A very recent VCAT decision highlights once again how residents are personae non gratis when it comes to this council’s planning department and the sycophantic councillors who allow Newton and Akehurst to literally do as they please. Here’s a little bit of history.

On the 30th August 2011 councillors voted unanimously to pass the following motion – “Seeks authorisation from the Minister for Planning to prepare and exhibit Amendment C90 which proposes to alter the Housing Diversity Area Policy and Urban Village Policy to include prescriptive guidance for development at the interface of Housing Diversity and Minimal Change areas”.

Nearly a year later we find out in the fine print of the Quarterly Reports that HERE IS A COUNCIL RESOLUTION THAT HAS NEVER BEEN CARRIED OUT. Nor has there been any motion to withdraw, rescind, put on hold, etc. The amendment has never been advertised, never had submissions called and been allowed to disappear into the ether. No public announcement has been made as to the reasons why officers have failed to carry out a council resolution. All that we know is that there suddenly appeared the minimalist sentence ‘Amendment will be withdrawn. The issue of transition will be addressed through the New Zones’. Who made this decision? When was it made? And how can a council resolution suddenly be overturned in secret?

That’s only half of the story because whilst countless other councils are passing amendment after amendment in the attempt to shore up as many safety precautions as possible for when the planning zone reforms come in, Glen Eira is sitting on its hands and doing bugger all. The ramifications of this inaction was evident in a recent vcat appeal and decision.

The VCAT hearing involved an application for a 3 storey building, multiple dwellings and reduced car parking. The site was Glen Huntly Rd (housing diversity/tram lines) and abutted Minimal Change. Hence the proposed amendment would have been extremely important here in protecting residential amenity. Here are the lamentable arguments put up by council and relevant extracts from the final decision. (See http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2013/381.html for the full decision)

Council advised that these setback distances were recommended in its proposed amendment C90 to manage the interface between housing diversity and minimal change areas, and as a response to Clause 22.07 to reduce the visibility of additional levels when the proposal is higher than the prevailing height of an area.

Council noted that it did not impose the minimum setback of 4 metres on the ground level as recommended in the amendment, acknowledging that there are currently out buildings in the rear yards of 6 Emma Street and 4 Lonsdale Street. Conceding that Amendment C90 has yet been exhibited, Council still wished to pursue the desired setback as a reflection of its thinking of interface management.

Council has imposed permit conditions to require the first and second floor to be further recessed to manage the change from a housing diversity area to a minimal change area, as recommended by its Amendment C90, which will result in the loss of dwellings.

As Mr. Bissett pointed out (for developer), Amendment C90 is not a seriously entertained planning proposal. It has not been on exhibition and it is premature to implement the setbacks recommended in this amendment. The approach should be one of the particular set of circumstances and the context of the site: that is whether the proposed setbacks of the various floors an acceptable interface with.6 Emma Street and 4 Lonsdale Street.

Given all this, questions have to be asked:

  1. Why has a council resolution not been carried out?
  2. Who made the decision to withdraw or abandon? When was it made? and most importantly – WHY was it made?
  3. What is the real agenda behind all this?
  4. Why are councillors allowing employees to rule the roost?
  5. Why aren’t residents afforded the full protection as originally intended?
  6. Why after two years has nothing happened? What aren’t residents being told?
  7. Why didn’t this development come to a full council meeting in the first place? What is the precise criteria that determines whether an application remains in the hands of the hired help?
  8. When will councillors start exercising their mandated duties and INSIST that proper transparency and governance occurs in this council?
  9. When will councillors finally get off their backsides and insist that ALL of the outcomes of the 2010 Planning Scheme Review are carried out. 3 years of deferment, inaction, and silence is not good enough.
  10. When will they stop being accomplices to the continued failure of good governance in Glen Eira?