At last week’s council meeting a permit was granted for a six storey and 117 units in Glen Huntly Road Carnegie – just past Grange Road. The area is now zoned Commercial (thanks to amendment C80) and is bordered by areas zoned General Residential Zone 1 (ie 3 storeys).

We have lamented time and time again the inconsistency and lack of accountability in Council’s planning offer reports. We revisit this issue via a comparison with a decision from September last year and the ensuing VCAT decision. What makes this inconsistency ten times worse is the questions that such a practice raises –

  • Is Carnegie the sacrificial lamb as opposed to North Caulfield (apart from the MRC windfall of the Caulfield Village?)
  • Is Glen Eira Council deliberately facilitating the creation of a ‘second class citizenry’, or are unknown vested interests involved that could explain such inconsistent and unjustified decision making?

In September last year an application was refused by officers and councillors for a 6 storey development in Hawthorn Road. It was also zoned Commercial and surrounded by GRZ1 areas. The application was for 40 units. Below is a table featuring the officer comments from both reports. Please note that neither site is in an Activity Centre and both are on tramlines – Hawthorn Road being close to two tramlines.The only difference is that the Glen Huntly Road application is approximately 600 metres from  a railway station.

Please note carefully:

  • How the Caulfield North Neighbourhood Centre is treated in comparison to ‘Glen Eira’s Neighbourhood Centres’ from the Glen Huntly Road application.
  • Cut and paste (verbatim) – and not for the first time!

144 Hawthorn Roa1

The Hawthorn Road application has ended up at VCAT and the member granted a permit. Whilst we do not support all of the member’s comments, we repeat some of what he said from an earlier post and ask readers to consider how well Council does its work. For example, in the original officer’s report there was this statement – There are no off-street public car parks in the Caulfield North Neighbourhood Centre. This centre is a known ‘hot spot’ in terms of infringements issued for overstaying time restricted parking. This demonstrates a car parking shortfall which extends into evening times. Off course no statistics, no traffic analysis, etc. Thus, at the VCAT hearing the only ‘evidence’ supplied came, of course, from the developer!

Here are some select quotes from this VCAT decision –

The review site forms part of the Caulfield Park Neighbourhood Activity Centre, which falls within the category ‘Neighbourhood Centres – Commercial’. It is in a location where increased residential densities are anticipated, and facilitated, by policy.

while building heights for the Neighbourhood Centres have not been specified in the Planning Scheme, it follows from the above that the height of anticipated development lies within the range established for the residential area and that of the Urban Villages/Phoenix Precinct. The proposed six storey height sits comfortably within these expected outcomes;

It would not be appropriate, in our view, to simply respond to the existing context by limiting development to not more than four storeys, which would equate to the tallest existing structure in the centre, located on the south-western corner of Hawthorn and Balaclava Roads. This would not sufficiently respond to the policy seeking to intensify residential densities in this location. Rather, it would reflect an outcome that would have been anticipated under the former planning regime which pre-dated the strategic work that underpinned the Council’s current housing policies. A height greater than four storeys must reasonably be contemplated for this site given its size and the strategic importance of its location.

There is nothing in the Planning Scheme to indicate that a uniform height is sought for buildings within this centre. Indeed, as noted during the course of the hearing, the land within the activity centre is not affected by any overlays that regulate built form outcomes, such as a Design and Development Overlay or Heritage Overlay. Activity centres are commonly characterised by a varied skyline or building profile. Heights vary, and it is not unusual to find that one building is taller than the others. It may well be that this building will be the tallest in the activity centre. If this were to eventuate, we do not consider it to be an unacceptable planning outcome as, ultimately, it is likely that the disparity in the height with other buildings would be confined to something in the order of two storeys. We consider this to represent an acceptable graduation in height within this context.

Having regard to the scale and form of existing development, there is no question that, at six storeys, the proposal will have a level of prominence within the centre. This is both from within the immediate streetscape and from further afield, in more distant locations along Hawthorn Road, for example. We do not find this to be a reason to refuse a permit. The policies anticipate the emergence of larger built forms within the centre. It is to be expected that these structures will have a degree of visibility within their context. This is particularly so given that this development is ‘the first cab off the rank’ within a low-rise environment.

The Applicant’s evidence confirmed that the shortfall in the car parking provision can be accommodated by the surrounding on-street parking within a distance of some 350 metres of the review site. The empirical basis of this evidence was not challenged. Rather, the Council submitted that, in determining whether to approve the reduced parking provision, consideration should not be given solely to the existing capacity within the adjoining and nearby streets, but also to the demand that is likely to be placed on this resource in the future as the activity centre consolidates and is further developed

We have made our finding based on the empirical data contained within the Applicant’s evidence. The surveys of on-street parking availability clearly demonstrate that there is adequate capacity to accommodate both the two shop car spaces and three visitor spaces. During the daytime, the available car spaces are subject to a range of time restrictions which make them suitable for the short-term nature of parking associated with customers and residential visitors. At evening times and during parts of the weekend, restrictions cease operating. These periods coincide with the times when the peak demand for visitor parking is generally expected to occur. For these reasons we conclude that the proposed reduction in the car parking requirement is acceptable in this instance and not a basis to refuse a permit.

We acknowledge the Council’s concerns regarding the impacts associated with a series of incremental approvals that reduce parking requirements for new developments. We also recognise that this centre lacks an off-street public car park. Parking provision in the activity centre is a broader strategic planning issue that should be approached on a centre-wide basis. If warranted, such an exercise may lead to the introduction of a Parking Overlay, for example, that would assist the Council in achieving its objectives in respect of satisfying the car parking requirements of the centre over the longer term.

We conclude that if residents are to have any confidence in the planning decisions arrived at by this council then, in our view, there must be fundamental change. Officer reports quite frankly are sub-standard, lacking detail, and justification. Since councillors are reliant on such reports for their decision making, it follows, that the ‘quality’ of many of these decisions are uninformed and suspect.