The following Request for a Report was passed unanimously on Wednesday night. Whilst a definite step forward, much will depend on the eventual report and the determination of councillors to follow through on changes to the planning scheme. We wait with bated breath!

Crs Sounness/Delahunty

That a report be prepared on the effectiveness of existing planning scheme tools addressing neighbourhood character, and consider the merits of a fresh publicly advertised scheme amendment, local policy and/or design guidelines to establish the preferred emerging neighbourhood character.

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously.

Here’s the “discussion” –

SOUNNESS: Started by saying that there has been ‘some discussion’ about ‘where development is taking place’ and that ‘some parts’ of the planning scheme talk about ‘neighbourhood character’. Said that when applications come in he often hears the comments that this is ‘evidence of emerging neighbourhood character’ and that it should ‘be respected’. However, Sounness ‘isn’t so sure of what that emerging character is’. Thought that ‘council and the community’ should have ‘more involvement with that conversation’. Said he would ‘love to see’ a conversation about ‘height, density, form’. Acknowledged that there had been a lot of work done previously on neighbourhood character and that this was ‘best practice’.

DELAHUNTY: said that once councillors ‘get some more information’ then that ‘would be great’.

PILLING: stated that he was a ‘bit dubious about the results’ that ‘would come back’. Said the zones ‘were all about’ the height and that in trying ‘to be more prescriptive’ he wasn’t ‘sure that there are such tools’. Nevertheless, ‘more information is always good’. Said that ‘there’s a reason’ why Glen Eira hasn’t gone down the path of structure plans but he is ‘happy to support’ the call for more information.

PS: From ‘The Age’

High-rise buildings banned on strip shopping centres in Melbourne’s leafy east

Date: April 9, 2015 – 5:45PM

Clay Lucas

High-rise development has been all but banned along strip shopping centres in some of Melbourne’s wealthiest suburbs, after new laws were approved by the Andrews government.

Boroondara Council covers suburbs including Camberwell, Surrey Hills, Balwyn, Kew and Hawthorn.

On Thursday, the state government gazetted laws the council had requested that effectively remove the prospect of new buildings higher than three levels in most of its shopping strips.

The changes to the council’s planning scheme mean that, in all but a dozen locations across Boroondara’s 6000 hectares, development is capped at just over three levels.
The new rules include mandatory height limits of 11 metres in areas that are on tram and train lines, such as Camberwell and Surrey Hills.

Boroondara Mayor Coral Ross said that, in all, there were 31 neighbourhood shopping centres that now had new building heights capped.

She said the change would allow for medium-rise development, and would mean residents and developers had certainty about what was allowed.

“The primary focus,” she said, for the planning rule changes, “was to balance the need to provide growth opportunities while at the same time maintaining the neighbourhood shopping centre scale”.

An independent government planning panel formed in 2013 considered the proposal to prevent high-rise development put forward by Boroondara.

It found last year that, while rules on heights should be applied in neighbourhood shopping centres, there should be the possibility of buildings going higher and that mandatory height limits should not be used.

The limits to height in these suburbs stands in contrast to many other suburbs of Melbourne where high-rise towers are proposed or being developed.

In the most recent case in suburban Melbourne, Banyule Council will next Monday decide whether to approve a 26-level tower proposed for Heidelberg.

Planner Colleen Peterson has been vocal over the past two years on the push by Melbourne’s inner eastern councils, including Boroondara, to stop higher-density housing.

New zones introduced by the Napthine government prevented high-rise in many residential areas of Melbourne’s inner eastern suburbs.

Ms Peterson said that the latest changes for Boroondara meant anything above three levels would now largely be stopped at many of Boroondara’s busy shopping strips as well.

Ms Peterson said 80 per cent of Boroondara had already been “locked away from development” after changes to residential zones last year.

“Now, what limited chance there was for in-fill housing is being locked away even more tightly,” Ms Peterson said. “There are a lot of centres in Boroondara, particularly on tram and bus routes, that are suitable for higher forms of development – four or five storeys,” she said.

“We are not talking about 27-storey towers,” she said, “and the opportunity to increase density along public transport corridors has been undermined.”