)

There is now much background information on the entire process and council receiving a promise of $20M under the Commonwealth Government’s Urban Congestion Fund. The claim is that the car parks will therefore be fully funded by this grant. Readers will remember some councillors’ recent media comments regarding the ‘tainted’ nature of this funding given the alleged political rorts that accompanied the handing out of the grants. That aside, residents are now invited to proffer their views on whether or not these car parks should proceed.

In order to fully understand the issues, the problems, and the potential benefits, council has this time included a lengthy blurb as a ‘starter’. Unless residents bother to read the accompanying reports in full, we have to conclude that they will not have a clear idea of all the information required in order to come up with some reasoned decision.

For example, what residents are not told up front is that the consultant’s report noted:

  • For every 3 extra car parking spots created, there will only be one more use of public transport. We are told that for the Elsternwick site  (a)ll 78 car parking spaces at the site would be retained.  It is estimated that an increase of 82-122 spaces can be achieved, for a total of 160-200 car parking spaces at this site. With 82 extra car spots, this would then lead to an increase of 27 public transport trips. With 122 spots, there would be 41 extra trips. Applying the same formula to Bentleigh, would create either 52 or 69 trips. Hardly earth shattering for the expenditure of $20M!
  • Nor do the various blurbs mention the consultant’s findings that increased local road congestion is also a possibility, especially for Elsternwick.

THE SURVEY

Since the survey’s objective is to determine whether or not residents are in favour of proceeding with the building of these car parks, one would have thought that this aspect would have and should have been the focus. Council admits that its related ‘congestion busting’ ambitions are dependent on further and different grants from government and hence some way down the track. The $20M is ear marked for ‘commuter’ transport primarily and council’s own terminology repeatedly refers to ‘commuters’. Given this emphases, then surely some questions relating to current public transport and car use was essential.

What’s wrong with some simple questions along the lines of:

  • Do you drive to work outside of Glen Eira?
  • Do you drive to work in Glen Eira?
  • How many times a week do you use public transport (pre-covid)
  • Post-covid, will this frequency increase?
  • Do you find car parking is sufficient in Elsternwick/Bentleigh?
  • Where do you work?
  • Do you drive to shop in Bentleigh/Elsternwick?
  • If you drive to shop do you think you would use these multi-storey car parks? Why?
  • Do you think you would use these multi-storey car parks at night?
  • What would make you feel confident about using these car parks at night?
  • As a trader, how many of your staff (including you) drive to work?
  • How many staff use public transport?
  • Would you be prepared to pay for car parking?

There are undoubtedly plenty more questions along these lines which would provide a clear picture of residents’ needs and their views. Instead we get the following as part of the survey which concentrates on ‘congestion reduction initiatives’ – many of which council has absolutely no control over!

What other types of congestion reducing initiatives should Council seek further federal government funding for under the Urban Congestion Fund? Select all that apply.

On-call shuttle buses to take commuters to train stations

Repair of footpaths

 Optimise traffic-light management

 Use CCTV to monitor road conditions

 Enforcement of existing road traffic laws

 Improve perceptions of buses

Extend residents’ parking zones

Charge for workplace parking

 Improve cycling infrastructure (e.g. protected cycleways, safe cycling zones around schools, etc.)

 Improve bus services

 Develop and refine park-and-ride

Existing rail network

 Light rail

 Strategic Road Network resilience

 None of the above

 Other (please specify)

Even more ridiculous in the above list is the inclusion of jargon that we guess is totally nonsensical to the majority of residents – unless they happen to be traffic engineers. What on earth are we to make of: Strategic Road Network resilience? Or even Existing rail network? Nor does council inform us that road repairs have very little to do with ‘walkability’ or increased public transport use!

Council has also not provided any information as to what might happen if, for example, Elsternwick responses are in favour of the multi-storey car park and Bentleigh respondents are opposed. Does all the funding fall away, or will the government simply halve the grant and allow one to proceed? Surely this possibility would have already been discussed with the funders?

We are guilty of continually criticising this council’s consultation methodology and in particular their sub-standard surveys. Our solution(s) to these problems are simple:

  • All surveys MUST undergo a comprehensive ‘test run’ with councillors, community engagement committee members, and residents before they are put into the public domain.
  • Background information that is succinct, accurate and provides all the relevant data must accompany all surveys.
  • Those responsible for the creation of surveys be named and accessible to the public for continued feedback on their performance.
  • Reports on surveys be consistent in detailing all responses, number of respondents and publishing all comments. This does not happen with Community Voice!

Until we have such protocols, then residents have every right to be critical of council’s consultations and the adopted methodologies and purported outcomes.

Here is the latest ‘consultation’ from council:

Asking residents to proffer an opinion without any accompanying relevant data is NOT consultation. It is another example of the ‘top-down’ approach where decisions are likely to be imposed on a community that has not been given the information which would ensure informed decision making.

Here is what should be provided before people can make constructive and valid responses:

  • Traffic volumes over the past 3 years for all streets nominated
  • Accidents reported for the past 3 years that itemise: (1) number involving pedestrians; (2) number involving cyclists and how many of these result in deaths or ‘serious injury’?
  • Number of cyclists per day along these streets over the past 3 years
  • What local/national evidence is there that reducing speed limits ensures greater pedestrian safety?
  • What local/national evidence is there that reducing speed limits doesn’t increase congestion in other streets?
  • What local/national evidence is there that reducing speed limits leads to an increased use of bicycling?
  • What local/national evidence is there that reducing speed limits leads to an increased use of public transport?
  • What evidence supports reducing speeds by 10km/per hour or 20km/per hour?
  • What local/national evidence is there that reducing speed limits changes the frequency of car use?

There are probably plenty more questions that could be included in the above. What is important is that until this council acknowledges its woeful consultation processes, residents will react negatively most of the time.

Decisions must be based on evidence, accuracy and information that makes the issue(s) clear and comprehensible for residents. This rarely happens in Glen Eira!

Presented below are two pages from the approved Amendment C230 which extends (again) the expiry date for the interim controls for Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick until the end of December 2021. From memory, this extension is at least the third and will certainly not be the last before the final structure plans and accompanying DDOs become ‘permanent’.

The blurb that is supposed to ‘justify’ the extension is inaccurate, and full of nothing more than spin and more spin and so far removed from reality that it is laughable. We have highlighted those sentences that readers should pay careful attention to and ask themselves – how true is this?

We are told that the interim amendments:

…….protect the low scale shopping strip and contributes to the garden setting of the three centres.  Thus, we now have the ridiculous statement that a ‘low scale shopping strip’ is commensurate with 5 storeys in Bentleigh, and parts of Carnegie, whilst Elsternwick has no mandatory height limits in these areas. Topping it all off, we have designated heritage shopping areas in 2 of these centres surrounded by buildings between 8 and 12 storeys. As for the ‘garden setting’ in each centre, all we know is that council is still thinking about the potential sell offs for private development and now for social/affordable housing. Plus, if the ‘garden setting’ was, and is, so important, then why did Wynne and Council agree to remove the mandatory garden requirement for its newly suggested GRZ5 zone when Amendment C184 was made public?

We are also told that council has embarked on a two year program that is supported by substantial operational resources. Really?  Which resources? How much extra funding has been directed to planning? How many extra strategic planners has council hired in the last 18 months? How much money has council expended in the rental of the property in Dandenong Road and couldn’t this money have been used far better?

Nor do we accept for one moment that the planning framework…..is consistent with the council’s and community’s expectations…. All one needs to do is check out all the consultation documents to find that the vast majority of residents were NOT in agreement with 12 storeys, or even 6 storeys for so much of the municipality. Council simply did not listen, nor protest loudly and clearly when Wynne imposed more conditions. The only ‘certainty’ that is guaranteed goes to developers who continue to receive an open arms welcome into Glen Eira.

There is repeated mention of ‘neighbourhood character’ in these pages. What is not mentioned is that council still has no:

  • Housing strategy
  • Preferred character statements for ‘housing diversity’
  • An updated and current MSS (Municipal Strategic Statement). As it stands we are still using data form 1996!
  • The absence of a complete and current ‘neighbourhood character’ review
  • No review of the schedules to the various zones

We also find mention of public projects and how the extension will assist in delivering these projects. Is that why we have a ten year wait before anything starts on the proposed Elsternwick Community Centre according to the latest budget, and why other projects have either been put on the back burner, or relegated to years and years down the track? Readers will undoubtedly find plenty more in these two pages that are unfounded.

There is so much that is still to be done PRIOR to the introduction of any permanent controls. Surely it is time that council ‘reviewed’ its time frames and provided residents with this knowledge as well as explanations why after 6 years we are basically still at square one?

Below we feature some of the public questions which were submitted for the last council meeting. As per usual, residents received ‘responses’ rather than ‘answers’.

QUESTION: Council recently abandoned the Bentleigh and Carnegie structure plan due to the lack of a housing strategy and yet on tonight’s meeting agenda is the Glen Huntly structure plan (item 8.4). Should not Council wait to vote on Glen Huntly structure plan until after the completion of the housing strategy?

RESPONSE: The development of a Housing Strategy before the adoption of this structure plan is not necessary for this centre. While Glen Huntly will provide for additional housing, the structure plan is primarily focussed on the commercial core. This is quite different to Council’s other structure plans in Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick which also include large residential areas.

As a Major Activity Centre, there is an expectation that this centre will change in alignment with State Government Policy. The structure plan seeks to get on the front foot and manage the height and form of buildings that we expect following the removal of the level crossings

The preparation of the draft Housing Strategy will give appropriate consideration to the role of Glen Huntly as part of its development.

COMMENT(S) –  

The response given is literally baffling for several reasons:

  1. When buildings of 5, 6, and 8 storeys are proposed, then upper floors will inevitably consist of apartments. To therefore argue that this structure plan is only concentrating on the commercial sector and hence a housing strategy is unnecessary flies in the face of all common sense. How many apartments these sites can contain is surely an essential consideration in meeting the forecast population growth and the accompanying housing needs for Glen Huntly. Remember, the population growth according to council’s own published data is a mere 1000 over a 15 year period from 2021 to 2036.  That’s the role of a housing strategy. To determine need for each activity centre, and the entire municipality, and then to apportion this requisite growth across the entire municipality.  To pre-empt such analysis is not planning. It is simply assigning huge sectors of Glen Eira to unsustainable overdevelopment.

QUESTION 2

QUESTION: Following extensive resident feedback and inaction from Council, in 2015 the Minister for Planning compelled Council to undertake a Planning Scheme Review with a focus on controls for activity centres. In 2019 as part of the Planning Scheme Amendment C184, Council Officers belatedly highlighted the need for a Housing Strategy advising that the C184 amendment was not underpinned by an adopted municipal-wide plan. While Council failed to progress a Housing Strategy in 2019, it subsequently aborted Amendment C184 in 2021 in the absence of a clear strategic justification including a Housing Strategy. Based on advice from Officer’s, the Structure Plan controls for Bentleigh is now scheduled to be completed in 2024, some nine years after the Minister’s direction which is appalling.

Given this long history, why then have Council Officers recommended the adoption of a Structure Plan for Glen Huntly without a Housing Strategy?

Given that the response to this question consists primarily of a verbatim repetition to the first question, we have only included the opening two paragraphs of the response.

RESPONSE: It is noted that there are some inaccuracies and selective representation of facts in your opening preamble. Despite this, the answer to your question regarding the adoption for a Structure Plan in advance of the completion of the Housing Strategy is as follows :

Council began preparation of the Glen Huntly Structure Plan in mid 2019 in response to the announcement of the Government’s intention to progress level crossing removals in the area. The level crossing removals are expected to bring about a renewed focus and opportunity for change in Glen Huntly once complete. The preparation of a structure plan would assist guiding the height and form of future development, recognising its role as a Major Activity Centre, as designated by the State Government.

COMMENT:  If council does not agree with the comments made by the resident, then why not provide a full rebuff of those comments? How about explaining, itemising, and justifying the claim that there are ‘inaccuracies’ contained in the question? As far as we know, the resident was 100% correct in his claims!

More importantly, we now have to consider the entire argument as to why a housing strategy is not required prior to the adoption of the structure plan because, it is claimed, the focus is primarily on the commercial areas. Then why, did the council officer state in his report of the 16th March, 2021 (when Amendment C184 was abandoned/rejected) the following:

A housing strategy would also enable Council to introduce more tailored built form controls for its commercial and mixed use zones within activity centres, based on a better understanding of where and how growth will occur across the rest of the municipality

The housing strategy would provide Council with a municipal-wide framework for density,
based on demographic and character analysis and
inform all of Council’s strategic planning
activities.
(Page 116 of the agenda)

Doesn’t the above contradict what Council is currently stating? And doesn’t it illustrate perfectly the role of a housing strategy that needs to be completed before the adoption of structure planning? Council can’t have it both ways. Consistency, and dare we say, complete transparency, has never been this council’s strong point!

We have been alerted by a reader as to the following imminent development in Egan Street, Carnegie.

Whilst we have no problem with the need for more affordable and social housing throughout Victoria, we do have major issues with what seemingly is being proposed here.

Our reasons are:

  • The current interim Design and Development Overlay (DDO9) for this precinct has an 8 storey height limit.
  • The site has a permit for 8 storeys, so presumably this site has been sold on by the owner. Previous VCAT applications for this site featured applications for a 16 storey student block. This was rejected by both council and VCAT.
  • Car parking according to council’s planning scheme is deficient for both the apartments and retail sectors.

Of greatest concern is the fact that under Wynne’s Amendments and the Big House guidelines, third party review rights are removed. There will supposedly be ‘consultation’, with council and the community once the plans are released. The option however, of going to VCAT is removed.

Here’s what the legislation includes:

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Government policy is rightly pushing for more social housing after decades and decades of neglect. This however should not be assumed as a carte blanche for either government or council to IMPOSE upon neighbourhoods 10 storey (or higher) apartment blocks without the possibility of review.

For all council’s talk about the need for social housing, their actions belie their rhetoric. When the opportunities surfaced to extract significant social housing components in major developments Glen Eira council fell by the wayside and settled for the bare minimum. The latest Caulfield Village permit for 437 apartments contained only 21 such dwellings designated as ‘affordable housing’ – that’s a percentage of 4.8% and the reduced rent is only set for 10 years! We also have the debacle that is Virginia Estate where from at least 3000 apartments, social/affordable housing managed to eke out a miserable 5%! Other councils are now attempting at least 20% for their major developments.

Nor are we provided with any warning as to what council will offer up to the government. How much of council land will be sold off for social housing? Will residents be informed well in advance? How many of these apartments will end up in private developer’s hands – ie a ‘private/public’ partnership?

In the end, we see this as the start of a process that denies residents a say in the future of their neighbourhoods.

The agenda for next THURSDAY’S council meeting is now out and features Version 3 of the Glen Huntly Structure Plan. Readers will remember that the first draft went out for consultation in mid 2020 where council wanted 10, 8 and 6 storeys for many sectors. Following consultation, the 10 storey site at the supermarket was reduced to 8, with several other reductions. This was rejected by councillors in September 2020 with the arguments that 8 storeys in the second smallest suburb in Glen Eira, and with the densest population was a step too far. So now we have version 3, which to be blunt, is another pathetic planning document that is without strategic justification, without due consideration to residents’ views, and which will deny residents any say in what is approved.

The newly proposed changes are literally miniscule – a few nominated heritage properties to the west, and some in the commercial eastern side. Basically, this new version remains very much the same document as before – heights, to the greatest extent, remain the same as do setbacks. Thus, if councillors saw fit to reject this earlier draft, we see no reason as to why this ‘newer’ version should gain their approval!

The following paragraphs go through the proposed plan and highlight what we believe is so erroneous and constitutes poor planning.

What can be gleaned from the officer’s report and the draft structure plan itself:

  • This structure plan will be adopted BEFORE a Housing Strategy is completed and any permanent controls will only see the light of day AFTER the Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick structure plans have been done. Given that Elsternwick is stated as blowing out to 2023, that means that the Glen Huntly structure plan will have no statutory weight (ie.being included in the Planning Scheme) for years to come. This represents nothing more than another example of putting the cart before the horse!
  • There is currently no Heritage Overlay that exists for the proposed sites. This again, means that there is nothing available to stop a developer coming in and demolishing what council now believes is heritage worthy. Given the long process for having amendments included in the planning scheme, again we are looking at least another 2 years if not more, before any constraints are placed on developers – we quote: No changes to heritage overlays are proposed at this time. They will be pursued as part of a Planning Scheme Amendment at a later date
  • What is implied throughout this report is that the surrounding residential areas of Glen Huntly will be looked at down the track and this will cover the ‘study area’ for potential rezonings. As a Major Activity Centre, this will invariably mean that many sites now zoned GRZ (3 storeys) have the potential to be increased to RGZ (four storeys), plus the fact that the size of the activity centre will undoubtedly expand. We see no other way to interpret the following: again, we quote from the structure plan itself (page 17) – a review of the boundary of the activity centre as required  AND page 26 – the whole activity centre study area is considered a potential housing opportunity area. Council will undertake a housing strategy to determine the scope for residential change across our city. This will include assessment of residential land within the study area of the Glen Huntly major activity centre.

OVERSHADOWING/SUNLIGHT

Glen Huntly is a Major Activity Centre (MAC) in the same way that Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie are. The only difference is that it is far smaller (roughly 1 square km) but far, far denser (ie 63 people per hectare, compared to Bentleigh’s 38.92, Carnegie’s 54.51 and Elsternwick’s 44.73. But far more worse is that currently, Glen Huntly has 35% of its land mass zoned as appropriate for 3 storey dwellings. Many of these immediately abut the commercial and mixed use zones that the structure plan is considering. Given this proximity to increased heights of 8 and 6 storeys in some sections, we are completely flabbergasted as to why the proposed overshadowing requirements are different to what was thought appropriate for Bentleigh and Carnegie via the rejected Amendment C184.

Bentleigh and Carnegie were privileged to have overshadowing requirements that were form 10am to 3pm on September 21 AND 11am to 2pm for various precincts on June 22st – ie the winter solstice. Poor old Glen Huntly does not get anything for the winter solstice and only from 10am to 2pm for the September calculation. The officer’s report tells us – The shadow analysis was prepared for the September equinox from 10AM to 2PM. We also get these ridiculous statements from the officer’s report (page 138 of the agenda) –

  • The southern footpath of Glenhuntly Road in the Central Retail Precinct is not in shadow from 11AM to 2PM on the spring equinox.
  • 75 per cent of private open space is in sunlight for 5 hours on the spring equinox.

What happens to the southern footpath at 3pm? 4pm? How much is in shadow? What impact will this have on residents sitting drinking their coffees on the footpath? And what on earth does 75% of private open space mean? Which open space? Have consultants surveyed and done shadow diagrams for all of the ‘private open space’ in Glen Huntly? And if we take this statement at face value,does it mean that 25% of ‘private open space’ is in shadow and for how long?

PODIUM HEIGHTS & SETBACKS

When it comes to these two components of planning,  Glen Huntly again comes off a second best compared to the proposed Bentleigh & Carnegie structure plans envisaged by Amendment C184. For large swathes of land in Bentleigh/Carnegie their street podium heights were designated as 2 and 3 storey. In Glen Huntly, it is somehow fitting that these podium heights can be up to 15 metres (4 storeys) in 2 large precincts. And this is when the current sites along Glen Huntly road are predominantly 2 storeys in height! Why? Readers should peruse page 24 of the draft to see the full details.

The same applies to setbacks. Compared to the far greater setbacks imposed in Bentleigh & Carnegie, Glen Huntly is supposed to be content with a majority of 4 metre setback opposed to the standard 5 metres in these other MACS. The higher the building, then Glen Huntly is again worse off! Why?

HERITAGE

As we’ve stated, council has belatedly undertaken some heritage inspections of sites and come up with proposals for heritage inclusion. Yet even on this level, there is some major discrepancy between what Glen Huntly is afforded and what is stated for Bentleigh & Carnegie.  The officer’s report tells us – When the Built Form Framework was prepared, shopfronts along the Central Retail Precinct were treated as “character” areas. As such, no changes are proposed to the height limits or setbacks of the Central Retail Precinct as a result of the heritage assessment.

So we have the ludicrous situation where various sites in the Eastern Retail section designated as heritage – commercial/Mixed Use precinct – will be allowed to have 5 storeys (discretionary) and those in Bentleigh and Carnegie were seen as suitable for only 4 storeys.

Even worse, is that we again have council policy such as the City Plan, and which is referred to in the draft structure plan, that is totally ignored. The City Plan speaks of ‘shop top (heritage) as being suitable for 4 storeys. But this goes out the window with this plan for Glen Huntly!

HOUSING NEED

Council keeps repeating its mantra of the need for 18000 net new dwellings by 2036 throughout Glen Eira. When the population stats for Glen Huntly itself are produced we find:

Even if we accept these projections (which of course take no account of COVID), we find that in a 20 year period, the population growth in Glen Huntly will increase by a mere 1000. Plus in the period from 2021 to 2036 the increase will be 500 over a 15 year duration. Thus, if these projections are correct and only another 500 people will come to Glen Huntly, why do we need 8 storey and 6 storey buildings, that together are suggested by consultants to result in the addition of 410 net new dwellings. That is on a 50% uptake, so feasibly, the uptake could be even more if the housing market improves. Over various census results, the number of people per dwelling has averaged at 2 and a bit. This is forecast to continue by the ABS. So, 2 people per dwelling with a 500 increase in population should only require at best 250 net new dwellings!!!

Finally a comment or two on the ‘aesthetics’ of the document itself, and these comments pertain to much of what is produced by council.

  • The actual size of the full structure plan is 73 pages. Of these 73 pages we have 39% that are nothing more than either full page pretty pictures, or sketches that reveal absolutely nothing. For example: not one of these sketches present realistic images of an 8 storey building!
  • Jargon, generalisations, vague assertions, and platitudes reign supreme. Perhaps someone can inform us what this actually means? – Encourage pedestrian permeability (page 18). Will we now be aiming for ‘porous people’?!!!!!

Much of what is in this draft document is evasive and scant explanation and justification is provided to residents. In a democracy, where transparency and accountability are crucial, Glen Eira Council continues to fail dismally.

We urge all readers to write and ring councillors and inform them why the process, the lack of further consultation, and the outcomes if approved are not in the community’s best interest and as happened in September 2020, this draft plan should again be relegated to the dust bin of history!

If you are concerned about the future of Glen Eira, then we urge all residents to register for a zoom meeting this Wednesday evening on the State Government’s proposed changes to Plan Melbourne and its impacts on the 4 municipalities that comprise the inner south region – ie Bayside, Stonnington, Boroondara and Glen Eira. See: https://engage.vic.gov.au/mfpf and then click on the respective region to sign up for the meeting.

There are several documents published which outline the potential changes. These can be downloaded from the above website.

Of greatest concern is the following:

  • Plan Melbourne originally forecast an ‘aspirational’ housing target of 125,000 for the 4 municipalities by 2051. This figure has now become 130,000 of which Glen Eira is expected to accommodate 28% of the additional 5,000.
  • The original Plan Melbourne version stated that the 2016 housing figures for the 4 councils were 110,000. Now we are told that in 2016 it burgeoned out to 119,000 and that these four councils are also expected to include the additional 5000 that were originally earmarked for the ‘green fields/industrial areas’.
  • The projection for Glen Eira has thus gone from 13,000 net new dwellings by 2036 to 14,700!
  • All of the above ‘calculations’ are, in our view, devoid of strategic justification. COVID is given scant attention. All that these documents state is that there has been a decline in population but by the mid 2020’s Victoria will still be approaching 8 million. No evidence is provided for this conclusion and given the mass exodus from Melbourne, zero immigration, and the potential future loss of international students, these statements are indeed open to question.

Throughout the documents, which are big on promises and vague commitments, the emphases remains on more and more development for our activity centres. Questions of capacity, infrastructure, density, cost, remain unanswered. How councils are expected to cope with these proposed changes is not answered; nor are we told how governments will fund increased open space, infrastructure needs, transport. All in all, these four councils are treated as basically ‘equal’ with no differentiation to speak of and no concessions to the impacts of COVID.

Another example of the State Government ramming its suspect plans down our throats. We call on residents and especially local councils to speak up; to demand justification for every proposed change, and for our council in particular, to finally voice their concerns as to the clear and constant overdevelopment of this municipality.

Please register for this meeting in order to express your view!

Year after year after year, the results of the Community Satisfaction Surveys repeat the same results. Each year for over a decade now the areas that are causing greatest concern for residents are:

  • Planning
  • Population growth
  • Traffic/parking
  • Consultation
  • Informing the community

But nothing seems to change when council knows only too well that these are the areas that need to be focused on. Even more disconcerting are the results as presented in the following table. They reveal the importance that people place on these various areas, plus how they evaluate overall council ‘performance’ for those categories. When there is a discrepancy of over 20 points, then remediation is well overdue.

Council can pat itself on the back all it likes, but the main areas of discontent remain and even grow.

At last night’s council meeting there was a motion put up by Esakoff and seconded by Magee under the category of Urgent Business. The motion was that council undertake certain actions in regard to Minister Wynne’s introduction of planning legislation without first consulting residents and councils. The motion was passed unanimously.

Whilst we applaud council for this first step in finally registering some public discontent with the processes of planning in the State, we also have to wonder why the final motion departed in some major elements from what Port Phillip will move tonight. Here is the proposed motion from Port Phillip –

Readers should now listen to the motion that was passed by Glen Eira – (available via http://webcast.gleneira.vic.gov.au/archive/video21-0831.php#placeholder)

Whilst much of this motion is practically a verbatim repetition of the Port Phillip one, there are some major and disconcerting changes. Given that we are told that ten councils are now supposedly working in unison, surely a joint motion/statement signed by all, would have far greater impact than a single council presenting its own version and working alone?

Here are some of the differences between the Port Phillip version and Glen Eira’s resolution –

  • No demand for a report back to council. Thus the matter is left in abeyance and in the domain of officers alone. Transparency is again lost.
  • Port Phillip requests a ‘collective’ letter. Glen Eira insists on an individual letter.
  • Glen Eira can only bring itself to ‘strongly voices its concern’ about consultation, whilst Port Phillip ’strongly supports the community having a central role’ in planning.
  • Glen Eira sees the community voice only as an ‘integral consideration’ rather than Port Phillip’s view that it is ‘central’

These changes and others, in our view, go way beyond an argument about semantics and linguistic nuance. They should be read as sign posts to how Glen Eira views its residents, how it views collaborating fully with other councils, and how the planning in Glen Eira remains destined to be out of kilter with other municipalities. When we have a council that refuses to see its residents as ‘central’ to planning decisions; when it refuses to align itself with the values of other councils and instead basically opts to work alone, then we are in deep trouble. There is absolutely nothing in the Port Phillip motion that shouldn’t be endorsed fully. Ask yourselves, why our council was unable to do this?

In the regular VCAT Watch there is one report on the decision for 219-229 Balaclava Road, Caulfield North.  Readers will remember that this was originally an application for 9 storeys and then amended to 7 storeys. Councillors voted for a permit for 5 storeys and the developer appealed this condition. A permit was granted for 7 storeys. (See: https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2021/867.html for the full decision).

Not only does this decision have major ramifications for all of our neighbourhood centres, it also raises questions about:

  • The level of ‘representation’ that council produces before VCAT
  • The ‘cherry picking’ aspects of the VCAT Watch reports
  • The failure to provide detailed ‘refusal’ grounds that will stand up – which of course raises the question of who writes these ‘refusals’ and are they deliberately destined for ‘failure’?
  • The uselessness of council’s much vaunted City Plan
  • The continued inability to get anything of value into the Planning Scheme after nearly 6 years!
  • Raises questions about when anything is likely to be done about the rest of our neighbourhood centres such as Ormond, McKinnon, Patterson, Gardenvale, etc.

Whilst some of the following comments from the VCAT member who made the decision are laughable, this still does not excuse council’s lack of timely strategic planning and the performance of its VCAT representative. As it currently stands, our Planning Scheme has enough holes for developers to drive a truck through. This has been the case for the past decade at least.

Please read the following carefully:

In the absence of specific height controls that have been adopted into the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, or which can otherwise be said to be seriously entertained, an attempt to apply a uniform height limit to a number of neighbourhood centres based purely on their position in a hierarchy, is not the appropriate approach.

The final key component of the relevant strategic context is the recent strategic work being undertaken by the Glen EiraCity Council to introduce built form controls, that will provide greater guidance for decision makers, such as myself. This strategic work includes the Glen EiraCity Plan, February 2020 and a Built Form Framework for the Caulfield Park Neighbourhood Activity Centre, both of which I am told identify the review site as being suitable for a five storey development. However, the Council also submits, at paragraphs 83 and 85 of its written submissions, that it does not place any weight on either of these documents, for the purposes of informing my decision making regarding an appropriate building height for the review site in this proceeding. That is due to the very early stages of the creation of both documents and their potential future insertion into the Glen EiraPlanning Scheme, as well as the absence of a built form analysis from the Glen Eira City Plan. I have no reason to depart from the Council’s submissions in this proceeding, that no weight should be placed on either of these documents.

The removal of the very top level (level 6) will have a very negligible impact on views from the surrounding context, and indeed will have no impact on the extent of scale that will be visible from many parts of the surrounding public realm, due to the extent to which the top level is recessed from the level below, and thus obscured from view. The removal of level 5 will produce a slightly lower setback tower form, but will not significantly change the extent of scale or prominence of the overall building. The Council has failed to persuade me that the slightly reduced scale achieved by deleting levels 5 and 6 will produce any appreciable or necessary relief from building scale, in this activity centre context.

That this proposed building on the review site will be taller than other buildings that can currently be viewed from Caulfield Park does not make the proposed height inappropriate. Rather, it simply reinforces the proximity that this component of Caulfield Park has to an activity centre. Any user of Caulfield Park that wishes to experience a more pleasant environment has many options to move away from this direct interface with the activity centre, to locations where views to the proposed building on the review site will be difficult owing to the intervention of canopy trees. On this basis I consider that the proposed development will not have an unreasonable built form impact or presence on the adjacent Caulfield Park.

While the Council has a section in their written submissions headed ‘off-site amenity impacts’ the written submissions fail to identify any potential impacts, nor any surrounding land that might be impacted. Further, in response to my questions, Mr Berzins failed to identify any potential amenity impact on any adjacent property.

In respect of each of these matters, I accept and adopt the evidence of Mr Bastone and Mr Blades, that the proposed levels five and six do not result in any unreasonable off-site amenity impacts, and provide an appropriate level of internal amenity for future residents. In respect of the relevant internal amenity considerations, the apartments on levels 5 and 6 would provide similar, if not higher, internal amenity outcomes for future residents, as compared to the apartments approved on the lower levels of the proposed building. That is, there is nothing in the design of the apartments on levels 5 & 6 that cause them to be singled out for criticism, on the basis of the relevant internal amenity considerations. On this basis I must conclude that an internal amenity assessment cannot be a reason for the contested permit condition.