We have repeatedly stated that VCAT is no angel and that its powers are extraordinary. However, this does not excuse council from repeatedly passing the buck as the above media release obviously intends to do. Reform starts at home – with the planning scheme and with the quality of Glen Eira’s representation at VCAT hearings and the substantiated grounds for their refusals.

Below we feature some extracts from recent VCAT hearings. Readers should note the lamentable performances of council at these hearings – ie ill considered conditions that fly in the face of the current planning scheme; statistics that are not corroborated with clear and decisive evidence, etc. etc. If VCAT has in fact granted all these permits then residents should start asking if they are getting value for money in both the council representations at VCAT, and why councillors do nothing to change the Planning Scheme that provides developers with an open invitation to continue their onslaught.

6 Prince Edward Avenue, McKinnon – Council originally refused a permit for 2 storey building with 6 apartments. An amended plan was submitted. The site is zoned GRZ1 and land size is 724.6 square metres.

The decision –

In principle, I consider that the zone, the absence of overlays, the consideration of relevant planning policies and the locational attributes all lend support to a more intensive development on the review site. Although residents may prefer medium density developments of not more than two or three double storey townhouses, that intensity of development is inconsistent with the extent of built form expected within a neighbourhood centre and in a housing diversity area.

State and local policy, the zone and the absence of overlays together with a location accessible to a range of services and facilities supports increased dwelling density and housing diversity on the review site. Anticipation of change to neighbourhood character is acknowledged in local policy for this area by its inclusion in a ‘housing diversity area’ where there is no preferred neighbourhood character identified.

At the hearing there was some dispute over the proposed site coverage. The plans indicate 50%, though Mr Clarke for the Applicant acknowledges that this does not include the roofed areas to the two alfresco areas, which he offers to have removed by permit condition. The Council’s delegate report refers to a 54% site coverage, including the roof alfresco areas. However at the hearing Mr Henderson for the Council alleged the site coverage is 58%, although I was not provided with any detail of the calculations used to arrive at this figure.

  • In its submissions the Council placed great reliance on the proposed site coverage, and how this varied from the site coverage found on the surrounding properties. Mr Henderson even submitted a cadastral plan where he had calculated the site coverage of surrounding and nearby properties. With respect, I consider that this analysis misses an important point. The review site is proposed to be subject to a medium density development. While the site falls within a Minimal Change Area and is covered by a Neighbourhood Residential Zone, medium density development of two dwellings on a lot is possible, and one might say encouraged by the broader urban consolidation policies found at a State level.
  • In is inevitable that any proposal for medium density development will invoke some differences compared to a single detached dwelling. One of those changes in an increase in site coverage, which must increase as a result of having two dwellings on a comparable site to surrounding single dwellings. It is not relevant for a party to identify that the site coverage of proposed medium density housing is not in the range of site coverage found on surrounding single dwelling sites, and then present this as some form of evidence that the proposal stands in contrast on neighbourhood character terms. Such a submission demonstrates a level of misunderstanding of what is meant by ‘respect for neighbourhood character’ and the extent to which two dwelling developments should integrate into Minimal Change Areas. For these reasons I am not persuaded by the Council’s submissions on this matter.

It is relevant that in applying the policy, the condition in dispute, as proposed by the Council, allows the upper floor level of both dwellings to extend well past the rear of the single storey dwellings on the two adjoining properties. However, in imposing the condition, the Council has come to the view that the setback should be increased by about 1.8 metres. How the Council came up with this figure is unclear and somewhat vague. From the submissions presented, the setback required by the condition is not based on any standard. The requirement is not based on any specific policy requirement. Nor are the increased setbacks required to achieve the improvement of amenity of neighbouring properties with respect to matters such as daylight or shadows. At best, the additional setback required by the Council seems arbitrary.