Two things stand out like sore thumbs when it comes to development applications and the submitted plans:

  • They are often inaccurate and simply WRONG
  • Council has no intention of doing its own required homework. They are more often than not content to rely exclusively on the developer’s documentation – especially on such vital aspects as traffic management and overshadowing.

Recent planning conferences verify the above completely. There have also been some incredible statements that have issued from the various architects and planners working for the developer. For example:

On the Belsize, 4 storey and 52 dwelling application the planner conceded that the balconies (which encroached on setbacks) were largely there for ‘aesthetic’ value. Otherwise the building would look ‘like a box’!!!!!! Topping this off was the comment from the project architect when it was pointed out that the ‘standards’ on permeability, etc. had not been met. His response? – Under the standard it allows for breaching. Needless to say this was met with howls of laughter!

When residents raised concerns about the water table and what damage excavating for a double underground car park would do to the table and surrounds, the response from both the council and developer planner, was that there was no Melbourne Water Overlay on the property. That of course doesn’t answer the question and nor does it safeguard residents since the permit can be issued, problems subsequently confronted, and the damage is done. The $64 question is whether any of these things will even get a mention in the officer’s report and recommendation? And even if it is mentioned, has there been ‘consultation’ with appropriate engineering expertise?

Residents also picked up numerous ‘clerical errors’ and what can only be described as inadequate traffic reports from developers. The Penang Street planner admitted that the submitted plans included dwellings that were marked as two bedroom, which were in fact single bedroom dwellings. But it got a lot worse. According to the submitted shadow diagrams, everything was hunkey dorey! There was no overshadowing that did not meet the ResCode standards. Or so they would like everyone to believe. It was only when one resident pointed out that she had photographic evidence of a current room full of sunshine that would now be facing a three storey blank wall, that the ‘inaccuracies’ of the plans were revealed.

Some of the best quotes however came from the Loranne St (4 storey, 42 dwellings) planning conference. Hyams, who chaired the meeting, is literally starting to sound like a broken record! Once again he began the evening with assertions that the new zones did not add to development and that anyone who was telling people something different must have ‘political motives’. The plans that were available were practically indecipherable so that it was impossible to ascertain the sizes of each apartment. Also missing from the handout was the requisite shadow diagram for the equinox – ie September 22nd at 3pm!

Rachel Bowden represented the developer. We remind readers that she was at one time a senior planner for Council. And didn’t she sound it! Council’s public relations department could not have done a better job than the praise that Ms Bowden lavished on council! We guess that the planning/development circles are small, and certainly incestuous! When it came to answering questions about ‘quality’, all Ms Bowden could provide as an answer, were statements about setbacks, height, and how everything was in accordance with the planning scheme. Not a word of course about basic internal amenity in relation to quality – except that the developer would ‘keep’ some of the units and therefore have control over the Body Corporate. The implication being that this was unlike other developments. When pressed as to whether this meant they would be ‘rented’ out, the answer of course, had to be ‘yes’. Oh the games that these people play!

Our advice for all future objectors on any development is:

  • Check the developer’s plans carefully and ensure that they are accurate in every single respect
  • Check the accompanying traffic report – make sure that the ‘survey’ was conducted at a reasonable time and on more than one single day – ie the Penang Street traffic survey occurred on one single day at 9am and again at 7pm. Totally inadequate since there is a retirement village right next door and visitors are not likely to be parking and filling up the streets before 9am and certainly not much after 7pm. Some of the Penang people also went to the trouble of ‘measuring’ the supposed car parking available spots. Guess what? – the plans were wrong again!
  • Harass, harangue every single councillor. Get publicity! Tell your neighbours, tell your friends. Tell anyone who will listen that your problems will soon become their problems because of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme and the councillors who permitted this to occur in secret and without community consultation.

Finally, that old chestnut of planning decisions. Each and every time residents are told that the officer’s decision on the application will be made available on the FRIDAY afternoon. Council meetings are on the following Tuesday evening. As we’ve stated ad nauseum – people work; people may be reluctant to intrude into councillors’ weekends. That basically leaves two days for residents to absorb the detail, and attempt to lobby councillors. Not good enough. We see no reason why officer decisions on any planning application should not be made available far earlier. Councillors receive their agendas at least 8 days prior to the council meeting. Why should residents only have a few days?

And why oh why are all of these extremely important planning decisions all being crammed into the one single council meeting? What that means is that we estimate that each item will be lucky to receive 5 or 10 minutes of ‘debate’ time. Not good enough when people’s lives and lifestyles are being decided. The advantage for council is of course that everything is done and dusted in the one 2 or 3 hour period. The more the merrier, so to speak, so that everything blurs into one time slot and the pressure cannot be repeated meeting after meeting. This has traditionally been council’s tactics. All decisions of major import somehow manage to find themselves on the one single agenda. Coincidence? Not bloody likely we say!