Apologies for this long post but it highlights once again how residents have been lead down the garden path in so many ways by our representatives.

The current agenda includes an item on the 2018 Planning Scheme Review – done without consultation. There is an updated Work Plan that stretches out for years and years, or simply does not provide any time schedules. The promises of 2016 are in tatters. Instead we get a euphemistically labelled Planning Scheme Review, that is anything but a comprehensive ‘review’. The objective of any Planning Scheme Review, according to Practice Note 32 is to:

….assess whether the scheme provisions, such as local planning policies, zones, overlays and schedules have been effective and efficient in achieving the objectives and strategies of the planning scheme.

What has been dished up now does not contain one single word of analysis for any of the above. Even the purported VCAT decisions are nothing more than summaries. No recommendations have been made on how to tighten the scheme, what to scrub, or what needs including.

Of far greater importance however is the newly proposed Work Plan. We have created a table below which features the promises from 2016 and put them alongside what is the plan today. One major difference between 2016 and 2018 that should be highlighted is the disappearance of any intention to introduce a Neighbourhood Character Policy. In 2016 we got these statements:

A Neighbourhood Character Policy is recommended to clarify when protection of existing character is required, and clarity on neighbourhood character design outcomes for ‘change areas’

AND

The work plan also recommends that the residential zones support the neighbourhood character policy by including additional neighbourhood character objectives and increased schedule standards to protect and enhance character.

In 2018, this has gone and with no explanation, justification, or further reference, is replaced with this single sentence – The implementation of the Quality Design Guidelines addresses the Planning Scheme Review 2016 Work Plan action to implement a Neighbourhood Character Policy. 

There are several things to note about these proposed changes:

  • The Quality Design Guidelines only apply to the existing structure plans of Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie. They are not mandatory.
  • Its status in the Planning Scheme is nothing more than a ‘reference document’ and hence is basically useless. At least a full blown POLICY, whilst also not mandatory, would at least have more weight at VCAT than an appended ‘reference’ document.
  • The 2016 statements applied to ALL housing diversity, not just the 3 Activity Centres of Bentleigh, Carnegie & Elsternwick.  Yet even in these latter activity centres nothing has changed in terms of the schedules for permeability, site coverage, open space, etc.

There is much, much more which has been tossed out in the 2018 version -ie

  • The major heritage ‘review’ is now set down for the Major Activity Centres with no time line as to when the entire municipality review will be completed.
  • Tree registers and open space amendments are years down the track
  • And poor old neighbourhood/localcentres such as Ormond, McKinnon, East Bentleigh, etc.will not have any protection for years and years. Council is only committing to ‘one or two’ urban design frameworks starting in 2021/22!!!! PLUS no longer any talk of ‘structure plans’ for these centres just Urban Design Frameworks!!!!.
  • Limiting the impact of car parking basements is also watered down so instead of definitive standards such as Bayside implemented years ago in its schedules to the zones (ie max of 75% site coverage) our council is happy with statements such as this in its so called QUALITY Design Guidelines – Buildings should minimise basement footprints within the front and rear setbacks to provide for deep planting. No ‘musts’, no numbers, no changes to the schedules throughout the municipality.

Here is the table which quotes verbatim the August 2016 report and the current 2018 report. We have only highlighted some of the most important issues. The dates in parenthesis for 2018 merely indicate the STARTING TIME AND NOT COMPLETION TIME.

Please read carefully and consider the consequences.­­­

This is anything BUT a Planning Scheme Review. Yes we acknowledge that after 15 years of doing nothing Glen Eira Council is certainly behind the eight ball. But this should not be the excuse for watering down what was promised in 2016 without consultation and most importantly, without any strategic justification. It is merely another example of why this council cannot be trusted!

PS: Announcement today of a second campus for McKinnon High at Virginia Estate. A $70m, multi level school catering for 650 students. Whilst this is definitely needed we have to ask: is the site 1.2 hectares only? how high is multi level? will these 650 students be using the adjoining open space of the reserve and hence letting Gillon et al off the hook from providing sufficient open space for the proposed burgeoning population at the site? Plenty of other questions too regarding traffic, drainage, etc.

Another month and another set of figures that show no sign of a development downturn in Glen Eira. If anything, the number of building permits granted is increasing rather than decreasing. Thus even if we accept the figures that council relies upon so heavily to push their pro-development agenda, Glen Eira is maintaining its record of being far ahead of all required net new dwellings to cater for population growth.

Council keeps spouting the Victoria In Future (VIF) 2016 projections that an additional 9000 dwellings are necessary by 2031. Inexplicably, the government or the DWELP has failed to come up with Victoria in Future 2017 and neither have they produced Victoria in Future 2018. Promises to provide new Planning Practice Notes following VC110 on how to apply zoning, have yet to materialize – 18 months later! An abysmal record of planning all round!

Even if we accept that between 2016 and 2031, Glen Eira should produce an additional 9000 net new dwellings that means a lowly average of 600 net new dwellings per year. Glen Eira is currently TRIPLING THIS NUMBER and then some.

The tables below reveal the latest ABS stats published today. We have combined the totals from the year 2011 onwards, for our surrounding municipalities, as well as indicating the numbers of single houses. If we subtract the house numbers from the overall totals for the 2016/17 period up to the present, then we find that in Glen Eira, there have been 4,365 building permits granted for net new dwellings – in the space of 26 months! That’s an average of 2014 net new dwellings per annum! More than triple what VIF 2016 projected and more than double what Plan Melbourne Refresh indicates! Yet council still seems hell bent on more and more development according to its doubling of activity centre areas and believing that 12 storeys in Elsternwick and Carnegie are required.  Isn’t it time that council stopped with its propaganda and finally admitted that they see more and more development as their goal and raison d’etre!!!!

Please peruse the following tables carefully. We’ve uploaded the ABS stats HERE

Here’s a resident’s summary of last week’s meeting for the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve.

+++++++++

There were many empty chairs at the meeting, on account of the meeting not being well advertised
Proceedings were opened by Interim Administrator David Bird, speaking from the lectern.

He announced the Trustees present, who were sitting in a row at the front of the room –

Sam Almaliki > Chair of the new Trust – not a local – lives South Melbourne – sports administrator – former head of community engagement Cricket Australia

July Busch > lives Elsternwick – background in shopping centre development, is on a cemeteries trust, and has interest in sports facilities

David Mandel > business in international manufacturing – a company director – president of a squash club – and on the Cth Games committee

Joanne Butterworth-Gray > from Gippsland – has 6 kids – background in regional development – interest in commercial opportunities

Danni Addison > not a local – president of the Urban Development Institute

Peter Watkinson > Haines Racing – planning

Greg Sword > (not present at the meeting) – ex member of the old untrusted trust

Sam Malakikiannounced the new trust is free of bias, will operate in the best interests of the community, will be transparent, collaborative and act consistently with the 3 purposes, as well as be dedicated to ‘community health and well being.’

The main problem with all this is that a new lease will be signed with the MRC behind closed doors and with no public input, before there is a management plan in place or any allocation to respective uses. The reason offered was was that the incoming trust has inherited arrangements and ongoing negotiations with previous trust.

Questions from the floor following the briefing raised issues of access to the reserve (who will hold the key), to which the response was that the reserve was open 9.45 am to sunset. The primary use of the reserve is racing.
Some asked when the tin fence will go, questioned the signing of a lease with MRC of unknown proportions before there was public input.  One questioner presented a copy of a previous masterplan to the new trustees.
How will the trust and MRC communicate? Response was communication will be direct engagement at board level, but such negotiations will not be minuted. Will passive open space include the lakes and native vegetation and environmental sensitivity to wildlife.
The new Trust came into effect on August 1 and will set up comprehensive online information in due course, when some funding and resources become available.
COMMENT
We find it incredibly disappointing that there is not one single ‘community rep’ on the new Trustees. Even the ‘locals’ are linked to the development industry.
Nor is there any guarantee that agendas and minutes will be published.
Yes the legislation has made changes. Whether or not the community will be the ultimate beneficiary of these changes remains to be seen. On the whole it is not an auspicious start!
AND FROM THE Caulfield Leader (9th October) –
sky

From The Age – Sunday, 7th October.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

In another round of meaningless legislation that promises the earth and delivers nothing, we now have Wynne’s Amendment VC149 (gazetted today).

The accompanying Explanatory Report states:

Amendment VC149 also provides guidance on the assessment of planning applications where rooftop solar energy facilities exist on abutting residential properties, as well as direction on the assessment of new solar energy facilities in heritage areas. This guidance is required to address the absence of a clear and consistent framework within the VPP for the assessment of the impact of development on solar energy facilities

Clause 15.02-1 seeks to encourage land use and development that uses energy efficiently and minimises greenhouse gas emissions. Amendment VC149 will ensure that new building designs minimise the impact of overshadowing of existing rooftop solar energy facilities on adjoining lots, enabling more efficient residential energy use.

Far from ENSURING anything, this piece of legislation can only be described as another instance of spin, tokenism and the failure to insist on standards that will place a check on development that ignores the issue of solar panelling, wind tunnelling effects, etc. It mirrors the gutless refusal to introduce proper standards for apartment sizes, and the dilution of the required garden areas and parking numbers.

Readers should carefully review the following screen dump from the legislation. In order for the legislation to have any real impact then SHOULD would be replaced with MUST. Further, exactly what does ‘unreasonable’ mean? Then we also have the ‘get out of jail clause’ such as ‘if practicable’.

As for the Decision Guidelines themselves, we get the following waffle –

The extent to which an existing rooftop solar energy facility on an adjoining lot is overshadowed by existing buildings or other permanent structures. 

Whether the existing rooftop solar energy facility on an adjoining lot is appropriately located. 

The effect of overshadowing on an existing rooftop solar energy facility on an adjoining lot. 

The second sentence is remarkable. Does this mean that someone who has spent a fortune on installing solar panels will now be ‘guilty’ of councils and VCAT deciding that they weren’t ‘appropriately located’ – whatever this might mean. Does this then give the developer the all clear and occasion further cost on the neighbour to move his panels? We have already had instances in Glen Eira where this has occurred!

In our view, another piece of legislation that is all about pretense and nothing about curbing inappropriate development.

To their credit, councillors last night voted to refuse (unanimously with Esakoff absent) the two controversial planning applications – ie 300 Glen Eira Road, and Wattle Grove McKinnon. Much was made of site coverage and permeability and the fact that the McKinnon application would directly overshadow a memorial park.

Yet, there was not one single word from any councillor regarding the ‘quality’ of the officer’s report. The most fascinating aspect involved several councillors claiming that the McKinnon plans did not meet the ‘standards’/’guidelines’ set down in the Open Space Strategy for developments abutting open space. The officer’s report on this component stated –

In relation to the assessment criteria in this strategy, the proposal:

Σ Fosters good access to the open space

Σ Provides passive surveillance over the open space

Σ Presents an appropriate residential interface envisaged under the strategy

Σ Maintains an appropriate level of direct sunlight during the winter solstice and equinox

Overall, it is considered that the proposal is consistent with the guidelines for development nearby open space

How the planning department can see something as ‘consistent’ and ‘appropriate’ with the ‘standards’/’guidelines’ and councillors the opposite needs investigation. Either the guidelines are so vague that they are useless, or there are plenty of hidden agendas.

One further question requires consideration. When council officers produce sub-standard reports who should be held accountable?  Who signs off on the report? Torres? McKenzie?

TREE PROTECTION (MAYBE?)

Following last night’s discussion on the consultation feedback on the significant tree register, we have major doubts as to whether this will eventually get up, or if it does, whether it will be so emasculated as to be practically worthless.  Magee, Strajt, and based on historical record, Esakoff, are firmly opposed to protecting trees on private land. This was made abundantly clear last night.

ABC STUDIOS

Another extraordinary motion put up by Delahunty and voted in unanimously regarding the ABC studios and council’s desire that the land not be sold and instead utilised for ‘community benefit’ – ie open space, affordable housing, heritage protection, etc.

Part of the motion included council’s possibility of employing the ‘compulsory acquisition’ component of legislation. Bluff and bluster in spades here and it certainly does not excuse years and years of inaction.

Council knew in 2013 and maybe earlier, that the site was up for sale. Where were Delahunty, Magee, Hyams and Esakoff then? Why has it taken 5 years for council to suddenly decide there is heritage value in the property? How on earth would council even dream of compulsory acquisition when it is forecast that the land will sell for $40 million?  The Commonwealth provided the ABC with $90 million for their relocation. The sale will recoup some of this money. If council proceeds with the threat of acquisition, then council is liable to pay the land value to the owners. Currently council is in hock up to its ears. The prospect of paying the land valuation price, plus legal fees is a pipe dream. So is, we suspect, the hope that either the federal or state government will forgo millions in handing over the land.

Bluff and bluster indeed. The tragedy is that for years and years this council sat on its backside and did nothing – as is so often their want!

Residents really need to ask what is the point of having a planning scheme when council planners repeatedly chose to ignore its provisions and recommend approval of permits. The latest example concerns Item 9.1 in the current agenda.

Whether it is sheer incompetence, deviousness or simply the desire to advance the pro-development agenda is debatable. What is not debatable is the repeated ignoring of what the planning scheme actually states.

The application under consideration is 300 Glen Eira Road, Elsternwick. The proposal is for a 2 storey building contained 6 two bedroom apartments. The site is zoned Neighbourhood Residential and following Wynne’s C110 amendment, the mandatory number of 2 dwellings per lot is now removed. The officer recommendation states, with its usual waffle and imprecision – …the proposal is considered on balance to be generally in accordance with requirements of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme”.

Of significance is the following:

Proposed site coverage is 63%. Council’s schedule to the Neighbourhood Residential Zone requires a site coverage of 50%

Proposed permeability is 16%. Again, council’s schedule demands 25% – but officers believe that 20% is okay!

Here is the ‘justification’ for this largesse –

Several council meetings ago, we had Esakoff espousing the importance of adhering to site coverage in an application that had 63% coverage as opposed to the ‘standard’ of 60% (in housing diversity area). Now we have the situation where 13% over the standard is deemed ‘acceptable’ and instead of demanding the 25% for permeability, officers regard 20% as ‘satisfactory’. Compounding the issue even further is this sentence – Whilst the proposal does not meet some of the ResCode standards, the variations to the standards can be justified based on the immediate character of the neighbourhood. Permeability and site coverage have nothing whatsoever to do with Rescode. They are part of the schedules and hence should be adhered to in any recommendation.

We also have to query why council officers do not really know whether or not the plans meet the required garden area component of the planning scheme. If they did know, as they should prior to making any recommendation, then there would be no need for this paragraph in the imposed conditions

A survey plan prepared by a suitable qualified land surveyor demonstrating that the site has a minimum of 35% garden area in accordance with the definition of garden area within the Glen Eira Planning Scheme 

The site is 890 square metres. According to the legislation this requires 311.5 square metres of ‘garden area’. Surely it is not too hard to look at the plans and determine straight off whether this mandatory requirement has been met from the outset? Of course, the recommendations overall make a mockery of what is currently in council’s planning scheme when we find the following clauses and then consider the recommendations.

Ensure that site coverage is low to reflect the garden character of Glen Eira’s residential areas

To ensure that site coverage reflects the differences in character between housing diversity areas and minimal change areas

To maintain the open landscaped front yard which is a strong characteristic of Glen Eira.

Consider developments of more than two dwellings provided it is clearly demonstrated that the standards for site coverage, rear setback and private open space in the Schedule to the Neighbourhood Residential Zone have been met.

There are plenty of other things that could be said about this officer’s report and the recommendations – ie child care centres do not operate under the NRZ schedules. They have their own far more ‘liberal’ policy. Neighbouring dwellings (ie Garden Street) date back to 1996 and are hardly a feasible benchmark given the changes to planning since then. All in all, this report reveals what a disastrous state planning is in Glen Eira!