Below we feature some extracts from a very recent VCAT decision on an application for a 3 storey and 10 dwelling development in McKinnon. The area is zoned as General Residential Zone (GRZ1). Whilst council did refuse the application, the member still has quite a bit to say about the zones in general and council’s failure to even consider traffic!

Needless to say, such a decision has major ramifications for every other development in GRZ and RGZ and gives plenty of hope to residents – if they do their homework properly and if they are prepared to fight inappropriate developments.

Here are some quotes and the full judgement is uploaded HERE

1           This hearing has again highlighted the very different expectations about the future of our neighbourhoods and where we live. Different expectations about what we want for ourselves, for our families and our neighbours, and for our community.

2           On the one hand, I have heard from residents who, whilst accepting that some evolutionary change will occur in Prince Edward Avenue and nearby streets, do not accept the physical change which is likely to occur because of the controls and policies contained in the Glen Eira Planning Scheme.

3           As I observed at the hearing, the absence of demolition controls, the zoning of the land as GRZ1 rather than Neighbourhood Residential, the proximity to train station and shops, and the encouragement given to more intensive development in a Neighbourhood Centre, will eventually lead to a very different character for this area

4          I am not sure that existing residents appreciate the changes that will occur in response to development outcomes sought by the Glen Eira Planning Scheme

5           Open space is provided by way of relatively small balconies of at least eight square metres in area.

6           However I make the point that more intensive development does not necessarily mean that individual lots along Prince Edward Avenue will be capable of accommodating three storey apartment style buildings containing ten dwellings. It may be, for example, that individual lots are unable to comfortably accommodate such development and that lot consolidation will provide a means whereby such buildings can be comfortably accommodated in this area. It is certainly the case that policy at Clause 22.07-3 encourages lot consolidation to promote development opportunities.

7           Whilst I agree that the building is inside the 10.5 metre mandatory height limit in GRZ1, providing a three storey building on a relatively narrow site results in a building that dominates its surroundings. This is contrary to policy for these areas which is seeking to ensure that residential development is sited and designed so that it does not dominate the streetscape and that it be of a lower scale and density to that in the mixed use and commercial areas.

8           Lot consolidation will generally allow for higher and larger buildings because of the ability to achieve various ResCode standards, such as those for side and rear setbacks, over the whole site rather than trying to achieve the same setbacks for individual buildings developed on each separate site. Consolidation therefore makes for a much more efficient use of land and allows for intensification of built form without the adverse impacts that can arise from trying to achieve a similar level of intensification on a smaller lot.

9           In making these comments I acknowledge that there are newly constructed double storey dwellings in Prince Edward Avenue which have minimal landscaping and appear visually dominating. Aside from the fact that individual dwellings do not require a planning permit, they are not buildings which I would use to demonstrate acceptable built form. It is incongruous that, in most cases, individual dwellings do not undergo the same assessment against neighbourhood character and other policies as do developments comprising two or more dwellings, and that these individual dwellings can undermine the character of an area to a greater extent than medium density developments.

10        The request to reduce visitor car parking by two spaces and adverse impacts on the local street network did not form part of Council’s grounds for refusing the application. However these were issues of concern to residents.

11        Although the site is very close to the train station, as discussed at the hearing, I am concerned that far little attention is being given to the cumulative effect of allowing reductions or waivers in the provision of on-site carparking in suburban areas such as McKinnon. Whilst the radial rail network might be convenient for workers travelling to and from the city, the train network is less convenient for non-radial trips. It is less convenient to rely on bus services, particularly at weekends and evenings, when I am consistently advised by traffic witnesses that most visitation occurs. If that is correct then there should be even less justification for allowing a reduction in on-site visitor parking.

12        Given this is a street and an area earmarked for more intensive development, then a threshold will be reached where on-street parking will reach saturation point. Although I accept that might be some way off, I nevertheless consider it inequitable that this development does not provide for all its parking needs within the basement. Moreover, as I observed during the hearing, the encouragement being given by the State Government to train travel has not been, for the most part, matched by the provision of sufficient additional parking facilities at train stations. The result is an expanding level of commuter parking in nearby residential streets, which inevitably compounds parking congestion. I accept that the commuter parking is not such an issue in the evenings and weekends but the lack of parking is symptomatic of a failure to address parking needs in a holistic manner.

13        I also agree with Mr Fairlie that if existing parking and traffic arrangements are unsatisfactory to residents then they need to approach Council to see if improvements can be achieved.