VCAT is no friend of residents. However, if there ever was a more clear-cut condemnation of the ineptitude, and indifference of Glen Eira City Council to land use planning, then it comes in the decision for a 12 storey, and 134 units, plus shops, plus waiver of some visitor parking in Woorayl Street, Carnegie.

Every single resident should read the judgement and in particular the following extracts. They will show:

  • How policies that expired in 2007 have not been touched since
  • How maps in the planning scheme contradict policy
  • The failure to include overlays and urban frameworks – the ‘tools’ that Sounness so easily reneged on
  • This judgement reads as a litany of utter failure to protect neighbourhoods

“We have found that although a 12-storey building will represent a highly visible built form change on the review site and nearby, this outcome is supported by policy that aims to increase intensity of development in activity centres close to public transport and provide the highest density of dwellings within Urban Villages including Carnegie. In reaching that conclusion, we have had regard to the absence of overlay or schedule provisions containing preferred heights and the local policy framework that provides little specific guidance on height or built form outcomes sought for the area.

The policy includes a map that divides the Carnegie Urban Village into nine precincts. The review site is within Precinct 1 that contains most of the area between Dandenong Road and the railway line. There are specific built form policies for all precincts except Precinct 1. The policy for Precinct 1 expired on 30 September 2007. There was reference to the expired policy in various submissions and evidence at the hearing. We indicated at the hearing and confirm in this decision that we give no weight to a policy that, despite referring to objectives for the precinct, expired over seven years ago

We find clause 22.05 on Urban Villages provides general direction on how Carnegie is expected to change. Its general principles are relevant and its Precinct Map provides direction on land uses, street interfaces and the treatment of public places. It provides little direction on the height, scale or form of new development, which we consider are important elements of any statement of preferred character. As such, we find this policy allows great scope in interpreting what the preferred character might be.

The Urban Village Structure Plan is a Reference document to this policy. It identifies a Precinct layout that differs from what is in Clause 22.05 and includes the review site in a Mixed Use precinct, east of Koornang Road. It says this area is ideal for high intensity activity due to its proximity to the shopping centre, public transport and major road network. It says the Council should strongly consider purchasing the open space north of the railway reserve and when purchased redeveloped with seating, play equipment and lighting. It recommends that development avoid overshadowing the rail reserve’s open space. It also encourages a pedestrian walkway between Woorayl and Arawatta Streets, a new road link between these streets and the closure of the western end of Woorayl Street. We place little weight on this document. As a reference document, it provides background to the Urban Village policy. It does not substitute for the policy and is not a replacement for the expired policy in the Planning Scheme for Precinct 1. As such, we find it does not justify the Council’s submissions regarding the height of new development on this site or its submissions that that the site should provide a pedestrian link between Woorayl and Arawatta Streets.

A building must not exceed the maximum height specified in a relevant Schedule; however, the relevant Schedule sets no maximum height. The decision guidelines require consideration of State and local planning policy and the Guidelines for a development of five or more storeys.

  • Council is concerned that the proposal will result in significant shadow and associated loss of amenity to the public open space area on the south side of Woorayl Street. In the context of the urban village, Council contends this is unacceptable especially given there is no other open space in the activity centre or nearby. The unreasonable shadow impact in Council’s submission will occur in winter as well as spring and this outcome is contrary to policy that seeks to improve the quality of open space, to the DSE guidelines that aim to avoid reduction of sunlight to important public places and to the concerted efforts Council is making to improve quality and quantity of open space in the municipality. The City of Glen Eira Open Space Strategy 2014 recommends securing this reserve as a high priority and identifies it as an important open space for the community living and working north of the railway line. In addition, this Strategy includes guidelines that seek between 9am and 3pm a minimum of three hours direct sunlight at the winter solstice and five hours at the equinox.
  • It is the applicant’s submission that it is not reasonable to expect that there will be no winter shadow to the reserve opposite. The applicant says the shadow outcome is acceptable having regard to its role and function, the limited improvements, the public use zoning and the lack of any evidence that Council has a prospect of obtaining the land for public open space.
  • Ideally there would be no shadow cast to the reserve but on balance we consider the extent is acceptable having regard to the following matters:
  • The reserve is owned by VicTrack and zoned for Public Use –Transport. It is not zoned for public open space and it is not subject to a Public Acquisition Overlay.
  • Although there are Council aspirations to secure the reserve for open space, that conclusion is not assured. The plan to secure the reserve has been in place since 1998 with no apparent advancement to that end and the uncertainty about the future of the land is increased by potential rail works to provide grade separation at Carnegie with implications for land owned by VicTrack

The objective in the DSE Guidelines to avoid reducing sunlight to public places applies to ‘important’ places and refers to the option of local policy identifying public spaces that should be protected at the winter solstice. There is no such policy in the Planning Scheme but rather in a reference document and the importance of the space is reduced, in our view, by its unknown future.

  • Council criticised the proposal for failing to provide a public pedestrian link from Woorayl Street to Arawatta Street through to Dandenong Road as sought in the expired local policy for the precinct and supported by the Urban Village Structure Plan 1999. Council says such a link would assist in increasing permeability though the precinct and specifically would assist with improving walkability and access to the train station.
  • We have already indicated that we give the expired policy no weight. Whilst we acknowledge the Urban Village Structure Plan refers to a pedestrian link that would improve connectivity to Dandenong Road, we consider a 15 year old suggestion in a Reference document with no ongoing translation into policy is difficult to support. There are no obvious pedestrian link opportunities between Arawatta Street and Dandenong Road with no footpaths adjacent to the vehicle access to the car park, no pedestrian entry to the Spotlight development from Arawatta Street and Council did not identify any detailed analysis to support the concept. We consider the need for the link is not clear and would not refuse the application for this reason.

There are 134 dwellings proposed of which 123 are one or two bedroom and 11 are three bedroom.