Up for decision are several planning applications that are worthy of comment. Given the empty promises of the new residential zones these applications in our view are a sign of what is to come.

Bolinda St Application

This is for 2 double storeys in a minimal change area. No objections were received, so the question needs to be asked why something like this should even make it to a full council meeting for decision? Countless others of far more import are decided by officers who do have the delegated authority to refuse this outright. Our take on this is that it represents nothing more than a public relations exercise designed to dupe and lull the community into believing that the residential zones are really ‘protecting’ neighbourhoods.

Here’s what we are told about this application:

  • The site is large enough for increased density
  • Site coverage is 44% – the standards are 50%
  • Rear and side setbacks are 4.5m for one unit when standard is 4m
  • Unit 2 has 154 square metre private open space when standard is 60 square metre
  • No overshadowing of note
  • No significant or valuable trees
  • Solar access to private open space is fine

So, on basically every single important ResCode and council standard this proposal meets the requirements. Yet officers have refused a permit. Their primary ground of objection is stated as:

This planning policy/discouraging two storey dwellings in rear yards has been rigorously followed for over 10 years. The policy is soundly based in town planning principles. Namely, 2 storey developments in rear yards potentially causes visual bulk issues for abutting rear yards of neighbouring properties. This is evident in this proposal whereby the visual bulk is considered unreasonable on the backyards of the properties to the north and the east. This policy of discouraging 2 storey development in rear yards is widely understood and accepted including by VCAT. Precedent is a concern. Approval of this proposal weakens the future application of this policy.

So all of a sudden ‘precedent’ is important and we’re expected to believe a 2 storey dwelling in the back yard of a minimal change area is ‘widely understood’ and even ‘accepted’ by VCAT. In other words it is ‘verboten’! The facts certainly don’t bear out this version of reality. Here are some VCAT decisions from the past 5 or 6 months where permits were granted for backyard double storeys

19 Wilks St., North Caulfield

38 Victoria St, Elsternwick

60 Neville St., Carnegie

312 Glen Eira road, Elsternwick

9 Brian St., Bentleigh East (council itself granted a permit for this one and confirmed by VCAT)

24 Marara Rd., South Caulfield (2 double storey attached dwellings)

3 Osborne Ave., Bentleigh (2 double storey attached – council granted permit and confirmed by VCAT)

7 Irving Ave., Murrumbeena (2 double storey attached – council granted permit and confirmed by VCAT)

Since the introduction of the new zones there have been numerous applications for exactly this type of development. We list some of them here:

22 Waratah St., Bentleigh

36 Adrian St., Bentleigh East

18 Beddoe Avenue, Bentleigh

32 Seaview Caulfield South

Nothing but nothing in council’s old planning scheme, or the new, prevents this kind of development. All council has been able to come up with for the past 12 years is: “Discourage the siting of two storey or multiple storey dwellings at the rear of sites.” And that’s only when it suits! VCAT has repeatedly ignored this as has council itself.

If council was really serious in enforcing its own planning scheme and doing its utmost (as it claims) to protect minimal change, then all those applications listed immediately above should have been rejected outright under manager delegation. Instead they remain on the planning register awaiting decision – whereas applications for subdivision and other forms of development receive the nod in the matter of days! We will keep a very close eye on these applications.

We have no doubt that if councillors reject this application and it goes to VCAT that the council decision will be laughed out of court!

Morton Avenue Carnegie 

This is an amended permit application in a commercial zone for a 6 storey, 40 unit, 1 shop and loading and car parking waivers. Ron Torres has given the go ahead. The original permit was for 4 storeys and 20 dwellings; now it’s gone up to 6 storey and double the number of dwellings – all one and 2 bedroom units.

Inaccuracies, or deliberate misleading information is ever present. We’re told: The site is included in the Mixed Use (East) precinct of the Carnegie Urban Village. It’s not! This is zoned as Commercial 1! Torres goes on to state that the proposal is ‘consistent’ with policy because there already are 4 storeys in the area and a permit was just granted for 5 storeys – so now 6 storeys doesn’t matter. Pity that the argument regarding ‘precedent’ used for the Bolinda application has suddenly gone out the window!

But there’s more:

  • Parking and loading bay waivers are fine because the shop is ‘small’. Perhaps someone should tell Torres that the size of a shop has got absolutely nothing to do with the size of the truck rolling up to deliver goods and its need for adequate parking provision! As for the number of customers, well who bothers going to small shops these days according to this logic?
  • No specifics are given anywhere, and terminololgy such as ‘no unreasonable’ overshadowing abounds.
  • Nor is there any valid and quantified explanation as to why council’s own Traffic Department has been overruled when that officer believes: The parking demand associated with visitors to the site should be provided onsite. As such a provision of 5 parking spaces is considered warranted.
  • There are also comments about stackers, setbacks from the street, lack of daylight for some dwellings, small narrow balconies.

Thus on countless standards this proposal fails outright. Yet the recommendation is to grant a permit albeit with conditions. Thus anything goes as far as council is concerned in housing diversity, mixed use and commercial zones. Glen Eira is thus actively encouraging a system which cannot adequately protect minimal change, but worse, those residents living in housing diversity and/or commercial or mixed use do not warrant any consideration whatsoever as to open space, height limits, parking, site coverage and so on. The system deliberately fosters inequality and officer reports are part and parcel of the public relations arm of the administration.