Two long standing permits are now seeking additions to the number of dwellings. One on the corner of Orrong Crescent and Inkerman Road is asking for an increase of 10 dwellings. Council is prepared to grant them an extra 6 dwellings with only one being a 3 bedroom apartment. The other application is in Balaclava Road and the increase asked for is a ‘mere’ 14 dwellings. None are 3 bedroom.

What is staggering about these applications is that permit extensions have been granted time and time again. The Balaclava site permit goes back to 2005 and the Orrong Crescent one to 2010. In 2012 a council report admitted that no statistics are kept on how many permit extensions are granted, and that there is no need for council to even bother about such statistics. Thus, permits granted over ten years ago are rubber stamped and height and number of dwellings often increased. And it does matter if a council repeatedly grants 10% or 90% of requests for permit extensions – especially if the original permit goes back over a decade ago. What may have been acceptable ten years ago is likely to be ‘unacceptable’ to most people ten years on and with the increased development all around the site.

However, there is one new aspect to the officer report on the Orrong Crescent application. In July 2014 a report on dwelling sizes took the ‘let’s do nothing’ approach which was endorsed by councillors. In part it stated – The current system largely leaves dwelling size to the developer whose interest is in responding to the housing market. It is considered that it is difficult to argue that town planning is best placed and therefore should intervene in dwelling size to a greater extent than it currently does.

Now the Orrong Crescent report includes the following –

Dwelling 2.04, at 36sqm in floor area and with a balcony of 5sqm is considered to be undersized, will not offer future residents with a reasonable level of amenity and is not supported. It is recommended that this dwelling be incorporated into Dwelling 2.03 (and made into a two bedroom dwelling).

Whether or not this ‘shift’ is nothing more than a token response to recent publicity, knowing that the application will probably end up at VCAT, remains to be seen. It is, however, welcomed. What would be even more ‘welcome’ of course would be for council to introduce its own amendment to regulate ‘diversity’ and dwelling sizes and to stop rubber stamping all requests for permit extensions without a comprehensive appraisal of the cumulative impacts in surrounding areas.