The Australian Bureau of Statistics has today released its data for building approvals for the July to November 2018 period. Glen Eira remains well and truly above target to meet its housing needs for population growth.

The chart below features all building approvals since the 2011/12 financial year. Please note that these figures also include building approvals for single house replacements. Thus, whilst the chart indicates that Monash has 300+ more building approvals, once the number of permits for single houses are removed, Glen Eira is streaking it in. For example: during this period Monash has had 4432 single house permits granted. Glen Eira has had 2232 – ie Monash has had double the number. Boroondara is another example where the rate of single house replacement is very high – 3547. Further exacerbating this data is the size of these municipalities. When 80 square km (Monash) is compared to the 38.9 km of Glen Eira, questions of density, open space become critical. Something our council is ignoring completely!

Given this data, it remains unbelievable that council is still committed to doubling the size of our activity centres and facilitating apartment blocks of 12 storeys and more.

PS – in order to put some of these stats into perspective we are adding the following – a list of all municipalities that had more building permits granted than Glen Eira’s for the period July to November 2018. Glen Eira had 853 permits of which only 132 were for single house replacements. The following list includes the total number of permits, plus the number of single house permits following the bracket(/).

Casey – 1983/ 1794

Greater Geelong – 1416/1246

Hume – 1615/1395

Manningham – 1109/170

Melton – 1216/1199

Monash – 1201/291

Whittlesea – 1266/890

Wyndham – 2557/2296

 

Neighbourhood centres in Glen Eira have been totally ignored for years despite the fact that development is proceeding at a great pace and with ever increasing heights and density. The latest result of council’s failure to introduce any planning controls for these areas comes with a new application for a 7 storey development at 75-85 Hawthorn Road. This will sit directly alongside another 7 storey building and opposite a 6 storey building.

McKinnon now has 6 storeys. Glen Huntly has multiple sites with 6 storeys. East Bentleigh the same and will soon have at least 8 storeys. Murrumbeena and Hughesdale also feature 6 storey permits. Ormond will have 10 storeys and currently has several 5 storey permits. Each and every neighbourhood centre will now become another de facto high rise area.

So what is council doing about this? Very little it would seem. This stands in stark contrast to other councils who have refused to be so compliant and pro-development.  Boroondara through its C229 Amendment managed to ensure mandatory height limits for all but its 3 major commercial shopping strips where the majority were of a maximum height of 3 storeys and only 1 was for 5 storeys. (See HERE). Bayside has also worked tirelessly to shore up protection for its neighbourhood centres. In Glen Eira we still await any indication as to:

  • Will these neighbourhood centres also have structure plans?
  • When will council get around to introducing any real protection for these centres?
  • Will council be fighting tooth and nail for mandatory height limits as Boroondara did?
  • With the stated ‘upgrading’ of Bentleigh East and Caulfield South, what will council decide as an ‘appropriate’ height for these centres? – 8 storeys? 9 storeys? And how much land will be rezoned to either RGZ or GRZ that is now zoned Neighbourhood Residential?

True to form, council’s modus operandi remains the same – keep the plebs ignorant until it is too late!

To begin with, wishing all our readers a safe and healthy festive season, with thanks for your input throughout the year.

2018 has in many ways been pretty momentous. There have been some governance advances but overall majority resident views continue to be ignored. Here is a summary:

THE POSITIVES

  • Telecasting of council meetings and ‘public participation’ section a continued winner
  • Heritage action(s), whilst far from complete, has at least got off the ground
  • Reform of permit time extension applications and council’s admission that it stuffed up badly on one application

THE NEGATIVES

  • Structure planning ‘consultations’ that are ‘tokenistic’ given the continued changes that have not gone out for proper consultation and when no justification is provided for the changes – ie setbacks, heights.
  • Continued delays on the introduction of parking plans, heritage overlays, open space levies
  • Local Law review still well over a year away – ie removing the ridiculous clause that those asking public questions have to sit through up to 3 hours of items before their questions can be addressed. If not present then no record of the question or response exists in the minutes.
  • Tree register still belonging in some unspecified never-never land.
  • When the city is well and truly meeting its housing needs for population growth, no justification has been provided for why so much more development is required.
  • No firm commitment to introduce structure plans for neighbourhood centres – merely ‘urban design guidelines’ that are non-mandatory. Timelines also a mystery. Yet we have seen up to 8 storeys in these centres.
  • Officers granted more power via the recent delegation resolution – ie need now for over 15 objections to a planning permit in order for it to be considered as ‘suitable’ for a full council decision – otherwise decided by the Delegated Planning Committee which consists entirely of officers. One concession – councilors now have ‘call in’ rights. How often will this be used we wonder and no guidelines/policies have been published to inform residents as to how this will work.

There are plenty of other issues we might highlight. The take home message is that planning and traffic remain residents’ major concern and this council has done very little to ameliorate the continuing damage. When the vast majority of residents are opposed to 12 storeys in Carnegie & Elsternwick, and the majority were also in favour of only 4 storeys for Bentleigh, council has shown time and time again that it is intent on ramming its agenda through despite community opposition. Until we have a group of councilors determined to listen to its residents then nothing will change.

 

UPDATE ON DECISIONS: Councillors voted unanimously to reject the Egan Street application last night. (Davey was absent and Taylor has resigned). The Snowden Avenue application was another rejection! Both will undoubtedly end up at VCAT and we envisage permits for both.

Once again we have two applications up for decision where the officer recommendations appear to have no correlation with the current planning scheme. The applications are:

  • 8 Egan Street, Carnegie for an 8 storey mixed use development containing 84 apartments of 40 one bedroom. 38 two bedroom and 6 one bedroom plus study. Parking shortfall is 8 spaces. A permit is recommended.
  • 57 Snowden Avenue, Caulfield for a two storey building containing 4 dwellings of three bedrooms each in a Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ). The site is 857 square metres. Officer recommendation is a refusal of permit.

The first application received one objection whilst the Snowden Avenue one had 12 objections.

What is staggering about the officer recommendations plus the overall assessment of these two applications is the inconsistency, plus the complete disavowal of council’s planning scheme.

EGAN STREET APPLICATION

The site has a long history of applications. Initially there was a 16 storey attempt which both council and VCAT refused. This current application is an amendment to what was originally a 12 storey plan and as a result of the interim height amendment of August 2018, the developer has opted for an 8 storey version. In this instance the introduction of the DDO has resulted in a reduction of height. That’s a positive outcome. What is not so ‘positive’ is the evaluation by the planning department of this current attempt and the explicit acknowledgement how council has stuffed up in the past.

An important element in the decision is the interpretation of ‘community benefit’. Council admits that currently there is no clear definition or criteria to adjudicate on what ‘community benefit’ means. This does not stop the report however from claiming that pedestrian access from Egan Street to the rear of 1062-1064 Dandenong Road  equates to ‘community benefit’!!!!!! This is further endorsed with the following  –

The proposal also contains a diverse mix of housing, as one (some with study’s) and two bedroom dwellings with various layouts and sizes are proposed. While this, in the context of community benefit is low, it does add to the broader community benefit that is achieved through the securing of a publicly accessible laneway 

Thus, housing diversity is satisfied by a 8 storey building containing primarily single and two bedroom apartments! That is seen as a ‘community benefit’!

We then have the biggest backflip of all time when it comes to overshadowing of public open space. Council admits that the degree of overshadowing is excessive and inappropriate’, but this is okay since the language of the amendment is so poorly constructed  –

When considering the wording of the DDO control being to minimise overshadowing impacts on existing and future open spaces … , it is considered that the Urban Design advice in this instance goes beyond what the control seeks to achieve. In this respect, Council must be satisfied that the proposal has minimised overshadowing impacts. It is considered that the extent of shadow is limited to the northern section of the park directly opposite the site. The shadow largely avoids the walking and cycling path and the building’s side setback will also provide filtered light through to the open space when shadow is cast by the building. Overall, the proposal is considered to have minimised the impact of overshadowing onto this new park. 

There are plenty of other issues with this application that have basically been ignored in the report, or failed to be addressed with clear and irrefutable ‘evidence’. In the end, a narrow laneway becomes a ‘community benefit’ and dubious employment potential another benefit. Overshadowing is okay because the authors of the amendment got it so wrong!

SNOWDEN AVENUE APPLICATION 

This application well and truly meets all requirements of the planning scheme in terms of height, site coverage, permeability, garden area, setbacks etc. Yet it is refused on the most tenuous and ‘subjective’ reasons. The major reason for the refusal is that the application is for an ‘apartment’ style building in the NRZ, rather than detached housing/townhouses. The hypocrisy of such a stance is unbelievable given that:

  • Council is now proposing to allow 3 storey townhouses/apartments in NRZ areas as per its latest structure planning proposals
  • Council has already granted permits for apartment style buildings in its NRZ – ie Hudson Street (below)

The planning scheme verbage has not changed in the intervening period. Why this current application which meets all criteria is refused when council previously issued a permit for exactly the same kind of structure is bewildering to say the least. Does the answer lie in the number of objections perhaps?

The greatest blooper in this officer’s report however is the questioning of why the applicant chose to provide on site car parking that goes beyond what is required!

It is unclear as to why a total of 10 resident spaces are proposed along with an additional visitor space (total – 11 spaces) have been proposed for a 4-dwelling development which would generate a requirement of 8 spaces.

We are not endorsing the granting of a permit. What we are questioning is the consistency and validity of council’s decision making and the ‘influences’ that might be at work. When the planning scheme is ignored then planning is indeed in an almighty mess. That is Glen Eira!

Elsternwick is quickly emerging as Glen Eira’s high rise capital with another 14 storey application for the former Daily Planet site. Adding salt to the wounds of residents, this application:

  • Abuts the 4 storey mandatory height limit of Ross Street – where many dwellings are single storey
  • The discretionary height limit is 12 storeys but developers regard this as nothing more than a ‘minimum’.

Possibly the biggest joke in this application is the developer’s claims to ‘community benefit’. Readers should remember that council decided that development could go from 8 to 12 storeys if there was ‘community benefit’. Of course there is very little definition of what this term actually means and certainly nothing worth a cracker in the eventual interim amendment. For those applications wishing to exceed the preferred height, all they have to show is (quote) – that the development includes the provision of significant community benefit. Not a single of word of definition exists; no decision criteria exist. Council should congratulate itself on producing the perfect example of waffle par excellence!

How does the developer respond to this clause then? Here’s what is claimed as ‘community benefit’ –

We get a paragraph on office space and ’employment’, then more of the same. Please note the reference to the former brothel!

And the result will look like this:

There’s another aspect to this application worth considering. As recently as the last council meeting a resolution was passed to grant this site a permit for a drug rehabilitation unit. It had apparently been operating for some time without a permit. The current application allegedly arrived at council on the 2nd November.  Discussions prior to this date would undoubtedly have taken place with council planners. Thus, given that developers operated without a permit, did council issue any fines, or merely turn a blind eye knowing this was in the works?

Many other aspects of the application are contentious – ie overshadowing; traffic, open space. What is becoming clearer and clearer is that Elsternwick has always been seen as Glen Eira’s high rise capital and every effort has been made to further this agenda by a council that steadfastly refuses to listen to its residents!

Common sense is a very scarce commodity in Glen Eira council. Why on earth would you close off three quarters of a family park on December 3rd when kids and families are about to go on holidays and would enjoy spending some time in a public park? Why now, and for a stretch of 6 months, when the decision to spend a squillion on Harleston park was made just on 18 months ago?

Here’s the breakdown of events:

  • The first inkling that council had decided to spend $650,000 on a new playground, and $350,000 on toilets came in the 2017/18 budget papers. That’s 18 months ago!
  • Next came the pretty drawings and public consultation where the vast majority of responses were opposed to the expense and the decision to create a full size basketball court. Countless comments wanted the park to remain the same.
  • With this fierce opposition, we then had another round of ‘consultation’ with the majority of residents still opposed. This time councilors voted to proceed but with a half court instead. How much these rounds of ‘consultation’ cost has never been disclosed, nor has the ‘design’ drawings as far as we know.
  • The 2018/19 budget papers included another $155,000 for an ‘all purpose court’ – is this in addition to the $650,000?
  • The tender finally went out with closing dates of October 2018 – a year of doing nothing despite what the budget stated.
  • On November 7th, council awarded the contract as shown below –

 

It is unclear whether this successful tender includes the toilet costs or is simply for the playground and landscaping. Please note that the stated amount is EXCLUSIVE of GST – meaning that this project will cost well over a million dollars.

This exercise raises plenty of issues, such as:

  • When will this council finally start listening to its residents? If the majority didn’t want this ‘redevelopment’ then how can the expenditure of over one million be justified?
  • Why does it take so long for budget items to get off the ground? Is it that council doesn’t have the requisite cash available at the time?
  • Couldn’t the restructure have been started earlier, well before XMAS and the holiday season? Should it really take 6 months for completion?
  • And the over-riding question – why must each park look the same? What’s wrong with one area that is specifically suited to toddlers as the majority of responses indicated?

The photo (below) shows the removal of rubber matting that has only recently been installed and is probably still in very good condition. Again, how much did this cost?

Developers continue to have a field day in Glen Eira. Council can spruik its planning prowess all it likes, but its performance has been abysmal in protecting suburbs, residential amenity and heritage. Elsternwick is Glen Eira’s current sacrificial lamb, following on from Carnegie.

We now have another application alongside the Coles development for an 8 storey, shops, offices and 23 apartments – the majority being 2 bedroom with 8 being three bedroom apartments. Of greater significance is that the site is located in a heritage overlay and the existing buildings are deemed as ‘contributory’ in the planning scheme. Furthermore, according to the current structure plan, there is a preferred height limit of 4 storeys. But of course, since the height limits are only ‘preferred’ there is nothing to stop any developer applying for 8 or 10 or even more! We have to wonder how hard Council fought for mandatory controls in Elsternwick overall, and specifically in these heritage overlay areas. If Bentleigh & Carnegie achieved mandatory heights, then the question needs to be asked as to why Elsternwick is the odd man out. Plus why wasn’t Elsternwick included in the first set of structure planning undertaken by council?

What is remarkable with this application is that the developer has been ‘advised’ by a heritage ‘expert’ that –

Perhaps this expert should explain what ‘modest level of heritage value’ means – especially since the buildings are designated as ‘contributory’.  Surely, either something is of heritage value or it isn’t! But it’s not only these dwellings. This ‘expert’ sees the entire heritage overlay as being of ‘modest’ value. Of course, there is nothing stated to ‘quantify’ or even justify such perverse adjudication!

We must also wonder how an 8 storey building plopped on top of a 2 storey building can be ‘consistent’ with any heritage overlay as well as creating a ‘responsive heritage outcome’.  Here’s what is proposed and readers be the judge as to whether this is a desirable outcome –

There is plenty of other things to be concerned about with this application. Set backs for the storeys above the podium will only be 3.5 metres along Orrong Road. What does this do to overshadowing, etc? And given that in February 2018 council proclaimed –

The Elsternwick shopping precinct is truly unique in wider Melbourne. The shopping strip has
an existing heritage overlay, which seeks to preserve the unique and intact heritage
streetscape. Despite this heritage protection, recent VCAT approvals have seen a number of
taller buildings of up to 8 storeys being constructed in the shopping strip.

When justifying taller buildings in the heritage overlay, VCAT has pointed to the lack of
alternative priority development areas in Elsternwick to accommodate the centre’s future
growth. If this current development trend continues, the heritage precinct is in danger of
being significantly eroded by, or lost to, major development.

Thus the existence of heritage overlays which supposedly curtail development became the argument for 12 storeys along Nepean Highway. Since Glen Huntly Road is now a developers’ paradise, one could very well question why we still need 12 storeys along Nepean Highway? Or an even better question – given current high rise activity along Glen Huntly Road, and if the heritage shopping strip is so ‘truly unique’, then why has the major Heritage Review been put off until years down the track? If heritage is truly a priority then nothing can excuse this inaction. But then again, we remind readers of councillors’ dismal record on heritage when they recently voted to grant a permit for a 12 storey building in the Derby Road heritage area. We anticipate more of the same here with the argument being that there already are plenty of high rises along Glen Huntly road and its surrounds, so one more won’t matter! This of course makes an utter mockery of their structure planning! The only ‘certainty’ has been provided to developers. The message is clear – go for it and the higher the better!