An astonishing item (9.8) features in today’s agenda. Council is proposing to enter into a potential 9 year lease with the VRC (aka MRC) for 2 sections of the Wedge – ie the land that has stood vacant at the top of Glen Eira/Booran Rds for years and years. The terms of the proposed lease are:

  • For the first 5 years the payment to council (as committee of management) of $137,500 and for each 2 year extension up to a further 4 years, a rental of $30,400 per annum.
  • The land under discussion includes a 153 square metre area that contains a water bore, and another area to the east of the Wedge of 675 square metres. This second area abuts the current freehold land containing the stables.

Our take on this is as follows:

  • Why would the MRC agree to pay even this pittance for a lease on land that has stood empty for years unless this is nothing more than a major land grab to accommodate future residential development to the east of this strip? Below is a screen dump taken from the VPA website which makes it clear that the MRC is thinking of more development once training goes.

  • Is the payment of basically $27,000 per annum a reasonable rent given that any commercial block of 675 square metres would certainly receive far more in rent?
  • Does this lease mean that training will not be gone for another 9 years at least? In 2011 a 5 year time limit was put on. We are now talking 2027 at the earliest.
  • Why has this item made an appearance at this stage given that the newly appointed trustees are set to begin their reign on the 1st August, 2018. Does the signing off of this lease usurp their power and authority and hence is the timing deliberate? Surely council could have waited another 2 weeks given the years when nothing has happened?
  • What does this mean for the proposed dog agility facility? How can dogs, kids, and adults co-exist with trucks, workmen, etc having unrestricted access to the bore?
  • Why is the last sentence of the Department letter redacted? What potentially damaging info does this sentence contain?
  • One sentence of the officer’s report is worth repeating –As the lease term is less than 10 years Council is not required to give public notice of the intention to enter into the lease with the MRC. Skull duggery at its best! No publicity, no objections, no community involvement whatsoever! Well done council!

All in all another cave in by council and the department to the Melbourne Racing Club!

It is becoming abundantly clear that council has stuffed up monumentally in its structure planning fiasco. Richard Wynne has obviously not been willing to sign off on the Elsternwick proposals. The reason? Major community opposition plus the failure to provide any strategic justification. The result is that council is now being forced to:

  • Spend more money on more consultants for something that should have been researched and analysed right from the start of the process
  • Commit to further ‘community consultation’ via a ‘reference group’ so that the Elsternwick structure plan is now put back until late 2019 and probably beyond.

The History of Machination

Elsternwick was ignored when the interim height guidelines were introduced for Bentleigh & Carnegie. Why? We still have had no explanation, unless of course the objective has always been to turn Elsternwick into a high rise centre. Now another year at least will pass without any decent protection for the suburb.

Council called for further traffic and overshadowing data in February 2018. It is now 5 months later and still no sign of these documents. Have these even been done? If so, then why do we need more consultants to do the same work?

Are we about to have another Clayton’s  reference group that is sworn to secrecy? Why couldn’t such processes be instituted for all the activity centres right from the start?

So now we’ve reached the ludicrous situation where the ‘objectives’ for Elsternwick include:

All of the above ‘criteria’ were supposedly analysed and confirmed by council in February 2018. We had urban design guidelines that established setbacks and heights; we had ‘landuse frameworks’; we had ‘place making’ projects; we had promises about open space levies and developer contributions, etc. etc. Two conclusions are therefore possible: either this latest consultancy is there simply to endorse what has already been determined or, it is an acknowledgement of the total incompetence of this council where even Richard Wynne won’t go along with the existing draft structure plan and tells council to go back to the drawing board! And all of this begs the question of course as to why Carnegie is being totally ignored. It also has heritage plus 12 storeys and pathetically limited justification. We congratulate Elsternwick residents but bemoan the fact that it is opposition that causes ‘reviews’ rather than sound planning by this council!

For more ‘damage control’ info, see – www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/elsternwick-masterplan

We urge all readers to carefully consider the significance of the following screen dump. It comes from the consultant’s report that accompanies Melbourne City Council’s attempt to ensure that ALL of its parks receive the appropriate amount of sunlight during the winter months. Melbourne has now formulated Amendment C278 in order to achieve this. (Uploaded HERE)

The image depicts the overshadowing resulting from a 20 metre (6 storey) building. Glen Eira in its wisdom proposes buildings to a height of 43 metres, with a 4 metre ‘exemption’ for masts, etc. Even if a building is of a lower height as envisaged for East Village, (ie 8 storeys) the fact that public open space will be surrounded by 8 storeys on all sides, is great cause for concern. If a 6 storey building has the potential to throw a shadow of between 90 and 111 metres in winter, what percentage of the proposed ‘public plazas’ will be in the dark for most of the day? What does this also mean for council’s structure planning such as in Elsternwick which will have new open spaces surrounded by 12 storeys? And Caulfield Village plus Monash’s Fusion Plan that will reach at least 22 storeys surrounding its public space reserves?

The very fact that several council meetings ago, there was no commitment forthcoming to support Melbourne City Council in its endeavours reveals much about the mindset that dominates in Glen Eira. Thus far they even seem incapable of providing shadow diagrams able to stand up to full scrutiny.

The above graph featuring today’s release of ABS building permits for Local Government Areas still shows Glen Eira leading the way.  When the 80 square km of Monash is taken into account, compared to the 38.9 square km that is Glen Eira, then the impact on overall density is obvious. Further compounding the problem is that in Glen Eira permits for single houses only reached 269 whereas Monash had 580 – more than double going into Glen Eira!

Even more astounding is that the total number of permits since the 2011/12 financial year is as follows for the various municipalities –

Glen Eira – 11,049

Bayside – 6,527

Boroondara – 9.905

Kingston – 7,785

Stonnington – 10,176

Port Phillip – 8,144

Monash – 11,072

Thus in just on 7 years, and excluding the number of single houses from the overall total, Glen Eira has had an average of 1,271 net new dwellings granted building permits. This far exceeds the needs of population growth and given what is in the pipe line via East Village, Caulfield Village and council’s desire for 12 storeys in Carnegie and Elsternwick, then developers must indeed be rubbing their hands with glee.

We’ve uploaded the ABS data HERE

The following images are the result of an FOI application. They depict the overshadowing at the Winter Solstice for Carnegie. What is staggering about these images is:

  • Residents living in these areas will resemble moles. Building after building will be in total shadow for most of the day in winter
  • Despite what council promised in the following, it is clearly not so – Protect the future open space at Egan and Woorayl Streets, in accordance with Council’s Open Space Strategy, with no overshadowing for a minimum of 5 hours at the September Equinox (9am to 2pm achieved) and 3 hours at Winter Solstice (11am to 2pm achieved). (Officer’s report – 27/2/2018 – when the structure plan was voted in)
  • These images have not been made available to residents by council. The FOI application did not yield any shadow diagrams for Elsternwick – yet councillors voted to go ahead with structure planning that is clearly so deficient and so contradictory to what the spin suggests.
  • We also have to wonder how accurate these diagrams are – ie permits already exist for 12 and 13 storeys in Egan and Woorayl streets. What impact would these buildings have on overshadowing? Why aren’t they included in the diagrams
  • The images depict 5 and 8 storeys alongside Rosstown. This is NOT what the adopted structure plan included. Hence two possibilities – council has been ‘forced’ to change its plans, or what is depicted here is once again a total work of fiction! Regardless, it is obvious that for the winter months at least, Carnegie residents might as well forget about direct sunlight for most of the day!

Council’s ‘update’ on its planning scheme review action plan includes the following on ‘tree protection’ –

Surely it is incumbent on Council to produce statements that are honest, accurate, and informative. The above is both misleading and ineffectual as an action to protect our trees. Here’s why –

  • Wynne’s amendment C143 which introduced the ‘garden requirements’ has got absolutely nothing to do with ‘tree protection’ per se. It simply provides a scale that determines how much of the varying site sizes must consist of ‘garden area’. It does not stop moonscaping. It does not stop the removal of any tree prior to an application being lodged.
  • As for ‘basement’ requirements, there is absolutely nothing in the Better Apartment Guidelines / Amendment VC136 that we can find that specifies the protection of trees. In fact it even foreshadows moonscaping! See below:
  • Then we have the reference to the Urban Design Guidelines. Again, there is nothing in this document to ensure that trees are NOT REMOVED. What we do have is paragraphs such as – To provide side setbacks, towardsthe rear of the lot, with adequate width to permit canopy trees, creating a garden setting for dwellings.

We repeat. All of the above do NOT protect EXISTING trees. They are all looking ahead and what should happen in terms of landscaping once the existing tree has been removed. Yet council is quite happy to claim that the issue of tree protection has been at least ‘partially addressed’ by these documents. Nothing could be further from the truth!

But there’s more to this entire issue of tree protection which has been around since at least 2003 in Glen Eira– despite  consistent data that highlights the priority that residents place on the protection of our trees. Discussion after discussion has been stymied by certain councilors (some of whom are still on council) and who have refused to even entertain the idea of tree protection on private property. As far as we know, council has never provided any data on:

  • The percentage loss of canopy coverage over the past decade in Glen Eira
  • How many private trees have been removed prior to a development application
  • How many permits have been granted for the removal of trees post permit – nor the reasons for such permission (ie 2 recent permits granted in Murrumbeena for tree removal despite what the original conditions of the permit stated)

In short, we know very little about the destruction of these vital assets over the years – and we speculate that council does not know either!

So now we finally have some discussion on a ‘significant tree register’. What council has not explained fully enough to residents via their Clayton’s ‘consulation’ survey is that ‘significant tree registers’ generally feature only a few hundred trees. Nowhere near enough to safeguard thousands of trees from being ripped down by developers.  And a lot depends on the criteria actually used to determine whether something is ‘significant’ or not! Council also appears to be satisfied that if and when a tree register materializes it will only feature in its Local Law, and not be a specific item in the Planning Scheme! Simply not good enough. Further, questions abound – will council introduce permit requirements on private land for large trees that are not listed in the register? Will they follow Stonnington’s lead and introduce ‘compliance’ measures on developers for each application?

In the end, every single site in Glen Eira is a potential ‘development site’. As such, what is needed is far more than a few hundred trees placed on some register.

In what purports to be a ‘progress update’ on implementing the recommendations of the Planning Scheme Review, council has published its  ‘updated work plan’. No real detail is provided. No costings are provided. No real information is provided as to what any amendments might contain. Basically, residents are again being kept in the dark.

Worse still are innumerable statements that are incorrect, misleading, or nothing more than vague, useless motherhood statements that reveal the absolute minimum.  After two years of so-called ‘extensive consultation’, residents should know far more about what council has in mind. The fact that we don’t is testimony to the lack of transparency that is the modus operandi of this council.

Here are some examples which substantiate our claims. The images are taken directly from today’s published agenda (Item 9.5)

Some things to note:

  • Urban Design Guidelines are just that – guidelines. Generally they enter the planning scheme as a ‘reference document’ and thus are pretty useless in enforcing policy and ensuring that VCAT adheres to them. To therefore claim that ‘neighbourhood character’ will be protected at best, or strengthened via the Urban Design Guidelines is a total furphy. What is required is the inclusion of ‘preferred character statements’ for all housing diversity areas (and not just the current structure plans) into the planning scheme as a separate policy with clear directions for interpretation. This would involve an overall Housing Character Study, which council hasn’t really undertaken since 1996 when the document was produced. The 2011 Planishere review basically looked at certain areas for Neighbourhood Character Overlays. It certainly did not revisit the entire municipality which was required. Further compounding the lack of planning is the fact that Glen Eira has never had a ‘neighbourhood character policy’ and only those sites in minimal change have had anything comprising ‘character statements’. Most of these have been unworkable since they incorporate vast areas into their descriptions (ie Bentleigh, Ormond and McKinnon are lumped together in 5 short bullet points). Other councils have been far more proactive and have such policies enshrined in their planning schemes with substantial ‘preferred character statements’ for their entire municipalities. These councils are – Bayside, Boroondara, Darebin, Frankston,  Dandenong, Hobson’s Bay, Knox, Maribyrnong, Maroondah, Moreland, Port Phillip, Stonnington, Yarra. Many of these documents have been completed in the past few years. We’ve uploaded the Stonnington document as an example of what can be done and which Glen Eira has failed to even commence, much less complete. Available HERE
  • The Urban Design Guidelines constantly refer to ‘minimal change areas’ (ie NRZ) as containing One or two detached or semi-detached dwellings built on a lot. The height is one or two storeys. Since Wynne’s introduction of his 2017 amendment that removed the 2 dwellings per lot provision, there have been at least 16 applications go to council for multiple dwellings in areas zoned as NRZ. Many of these have already received permits. Yet, there is nothing in the Urban Design Guidelines that acknowledges this fact and its potential ramifications. Not a word is said about the impact of these developments on ‘neighbourhood character’. Nor are residents given any information as to how the schedules to the zoning might change in any ensuing amendment. If the plan is to ‘upgrade’ hundreds of dwellings so that they will go from 2 storeys maximum to 3 or 4, then how does this alter the ‘neighbourhood character’?
  • And are we still having to wait for at least another 3 years before anything is done? If so, what does this portend for our Neighbourhood Centres? We already have 6 storeys in McKinnon, 10 storeys in Ormond, and 7 storeys in Bentleigh East and Caulfield North. What ‘character’ will council see fit to delineate in these areas?
  • And of course the crucial question is: how can any valid character statements be made when there hasn’t been a genuine revisiting of the housing strategy since 1996?

Far more honesty is required from council. Two years have come and gone since the planning scheme review and all we’ve had is the imposition of changes that fly in the face of community views and without the opportunity to comment on such changes. Thus far we have still to see any strategic justification, or any inkling of what the schedules to the zones will contain. Residents are being treated like mushrooms – kept ignorant until it is too late and plans are set in concrete. That is governance at its most devious and despicable.