The outcomes from last night’s council meeting should provide a clear message to all residents that councillors are incapable, or unwilling, to represent their community. It is beyond doubt that there is no intention of doing anything about the new zones.

The gallery was packed to the rafters with residents holding placards opposing the destruction of neighbourhoods. Yet on each planning application councillors came up with basically everything that the developers wanted. Once again the old clichés and shonky arguments were trotted out on cue – most of them irrelevant to the issue at hand. We will go through each application in detail so that all readers can judge for themselves the nonsense that parades as informed decision making by these 9 individuals.

Item 9.1 – Tucker Road Bentleigh – Childcare centre for 142

Okotel moved to accept. Lipshutz seconded.

OKOTEL: said that many many residents’ comments concerned the increased traffic problems that would be created and that there were ‘queries’ about the developer’s traffic management report and how ‘outdated’ it was. However, council had conducted its own investigation on the 18th September and took into account school drop offs and the impact on the local side street. Went on to say that Council’s ‘survey’ was in peak periods and it found that with the childcare centre the outcome would not be ‘burdensome’. Continued with the conditions that council was imposing such as acoustic fences and increased setbacks. Council has got a policy for non-residential uses in residential areas and with the conditions these meet the requirements. Because the proposal has a pitched roof it is therefore in keeping with ‘the character’ of the street. Okotel then stated that she had asked the developer, who runs other such centres, whether they had received any complaints about these other centres and ‘whether there were any issues to do with traffic’. The ‘developer assured that that hasn’t been the case’. Okotel supports the officer’s recommendations because of the ‘strict conditions’ the permit imposes.

COMMENT: Residents should surely be reassured when councillors’ decision making relies on the developer’s word that his other enterprises have not garnered any complaints. Apart from being totally irrelevant to the application at hand, we can only surmise that a developer’s opinion counts far more than resident views!

LIPSHUTZ: began by saying that in today’s world most family income in spent on mortgages which means that both parents work and that childcare is required. Further, that with this application, ‘this is an area where children are’. So ‘this is the right place’ but the question is ‘how can we reduce the impact on the community’. Because council has increased the area permitted for each child the effect has been to ‘reduce the number of children’ to 132 instead of 142. Agrees with Okotel and they’ve reduced the impact on community but at the same time created a childcare centre ‘where it is required’.

LOBO: said this was a ‘recipe for disaster’. Agreed that children need places like childcare, schools, and so on, but there ‘should be certain place for certain things’. Said that kids would be ‘shouting’ and ‘neighbours be disturbed’. Traffic will be ‘mayhem’ since there are 7 local streets and the traffic flows to East Boundary Road or shopping in Centre Road. He’s not saying that ‘we should disregard children’. Council has a walking strategy on the one hand but council is also ‘encouraging young kids to be hit’ by cars as they go to their primary and secondary schools. Said it ‘was a shame’ that kids can’t walk safely. Didn’t think that there was a ‘shortage of childcare’. He is ‘disgusted’ that non-residential businesses can operate in residential areas.

DELAHUNTY: wanted to correct Okotel’s claims about the traffic reports because she got it wrong about who did what and when and because there are ‘some people’ who are ‘very, very good on the details’. Okotel merely made an ‘error’ in inverting ‘who did what’. Said that council’s traffic report was done in 2011 and counted 1450 cars whilst the applicant’s report was ‘on a weekday’ in September 2014 and found 1150 cars. Officers used the 1450 figure because it was bigger and ‘might give a better indication’ of what the traffic is like. Having visited the area she could see that traffic ‘doesn’t flow very fast’. She lives on a ‘beautiful’ wide street and they have traffic calming to keep the speed down. This might look like a ‘messy’ option, but to her and the traffic engineers, it is a sensible solution. As a mother of 3 kids she uses childcare centres and these days people use the basement car parking. It can be hard and there might be some ‘manoeuvring’ especially with babies but is ‘actually quite safe’. On Lobo’s point about children’s noise it is an incredibly ‘happy and joyful’ thing to hear kids playing. If people see this as ‘bedlam’ then she believes that this is a ‘very sad response’.

COMMENT: Are we supposed to congratulate council because they relied on data from 2011? Surely with recent development in the area, and overall increase in traffic movements, figures going back three years are as implausible as the developer’s traffic management report? Residents need to be asking why council does not undertake its own up-to-date analysis of such proposals?

ESAKOFF: said this was ‘allowable use’ so they can’t oppose it and it meets all the requirements for a ‘preferred location’. Thought that they need to consider ‘neighbourhood amenity’ and ‘neighbourhood character’. There is ‘adequate’ transition to the neighbouring properties and the setbacks will ‘minimise visual bulk’. Worried about neighourhood amenity and the condition about the acoustic fence – ‘that’s fine’. but the numbers even at 132 ‘are too high’. Went through other applications where no permit was given for over 120. Thought that reducing numbers would address noise and traffic issues.

HYAMS: ‘thought long and hard about this’ but council has got ‘the right response’. There was concern that if this commercial business was allowed then others could also be allowed but ‘that’s not the case’ except for medical offices and places of worship. People also commented on another application in Tucker Road that was refused but that one wasn’t on a corner. Also if this is refused, then the owner who has got two blocks and ‘will build flats’ which will be ‘up to 10.5 metres high’ and this is lower so ‘far less impact on the area’. Also flats will be ‘busier’ during the night when ‘everyone’s home’ and even residents prefer a childcare centre to a block of flats. So ‘it’s one or the other’. Traffic is an issue but with childcare centres the movements are ‘staggered’ since people arrive and leave at different times. Mentioned the Glen Eira Road childcare centre which council refused but VCAT allowed so chances of them ‘disallowing’ this one is remote. On the number of childcare centres in the area, this wasn’t a ‘planning issue’ and if there are plenty, then this one might stand empty.

COMMENT: Quite incredible that what other childcare centres are in the area isn’t a ‘planning issue’, but somehow, what the developer could build if the proposal is knocked back IS a planning issue. Consistency of argument is definitely not councillors’ forte!

SOUNNESS: said he would prefer fewer children but didn’t see grounds for refusing and with all the conditions imposed saw this as in an ‘acceptable form’.

OKOTEL: said this wasn’t an easy decision and in relation to noise the conditions require ‘acoustic’ walls to ‘alleviate’ this. Where kids play near houses then the conditions again require this to be for babies and that the applicant has said that the babies would ‘only be outside if they are settled’. In regard to numbers, council has applied the guidelines and this reduced the numbers proposed by the applicant. Since it’s a General Residential zone they could have seen an application for units and it’s also ‘pleasing’ that the applicant didn’t ask for the maximum height allowable (ie 10.5 metres). It’s also ‘pleasing’ that it’s a pitched rather than a flat roof.

MOTION PUT and CARRIED. LOBO CALLED FOR A DIVISION. Voting for: Okotel, Lipshutz, Hyams, Delahunty, Sounness, Magee. Voting against: Lobo and Esakoff

PS: Pilling was absent.