We urge all residents to read the following carefully. It illustrates completely how resident wishes are completely ignored and distorted. It reveals the complete failure of strategic planning in Glen Eira and the unwillingness to remedy this situation. When hundreds of residents demand a review of the total planning scheme, when they demand a review of the entire zones, the argument becomes distorted into maybe, possibly, perhaps years down the track, we might consider something for the commercial zones. This is not councillors representing their constituents. It is councillors representing developers above the community!

Item 9.8 The Minister’s Letter

Hyams moved the motion to accept the report plus adding two more clauses – (1) that officers prepare a report on vcat decisions which show “contradictions on similar applications’, and (2) that ‘officers ascertain’ from the Minister what he allegedly stated to residents regarding structure planning. Seconded by Magee.

HYAMS: said the minister’s letter was ‘disappointing’ although council couldn’t expect him to suddently change everything. He had hoped that he might have said that this could be the start of a ‘process’ where VCAT would have to ‘take account of our planning scheme’. Went on to say that council’s policies have to be approved by the minister and that before they even get to the minister council goes through an ‘exhaustive process’ and the housing diversity/minimal change ‘went through about 2 years of exhaustive consultation’ and the zones were a ‘direct translation’ of this earlier 2004 policy. They also did a ‘lengthy consultation on the whole planning scheme’ and people said ‘they wanted transition zones’ and height limits and more character overlays which ‘became neighbourhood character overlays’. Claimed that a ‘lot of work goes into these’ and it’s a ‘shame’ that VCAT doesn’t pay them more attention. Said the Minister said we should look at zones and overlays because they are more ‘stringent’. Some parts of the zones are mandatory but others remain ‘discretionary’. Problem now is that VCAT is inconsistent and that two members can look at identical applications and give different decisions. That’s why he has moved the second part of the motion and with these examples ‘perhaps this will’ bring more ‘pressure on the government’ to act. The third part of his motion is because some residents in Bentleigh who ‘have taken it upon themselves’ and who are ‘quite eager about changing our planning scheme’. They met the Minister and he ‘apparently gave them an undertaking’ that ‘we were to put in some strategic plans or structure plans’ and that he would be ‘quite ameniable’. ‘That would be nice if it was true’. He wasn’t sure and gave an example of Moreland who asked for ‘ten storey limits’ in their commercial centres and the Minister responded with 13 storey discretionary height limits. So even if there is the possibility of ‘improving the amenity of our commercial zones’ then ‘we’re obliged’ to find out exactly.

MAGEE: claimed that 97% of Glen Eira has ‘a mandatory height limit’ and 3% could ‘possibly’ have council ‘put in some overlays’. Said that ‘regardless of what we are told by some of our residents’ structure plans ‘are nothing more than a plan’. ‘It’s not a law’ but only a ‘look at an area in the future’ that says ‘how it should look like and how do we get there’ and cater for transport, etc. ‘It doesn’t actually say that we have to apply any of that’ and VCAT doesn’t have to do anything either. Claimed that if council wanted VCAT to do anything then ‘it would have to be in the form of an overlay’. Overlays need a panel assessment and they could end up saying that ‘Carnegie is quite suitable for 13 storeys’ and Bentleigh ‘quite suitable for 6’. Council would then ‘have to argue against that’, then the Minister would ‘have information’ saying the opposite. S0 ‘there is a risk in asking for something’ that ‘you don’t get what you want’. Said he was ‘open minded’ about what the Minister said to residents. He and Hyams had met with residents and when they heard what Wynne had said they were both ‘enthusiastic’ because these were different to ‘the comments’ heard ‘in the past’. Previously they ‘had heard’ that commercial zoning was ‘the responsibility of the State Government’. Council only assesses according to the planning scheme. Repeated that if council got mandatory height limits in commercial zones or activity centres then ‘it would have to be in the form of an overlay’. Council will write to the minister to ‘clarify’ what he said. If he is ‘going to be supportive’ of overlays then ‘I would be very willing’ to support ‘going along that line’. But ‘before that’, there has to be a motion, and before that ‘there would have to be information coming back to an assembly of councillors’ so councillors know ‘what is proposed’ and that would need ‘legal advice’, ‘strategic planning’ advice, and they would ‘have to assess that at an assembly of council’ and ‘if there was support to see that go further’. First off, council ‘needs the minister to clarify his comments’ because ‘this process could take anything from one to two years’ and cost over $100,000. He doesn’t want to do this if the minister ‘says no – that’s not what I said’. Need to clarify what he said but overall supportive of an ‘overlay’ around commercial zones.

LIPSHUTZ: said that ‘before we go ahead’ he wants things ‘in concrete’ that it will be accepted and ‘not simply some political speech’. Also have got to be careful about ‘what we wish for’ since might ‘get something we don’t wish for’. Before they start anything they need to get ‘proper advice as to what we actually want’. Earlier Delahunty had spoken about affordability of housing and so ‘maybe we actually want’ some areas to be ‘growth zones where we have higher density’ rather than putting overlays on ‘carte blanche’ and this may ‘not be what we want’. Said it is easy as ‘some residents have said’ to put on overlays of no more than 5 storeys ‘over this whole area – but is that what we want?’ Said that what ‘we have to do’ is have ‘measurable’ facts about ‘areas that aren’t covered’ and ask ‘what is the strategic vision’ and once they’ve got it, then they will ‘go to the minister’. Repeated that ‘sometimes the cure is worse than the disease’ and here ‘it may well be’.

DELAHUNTY: supports Hyams’ motion. Thought that Lipshutz was ‘quite right’ that there is a ‘requirement for high density’ in some areas. Third part of the motion asks for ‘clarification’ from the minister and that ‘this would be a change in direction’ and leads to the question of ‘whether we should go down that road of structure plans’. She likes structure plans because it allows ‘residents to have a say’ on areas in contrast to what is happening now such as ‘piece meal’ planning in ‘making decisions application by application’. But even though she likes the ‘process’ it ‘doesn’t necessarily result in better outcomes’.

OKOTEL: said that council has been ‘frustrated’ by VCAT decisions ‘many times’ as illustrated by the Claire St decision where policy was applied and in McKinnon road was ignored. The inconsistency ‘makes it difficult’ for council because they have to think how VCAT ‘might approach’ the decision and council has to try and be consistent ‘in our decision making’. Also ‘frustrating for residents’ because a lot depends on which VCAT member is making the decision. Claimed that the ‘only way’ to get consistency from VCAT is via the State Government. The minister’s response to council’s letter was ‘disheartening’ in that it said that VCAT could continue and completely ‘disregard our planning laws’, despite ‘the extensive work we’ve put in in developing those policies’. Hyams’ second part of the motion is ‘looking’ for evidence to ‘highlight that inconsistency’ in VCAT decision making. Regarding the third part of the motion, she is ‘eager’ to see the minsiter’s response.

HYAMS: the commercial areas are the only parts in Glen Eira that don’t ‘have a zoning’ and ‘everything is discretionary’. So he is looking to ‘get greater certainty’.