We have learnt that the Alma Club application has already been sent off to VCAT PRE-EMPTING, in all probability, any council resolution on Tuesday night. Why? Because Council did not finalise the application within the required 60 day limit.

This is both extraordinary and inexcusable and, in our view, raises serious questions about process, and potential secret deals that may have to ability to completely sideline both councillors and resident objectors. To refresh people’s memories here are the facts:

  • The application was received by Council on the 19th March 2013 according to the planning register.
  • It was not until EARLY MAY that the yellow notice went up. Residents had until 14th May to register their objections. That makes it roughly 6 weeks that Council sat on this application before presumably doing anything about it or informing residents.
  • A planning conference was held on the June 5th.
  • The item was set down for decision this coming Tuesday – the 2nd July.

There cannot be any excuse for this inaction, especially since Council would have been fully aware of the contentious nature of the application and its value in monetary terms. All stops should have been pulled out to ensure that the time limits were adhered to. Why weren’t they? What are the possible outcomes for the current situation – given that we’ve learnt that mediation and a 5 day VCAT hearing has been timetabled for several months down the track? Several potential scenarios now rear their ugly heads:

  1. Any possible councillor resolution on Tuesday night is now a moot point and probably won’t go ahead
  2. The developer ‘in consultation’ with officers will either submit amended plans directly to VCAT, or again in consultation with officers work out various ‘conditions’. In both cases the parameters will be set and both residents and councillors will not have a say.
  3. Since a permit has not been granted, the prospect of ‘amended plans’ coming to a full council is most unlikely.

All of these scenarios raise serious questions about governance within Glen Eira; the role of the planning department and most importantly, who knew what and when. For example:

  • When did council officers know that the developers would be going to VCAT?
  • When did officers know or decide that the 60 day limit could not be met?
  • Do councillors know? Or do some councillors know since we’ve been informed that one particular councillor has been telling objectors to forget about appealing since VCAT will overrule anyway?
  • Even MP Southwick has got in on the act with an offer of ‘mediation’! Why, and what does he know that residents possibly don’t?
  • Why didn’t this well paid planning department get its act together on time?
  • Was this ‘delay’ in fact planned right from the start?
  • What ‘discussions’ went on between developer and planners? How often? When did these ‘discussions’ start?
  • Was there ever any discussion about time lines?
  • Has any officer actually kept records of these meetings and/or discussions as required under the Records Act?

There are many, many, other such questions – all of which only cement the already existing perception that all is not 100% kosher within Glen Eira– especially when it comes to planning matters!