Council has consistently claimed that ‘evidence’ is the basis of all their decision making. Two items from tonight’s council meeting focus on this claim. We feature two recordings:

  1. Council’s response to the Mitchell Street residents’ letter, and
  2. A public question on the Elsternwick structure plan in the ‘community consultation’ phase of the meeting.

We urge all readers to listen carefully and to decide how well these councillors addressed what was being sought and asked.


  • Does Hyams’ motion change a single thing?
  • If parking/traffic changes are suggested then one should assume that officers did the necessary research to begin with and that their ‘evidence’ for the proposed changes are beyond question. Thus saying “’if this motion gets passed our traffic officers will examine the street and see what they can do there’ implies two things – (1) either no real ‘investigation’ was done PRIOR to changes being suggested, or (2) placating residents with vague, airy-fairy promises
  • Why can’t the results of this further investigation be tabled at council? What are the chances that the residents’ stated concerns will be taken on board?


  • Has any councillor satisfactorily answered the allegation that decision making is ‘anecdotal’ and far from ‘evidence based’. We remind readers that Delahunty called the published shadow drawings as ‘rudimentary’!!!!!! Hardly the basis for informed decision making!!!!!
  • Not one single councillor, nor any published document has as yet presented any ‘evidence’ as to why 12 storeys is necessary.

The Glen Eira version of ‘evidence’ is let’s make it up as we go along to support the conclusions we arrived at from the beginning!


The following letter features in the agenda papers for Tuesday night:

Of concern is the recommendation – once again to merely ‘receive’ and ‘note’ the letter, which will then disappear into the ether no doubt and not be heard of again. Council is duty bound to do far more. Residents are entitled to be provided with solid ‘evidence’ for the proposed changes. For example: has there been a traffic count taken in the past few years? If so, when was this done and what are the results? If in the past there was the decision to erect a ‘no standing zone’ outside 86-90 Mitchell Street, what was the reason and what is the reason now for proposing to change this? And the $64 dollar question of course is that council’s policy is to conduct surveys of local residents before the implementation of changes. Will these 40 residents now be listened to?

The crucial question is- will council now turn all our local streets into parking areas given its statement in the Transport Strategy that they will explor(e) the reinstatement of lost street parking where required. And if council is determined to introduce parking overlays that reduce even further the ‘standards’ set out in Clause 52.06, then should residents expect more and more parking overflow from the commercial centres into their streets?

We urge all readers to take careful note of the following from the Integrated Transport Strategy.

This makes it absolutely clear that council’s intention is to:

  • Reduce the required parking provisions for ‘office space’.
  • ‘Site specific conditions’ can only mean more ad-hoc decision making – especially for restaurants
  • ‘maximise the use of existing (car parking) spaces’, can only augur more of the Mitchell Street example
  • ‘Shared parking’ translates into less car parking spaces provided by developers and residents parking in multi-level car parks largely paid for by ratepayers.

Finally, the Mitchell Street example is the perfect illustration of council’s disastrous planning. Next to a heritage area, and within a flooding zone, Mitchell and its surrounding streets were zoned RGZ in 2013 – ie 4 storeys. Now 5 years later, council is attempting to undo the damage it has created. Too late we say!!!!!! The draft structure plan now wants the WESTERN side of Mitchell street reduced to 2 storey height limit (ie NRZ) and six properties on the EASTERN side of Mitchell Street, reduced to 3 storeys (ie GRZ).  But given what has already happened, and what will still happen until council achieves the gazetting of its amendments, this is literally pie in the sky planning. The horse has already bolted. Yet council has known this for years and nothing was done!

Here is the current state of affairs in Mitchell and Robert Streets. The yellow markings indicate developments granted permits.

The tally thus far is –

77 Mitchell – 3 storey, 7 units

82-84-  4 storey, 23 units

79-83 – 4 storey, 41 units

77 Robert Street, -7 units

Residents of local streets anywhere within cooee of our activity centres have much to fear we forecast!

Fed-up Stonnington Council plans bond to save trees

By Madeleine Heffernan

13 March 2018

Owners or developers may be asked to pay cash as security for failing to protect trees across Stonnington.

A Melbourne council is so frustrated by developers and property owners felling or damaging trees without permission that it plans to introduce tree bonds next year.

The council says high levels of redevelopment in Stonnington have led to a loss of established tree canopy across the well-to-do suburbs in its area.

“There are just too many significant, mature trees in the inner city that are being lost, so we want to provide more of a guarantee that they will be protected and preserved where agreed upon,” Stonnington mayor Steve Stefanopoulos said.

Sometimes residents found a tree a nuisance and felled it overnight without a permit, Cr Stefanopoulos said. Sometimes trees were damaged during development work, despite permits requiring them to be preserved. And sometimes a developer “moonscaped” a site – removing every stick of vegetation to make it easier to develop – and accepted the fine as a price of doing business.

In response, Stonnington City Council – which covers Toorak, Kooyong, South Yarra, Windsor, Prahran, Armadale, Malvern, Malvern East and Glen Iris – has proposed that before a development plan is approved, the owner or developer be required to pay money as security for failing to protect trees or ensure satisfactory landscaping works.

The money, likely to be thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, would be returned only if the party kept its promise to protect existing trees and establish and maintain new planting. For trees, the authority the money was paid to would inspect the site one year after completion; for landscapes, six weeks.

Cr Stefanopoulos said tree and landscape bonds would make owners and developers think twice.

“When it’s a $10 million project, [under current laws] they’re going to get fined a couple of hundred dollars because they’ve cut down a tree. Which developer is going to argue? “But if we’re talking about $10,000 to $20,000, they’ll think, ‘Hang on a minute, that hurts a bit more.’

Stonnington is not the first council to complain that tree numbers are dwindling amid the city’s housing boom.

Nillumbik shire councillor Peter Clarke last year described illegal tree removal as community and environmental vandalism, while Whitehorse City Council found private arborists were sometimes hired to recommend a tree be removed, even if it was healthy.

Michelle Croughan, manager of planning and building at the Municipal Association of Victoria, which represents local councils, said councils that had sought to protect trees without a bond had struggled.

“The bond seems to be the only mechanism that makes both owners and contractors take the protection of trees seriously,” she said.

Stonnington City Council is seeking public comment now and will vote on the idea later this year, with a possible 2019 introduction.

It is proposed that the council will send letters to all owners of land for which has a permit has been issued over the past four years. This letter would “inform them that council has adopted a zero-tolerance approach in respect to the failure to adhere with vegetation requirements of permits”.

It is also proposed that planning permit cover letters be changed to state, “in the event of a breach of any of the requirements of the permit or endorsed material, the landowner, developer and any other relevant persons (such as a subconsultants) will be liable to prosecution.

“In most cases, such a breach will result in the issue of a Planning Infringement Notice to all parties (where applicable bank guarantees will be drawn). ”

The Property Council was contacted for comment.


The ABS has today released its building approval figures for local areas. The data depicts approvals from July 1st, 2017 to the end of January 2018 – a period of 7 months. We’ve uploaded the full file HERE and present a screen dump for Glen Eira below. Unfortunately some suburbs are linked together (ie Bentleigh/McKinnon). However what these stats reveal is that development in Glen Eira is still way ahead of council’s predictions, raising the same old perennial questions –

  • Why do we need to double the size of our activity centres?
  • Why do we need to rezone areas to accommodate more dog boxes?
  • Why is council failing to respond to these essential questions?

‘Community’ responses to the Urban Design Guidelines have made a belated appearance on council’s website. Several factors are evident:

  • The overwhelming majority of submissions come from developers/planners representing clients. Some submissions would appear to be duplicated – mainly from the earlier submission(s)
  • These submissions invariably argue for less ‘prescriptive’ guidelines including no mandatory height provisions and the ability to go beyond 12 storeys in some cases. Only 2 specifically mention the originally suggested 6 metre setback that has now been reduced to 5 metres.
  • Resident views highlight the length of the document (167 pages) and how inaccessible it is to those without any planning knowledge.
  • Both developers and residents abhor the lack of definition, analysis, and the clear lack of quantifiable, strategic justification.

We thought it worthwhile in this post to focus on how developers view the guidelines as a planning document and what they basically think of council’s performance in this endeavour. Surprisingly perhaps, we feel that many residents would agree with the concerns raised – if not the conclusions (ie pro-development & less constraints). The following extracts reveal once again the shoddy, knee-jerk planning that is the hallmark of Glen Eira Council – and this comes not from residents but from the development industry. Yet this document was passed by councillors with very little change from the first version and once again basically ignoring community concerns. Nor did any councillor, claiming that they had read the submissions, bother to address ANY OF THE CONCERNS listed below!

Here is what developers think:

It is our submission that a definition of Strategic and Urban renewal Areas should be included in the QDG (Quality Design Guidelines). It is also requested that the information listed under Preferred Locations throughout the QDG be clarified, since it often overlays and/or is unclear.

Under Shared Side Boundaries development for Shop Top in commercial Strips areas the QDG states that when  abutting a heritage residential precinct or building, all upper levels must be recessive when viewed from nearby heritage street scapes. This is a vague and unhelpful statement, which does not explain what constitutes recessive, or from where within a heritage streetscape a view should be cast.

The Guidelines should be prepared to be read as a standalone document, yet key information required by readers is not provided. There is a lack of clarity around the identification of a site’s location.

We do not believe the process for community benefit has been appropriately defined nor strategically justified in the documentation provided. Such a proposal is in our view inappropriate and inequitable, particularly in the context where increased density will deliver on metropolitan policy objectives. The idea that scale can be agreed subject to community benefits (“cash for height”) does not represent orderly and proper planning. The processes of negotiation with Council has not been explained. It is our view that surety around this concept is required before it is adopted as part of the Quality Design Guidelines and certainly before it is sought to form part of the Planning Scheme. In our view, a more appropriate process is the use of a Development Contribution Plan Overlay rather than a piecemeal negotiated approach where only some developments contribute to the required community facilities and services.

The prioritisation of commercial land uses in strategic/urban renewal sites requires more consideration. The documentation does not provide any justification for this. The commercial viability and/or economic impact of introduction of so much retail and commercial space into mixed use precincts (if all developments are to utilise the lower three floors for non-residential uses) does not appear to have been assessed. To make the guideline meaningful, such a proposition may be justified if Glen Eira has an acute shortage of commercial or retail floorspace and an assessment exists (by suburb) to demonstrate this.

The guidelines identify “no additional overshadowing of identified key public open space” and yet do not provide the reader any indication of what the key public spaces being referenced are. Other sections also call up access to ‘winter sun’ but again no parameters are provided as to the key hours.

Clearly, additional work to the document is required in order to clarify how preferred building types will be applied and ensure that the guidelines can be read as a standalone document.

The seventh principle relating to the notion of ‘community benefit’ is subjective and does not provide quantifiable guidance to assess a ‘community benefit’….In our previous submission we strongly suggested that future Quality Design Guidelines include quantifiable criteria as to what defines ‘community benefit’. Such criteria would minimise uncertainty surrounding this principle.

We note that the preferred building typologies are not responsive to the actual context of each neighbourhood centre, nor do they permit site and context-responsive design. The preferred building typologies will introduce conflict with the design principle of the QDP which offer a greater degree of flexibility for great design, and provides a more performance based framework to assess design.

The guidelines do not provide any methodology as to how the Strategic Site typology would be identified through the municipality…..We suggest that a precinct analysis is undertaken for all neighbourhood activity centres and transport corridors to determine the locations of strategic sites and precinct specific requirements.

We suggest that upper level setback be considered at a precinct level. This is to ensure the existing character and role of precincts is considered in full

policy change. Overall, the challenge in this policy is that a proper review of the neighbourhood character has not taken place to accommodate the recent variation by the State Government. The review seems to rely on the existing character study, which could be outdated. Additionally, basic considerations  as the average lot size, lot depths and frontages should be properly reviewed to inform such a substantial

The guidelines are highly arbitrary and the level of rigour/technical justification behind many of the guidelines is not clear.


What is evident from these comments is that council simply has not done the strategic work necessary to justify any of the proposals contained in the document – including the proposals in the various structure plans. As with the introduction of the zones, what we have is another ‘one size fits all’ approach coupled with meaningless waffle.

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield)

My question is to the Minister for Planning. Minister, many residents in Elsternwick have expressed concern over the impact of overdevelopment on their local amenity and liveability. The Elsternwick structure plan projects a 20 per cent increase in population and responds to the expectation in your government’s Plan Melbourne  Refresh that will require 22000 residents to be accommodated in Glen Eira in the next 15 years.

The plan, which has been approved by the council, will now go to a planning panel and ultimately you as the minister will be responsible for any changes in the Elsternwick precinct. As the structure plan outlines no measures to cope with this densification and will lead to the loss of established houses in the area, Minister, what is the government doing and what are you doing  to prevent local families losing their homes and to protect the liveability of Elsternwick and the surrounds?

Councillors of course voted in the latest version of the Urban or ‘Quality Design’ Guidelines at the recent council meeting. See Item 9.5 from the agenda.

But, if you blink you will miss the really important stuff in this item.

One little sentence buried on page 7 of an 8 page report tells the story of this council’s failure  to practice full and open disclosure.  The sentence we refer to is:

The commercial setback above the podium was reduced from 6 metres to 5 metres, which is in line with a number of submissions received

Really? A ‘number of submissions’? – Obviously not too many because council itself admits:

Between 30 October and 11 December 2017, Council sought community feedback on the draft Quality Design Guidelines. Over this 6 weeks period, 38 submissions were received (20 online and 18 in paper), along with 3 surveys and 14 Facebook comments.

Sadly, these comments have not been published by council. Nor do we have any explanation in this Mullin report as to why it was decided that Glen Eira residents will be better off when there is a reduction in setbacks? It couldn’t possibly be, could it, that with smaller setbacks, the developer can cram in more apartments?

And are we really to believe that even if every single one of these 38 citizens demanded a REDUCTION in setbacks that council was prepared to accede to this demand and completely ignore the hundreds upon hundreds of residents who opposed 8 and 12 and even 4 storeys to begin with?

What is also disconcerting is that the October version of the Quality Design Guidelines has now disappeared from council’s website – making it even harder for residents to compare the ‘before and after changes’. Surely a ‘fact sheet’ that provides a clear cut and honest summary of ALL CHANGES is required and not just the spin and deception that council continually practices.

There are many changes in these documents. We simply highlight a few –





There are many, many more points of comparison that readers should be looking out for – and not only in terms of setbacks, but also open space, etc.

This has now passed council. Again without giving residents the opportunity to comment or have any input.