The agenda for Tuesday night’s council meeting is quite literally a ‘doozy’! What stands out clearly is the ceding of more and more power to unelected bureaucrats and removing the ‘influence’ of councillors even further. This has been done via suggested changes to the Planning Delegations. Councillors have never had (unlike other councils) the option of ‘legalised’ ‘call ins’. That is, if one councillor decides that an application should come before council for decision, that option is open to him/her. This does not exist in Glen Eira. What is now up for decision makes the sidelining of councillors even more ‘efficient’. The proposal is that if no more than 3 objections come into an application, then officers may decide. They may also decide if an objector has received a phone call from a planning officer and thereby had the ‘opportunity’ to voice concerns! Even worse is that the power to grant an amended permit for three storeys is now also in the hands of the unelected if they have previously been involved.

Akehurst provides SOME details of other councils’ delegations and how Glen Eira fares in comparison. For example, he cites that Port Phillip requires 15 objections, Stonnington 6 objections. However, what is conveniently omitted in relation to these other councils is the option for a single councillor to insist that the application come before council – ie. even on parking dispensations the Port Phillip delegation states: Non-compliance with residential parking requirements (except that a minor dispensation can be determined by the Manager City Development or Neighbourhood Coordinators unless a councillor requests that the application be determined by Council.

The best line however comes in the conclusion  to his report – Even with the recommended 3 objection limit our delegations would be more conservative than all the above mentioned Councils but our decision making performance would significantly improve. How effective ‘decision making’ is predicated on the number of objections is, of course, unstated and ultimately quite ridiculous.

But there’s even more of totally unsubstantiated and suspect logic. We quote directly from Akehurst’s report –

Attendees at DPC are dropping. Increasingly objectors and even applicants are not attending. This is likely the outcome of town planning rules which are now clearer.

Council also proposes to shorten the ‘lay off period’ over Christmas since this disadvantages the applicant and ‘benefits the objector’. During this time, phone calls may suffice! – On the last dot point, it is proposed that each objector has been spoken to either in person or telephone by a senior planning officer as delegated by the manager (the outcomes of which would be formally recorded on file). The senior officer will repeatedly attempt to contact an objector over a 48 hour period, after which a decision can be made.

This approach would still satisfy a fundamental principle of Glen Eira’s town planning process by allowing objectors an opportunity to elaborate on their objection with the decision maker. This would build on and follow the recent ‘consultation/mediation’ process adopted for applications with 1 objection.

Ironically we also have in this same agenda more evidence of how poorly council informs residents of what is going on in their direct vicinity. As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, the practise of minimal notification whenever many objections are anticipated, is alive and well. Item 9.1 features an application for 13 double storeys in Carnegie. Only 13 properties were notified, 16 notices sent and 44 objections received.

There is much more more that we will be commenting upon in the days ahead. However of real interest is this in camera item

12.2 which relates to the awarding of the contract for 2014.036 Duncan Mackinnon Pavilion – New Building, Civil Works and Landscaping.

Number of tenders received Four

Number of evaluation criteria tenders assessed against Three

Estimated contract value $8m

Surely residents deserve some public statement on what is happening at Duncan Mackinnon and why a project that originally was costed at 7 million has blown out to nearly ten million and now another 8 million possibly? And why the years and years of delay?