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.

Over the next 6 months or so, council officers will be creating what is arguably the most important planning document of the past two decades – the Housing Strategy. Readers may be surprised to learn that Glen Eira City Council does have such a document – it is dated 2002 and is based on 1999 stats. That’s how out of date this council is.

What has been stated several times is that this upcoming Housing Strategy will form the foundation for council’s land use planning. It will set the parameters for our structure plans, and other policies.  Community consultation therefore becomes an essential component for the strategy. Thus far, we have certainly been underwhelmed with what council has produced on this front – one forum that featured Bernard Salt, et.al – and which had very little relevance to Glen Eira itself. (See: https://gleneira.blog/2021/07/15/the-symposium/)

Council’s latest effort consists of a ‘mini-survey’ for those residents who are members of Community Voice. As an adjunct to the larger questionnaire on the Have Your Say site, one would have hoped that the questions are meaningful, valid, and relevant. They are anything but. Here is the most important section:

COMMENTS

The first question asks for a simple ‘yes’/’no’ response as to whether residents can ‘identify’ any apartments that have been ‘well done’. There is no opportunity for an in-depth response; no opportunity to define/elaborate on what ‘well done’ might mean- and whether individuals interpret this phrase the same; no opportunity to identify location. Thus if readers tick the ‘yes’ option, does this mean that they are happy with what is being built overall? Or does it mean that maybe a minority of apartments fit the bill of ‘well done’?  The same kind of questions would apply to those who selected ‘no’. Nor do we know what either response tells us about housing in Glen Eira and how any result will be interpreted. Secondly, how are people meant to judge what is ‘well done’? Have they been inside the apartment blocks? Are they aware of how much open space is provided? Do they know how many car parking spots are onsite? What do they know about overshadowing, or the thermal efficiency and sustainability of any of the apartments? Simply asking for a ‘yes’/’no’ answer is to put it bluntly a joke!

The second question on ‘suitability’ for more or less development repeats the shortcomings of the previous question. It becomes impossible to understand any of the responses,  given that they are not broken down into specific criteria. Some people might feel that heritage is an important constraint on increased development. Others might believe that the lack of open space is crucial. Then again, others might be convinced that Glen Eira already has enough development and that no single area should be burdened with more.

Even if responses choose the option for more development in certain areas, we are still left without reasons for this selection or potential  locations. It’s all very well to push the mantra that activity centres require increased development, but unless residents are provided with the necessary data on the availability of open space, the proposed increase for individual centres, etc. any response is again totally meaningless.

CONCLUSION

All of the above, then raises the question of why is council doing this? Why do we get presented with survey after survey that is at best skewed, and at worst, totally meaningless?  We firmly believe that what passes for consultation in Glen Eira is nothing more than a ‘tick the box’ exercise so that council can claim to have met its legal obligations. If it were otherwise, we would surely have better surveys and processes.

This leads to even more fundamental questions of governance and transparency. For example:

  • How many more times will councillors allow this administration to get away with sheer incompetence when it comes to community consultation/surveys?
  • How many more times will money and time be expended to produce, analyse and report on meaningless questionnaires that lead nowhere and certainly don’t provide any insight into what the community feels
  • Who produces these surveys so they can be held to account?
  • Who authorises their publication so they can be held to account?
  • What ‘testing’ (if any) have they undergone?
  • What is their purpose?
  • How valid are any of the results produced?
  • How much does each cost in terms of officer time?
  • What say do councillors have in their creation?

Until we have councillors willing to put a stop to this constant charade and sham, poor governance and certainly the lack of transparency in Glen Eira will continue!

CLICK TO ENLARGE

As we wrote in our last post, we believe that it is incumbent on current councillors to owe their primary allegiance to their constituents and not to any state or federal political party. It was very clear last night on the multi-level car park issue, that most councillors chose the latter.  The community, and their wishes, was not the prime concern. Rather political point scoring definitely was.

Consistency has never been a hallmark of some councillors. Last night was no exception. On the Woolworths application, here is part of what occurred.

Cr Parasol in seconding the motion to refuse the Woolworths application said – ‘being on council you have to listen to the residents’…..I feel we need to support their claims’. Athanasopoulos in his response stated: ‘there will be some form of development and ….and just saying the community don’t want it and therefore you as a councillor have to vote that way, I don’t really appreciate that type of interaction’. …it’s not just for me to do a poll survey around an area and then land on a decision’. He needs ‘all information’ and a ‘prudent councillor would do that’ before he decides. He wants good ‘interaction’ ‘rather than dictating to me what I should do as a councillor’.

When the multi-car park item came up, Athanasopolous moved a complex motion that included ‘consultation’ on whether the community wanted to accept the grants, and the locations of the newly proposed builds. What’s important is that he also said that the consultation would provide council with a MANDATE!!!!! In other words, if the community says ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ then this is the basis upon which he, as a councillor would vote. In our view, this totally contradicts what he stated in the Woolworths item! Isn’t this proposal nothing more than a ‘poll survey’ which was dismissed several items earlier? And if we consider the definition of ‘mandate’ then this also implies voting in accordance with community views.  Furthermore, readers would do well to remember Athanasopolous’ comment in September 2020 when he stated that councillors should not appear to be ‘in the pockets of residents’. Taking all this into account, we have to wonder whether any consultation result would deter certain councillors from voting on issues that they have already made up their minds about!

What last night so sadly showed was that ideology is the greatest criterion in many councillor’s decision making. Residents, and purported ‘genuine consultation’ is nothing more than a tick the box exercise to legitimise predetermined decision making. Indeed a very, very, concerning night for residents.

Item 8.5 on the current agenda features the multi-deck car park(s) issue. We are finally told several interesting things:

  • Council has secured $20.6M in grants
  • This amount means that council does not have to fork out any ratepayers’ money
  • The car park locations have changed in both Elsternwick and Bentleigh
  • The car parks will be ‘smaller’

Three options are then provided:

  • Proceed with a ‘feasibility’ study and community consultation on design
  • Proceed with ‘soft’ community consultation first
  • Return the money to the federal government and abandon the project

Whilst all this sounds wonderful, a myriad of questions remains and detail of course is missing. For example:

  • Multi-level car parks cost the earth. Council in its Strategic Resource Plans (SRP) for 2018/19 put the cost for the Stanley Street edifice at $18M and the Horsely Street versions at $14M – and that was three years ago! Admittedly, the later first drawings were for the equivalent of 5 and 4 storey constructions. We are now told that the proposals will be ‘smaller’, so supposedly cheaper!  What then needs to be stated is: if the car parks will be smaller then how many actual car parking spots will they contain? And how does this reduced number correlate to the previous studies that told us we need xxxx amount of car parking spots? Was this initial figure wrong and we are now supposed to accept a lesser required number?  Even more dramatic is the change in location. Whilst the new recommendations make sense, it again calls into question the first set of recommendations. How could planning have got it so wrong the first time around?
  • We are also concerned about council’s track record on major infrastructure projects. Each and every one has cost heaps more than first suggested. So, will $20M really be the final cost and if not, then how much will council need to put in to complete the projects? There is much in the officer’s report claiming that it will not cost council a cent. We remain unconvinced.

THE OPTIONS

Option 1 – Proceed with full feasibility and site due diligence, including development of concept designs. The problem with this option is that it basically pre-empts community input on the first question that needs asking – ie does the community support the development of multi-level car parks? If all the community is asked to respond to is the draft designs, then the first essential question is neatly side-stepped.

Option 2 – Proceed with a light-touch engagement phase to gauge community support for the commuter carparks prior to undertaking full feasibility and concept design. What on earth does ‘light touch engagement’ mean? Is this a euphemism for another half-baked consultation process? Even if the consultation is genuine, what happens if the Elsternwick proposal gets support and the Bentleigh one does not garner majority support? Will council still proceed? Return half the money?

Option 3 – Abandon the projects and return the funds to the Federal Government.

Our problem with these options is that there is no logical sequencing of process. Surely the first step must be whether a majority of the community even supports the idea of multi-level carparks. The next step would be to proceed with a business/feasibility study, etc. If there is no support, then ‘yes’, return the money – or if one site is shown to be acceptable to the community, then proceed with this alone. The drafting of the options does not provide this logical sequence. With the officer’s report recommending Option 1, the go ahead is taken for granted.

Looking back, residents have never been asked the crucial question – do you want multi level car parks? That should and must be the starting point. Residents also require far more specifics in order to come up with any informed opinion. Given that council as far back as 2018/19 was able to come up with some base-line costings, then they should be able to do this now as well. They should also be capable of telling residents what is the difference between ‘commuter parking’ and shoppers’ parking. Will certain levels be set aside for train commuters alone? How will this be monitored and enforced? Will there be any parking costs? This is information that should inform any consultation process. What we have in this report fails miserable on all these counts.

Finally, the recent publicity regarding the alleged pork barrelling by the Liberals in the grant process, should not have any impact on what decisions will be made by councillors. Federal Labor is of course using this as a great opportunity to lambast the Libs. It is therefore incumbent on our councillors to focus on their roles – ie the Glen Eira community and not to play politics! They are councillors first and last and owe allegiance to their constituents – not some political party!

Council has produced what it calls an ‘issues and opportunities’ paper on its upcoming housing strategy. One should therefore reasonably expect that residents be provided with:

  • An overview of the current situation,the various ‘issues’ confronting the municipality, and
  • How these ‘issues’ might be addressed via planning controls

In order to achieve the above, any decent discussion paper should provide readers with a detailed explanation of the issues, the problems, the potential solutions, and then insert specific questions that seek responses. Sadly, in the 13 page document, we find that only one single question has been included. It reads: How will we provide for the housing needs of an evolving community while continuing to support the sustainability, attractiveness and liveability of our City?

We are told nothing about our ‘evolving community’ (whatever that means!), nor anything about the controls that council has at its disposal in order to ensure ‘sustainability’ and ‘liveability’. Unless readers are aware of what is possible, their ability to respond meaningfully to such a question remains limited. For example: council introduced its residential zones in 2013 (without consultation). Nothing in the accompanying schedules to these zones has been reviewed, amended, or questioned. Whilst other councils have up to 40% permeability requirements even in their General Residential Zones, Glen Eira is content with maintaining its 20% requirement. This also applies to size of underground basements, open space requirements, etc. If sustainability is the objective, then residents need to know that council can and should be amending its schedules, and even reviewing the placement of the various zones. None of this has been communicated.

As for our ‘evolving community’, nothing in the issues paper identifies what this actually means or what the implications are and how they relate to a housing strategy. We are provided with a breakdown of detached housing figures, percentages of lone person households, and families with children (page 9). All we get are generalised comments such as ‘Housing diversity is important. There is support for housing diversity’. None of this has been explained, examined, and defined.

We also find statement after statement that deserves to be challenged. For example: ‘There is a need for student accommodation close to Monash University……’ We are not told how many student accommodation places currently exist and given COVID, how many might be required over the next 15 years. And if over a third of our current households are families with children, then surely, ‘housing diversity’ should pertain to the size of apartments built, the number of 3 and 4 bedroom homes, or the size of available open space? We are not provided with any data that reveals what is currently being built in Glen Eira or how council can introduce policies and standards that impact what is being built.

Page 12 of the paper exemplifies everything that is amiss with council’s consultation methodology. Under the banner of ‘Sustainability’, we are informed about 867km of footpaths (!), and the number of solar households in Glen Eira. Surely there is more to ‘sustainability’ than the length of our footpaths and even the number of homes with solar energy? We then also find the sneaky inclusion of this sentence: Higher densities in established areas can help contain urban sprawl on the edges of Melbourne. Is this simply setting the scene for more and more development and what does it have to do with ‘sustainability’ in Glen Eira itself? Not a single word is included on exactly what ‘higher density’ might entail and most significantly, what tools council has available to ensure that our streets, our open spaces, and our amenity is protected.

We started off this post by noting council’s refusal to provide questions that address and seek informed feedback on the central issues that any housing strategy should encompass. By way of comparison, here are some questions that other councils thought necessary to include in their respective discussion papers on their housing strategies – BUT ONLY AFTER SOME POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS WERE LISTED! –

KINGSTON

Thinking about new housing which has been built in Kingston over the last 10 years: a) Which specific developments or which types of development do you think have been successful? Which have been less successful?

BENDIGO

How important is the issue of housing affordability and to what extent should the Council and the private sector be involved?

Is this assessment accurate and is there additional land within the UGB (Urban Growth Boundary) that should be made available for housing or are there sites where development is not feasible or appropriate?

Council has identified a major future long term growth front to the north west of Maiden Gully –how appropriate is this area to accommodate residential growth in the future?

DANDENONG

What considerations should be taken into account when identifying locations for medium to higher density development?

How can Council improve the quality and location of medium and higher density housing?

There are several other councils which are currently reviewing and updating their housing strategies. We urge readers to have a look at what Bayside and Stonnington are doing in terms of their consultation methodologies.