Once again the ineptitude of this planning department and councillors is writ large in another VCAT judgement. Councillors grandstand by refusing applications when the number of objectors is large and then wash their hands of the matter. They can then continue to pretend that nothing is their fault but all blame needs to be sheeted home to VCAT – instead of doing what they are supposed to. That is, ensuring that the Planning Scheme is up to date, and all loopholes are closed off. In other words, reviewing the scheme and introducing appropriate amendments and incorporated documents where necessary.

Nor can the planning department escape public criticism. We’ve already had decision after decision where the VCAT member points out that a policy expired in 2007 and has never been renewed. Yet officers, or well paid ‘consultants’, front up to VCAT and argue on the basis of a non-existent clause! Ratepayers of course fork out tens of thousands in defending cases that have not a hope in hell of getting up due mainly to the outdated and woeful planning scheme.

So here is another example of this total indifference and incompetence from all concerned. It involves Heritage (low on council’s priority list!) where an application came in to demolish and rebuild over two sites. Note that we are not arguing for or against the development but merely pointing out what should have been done eons ago, but hasn’t. Here is some of what the member had to say –

It is noted that the application had planning officer support and heritage officer support, however with a large number of objections from adjoining property owners and others in the wider area, Council refused both applications on a range of identical grounds. These included that there would be unreasonable impact on the heritage precinct if the buildings were demolished and that the proposed dwellings were not in keeping with the character and appearance of adjacent buildings.

The two dwellings are in one building form and I note that neither dwelling was identified as being ‘contributory’ to the area in the Glen Eira Heritage Management Plan (1996) prepared by Andrew Ward – architectural historian. I do note however, the dwelling at number 3 Beatty Crescent was identified as ‘contributory’ in the July 2002 Ormond and Bentleigh Draft Heritage Guidelines. This document has not been incorporated into the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, despite it being an upgrade of the earlier document and itself now over 10 years old, so I can give it little or no weight other than for general background information.

Source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/365.html

Whilst it may legitimately be argued that the member should have taken into account the 2002 ‘guidelines’, the fact remains that 14 years later Council has not lifted a finger. Nor have they reacted to years and years of VCAT permits by analysing each decision and coming up with solutions that would give residents greater confidence that going to VCAT is not an absolute waste of time and money. Continually blaming VCAT, as is the want of Lipshutz, Hyams and Magee in particular, does not solve anything – especially when Council has not done a single thing to help its cause. Instead all council has done is seek extension after extension so that it does not have to review its planning scheme via a public submission process and with full community consultation.

The lamentable excuse used has been that the State Government is reviewing the zones. Well and good – but this certainly has not stopped other councils from undertaking a full planning scheme review post zones introduction. Here is the list of councils and the respective dates (which are still ongoing for many dated 2015) –

Ballarat (2015)

Bass Coast (2014)

Bayside (2015)

Boroondara (2015)

Campaspe (2014)

Colac (2015)

Darebin (2014)

Frankston (2014)

Grampians (2014)

Hobson’s Bay (2015)

Knox (2015)

Latrobe (2014)

Monash (2015)

Moira (2015)

Moonee valley (2014)

Moreland (2015 via Amendment C152)

Mornington Peninsula (2014)

Mount Alexander (2014)

Pyrenees (2015)

Queenscliff (2014)

Surf Coast (2014)

Swan Hill (2015)

Warnambool (2015)

Whitehorse (2014)

Whittlesea (2013)

Wodonga (2014)

Yarra (2014)

PS: it should be pointed out that the above Beatty Crescent application was refused unanimously by councillors – including that self-proclaimed ‘expert’ on Heritage – Lipshutz. There were also 39 objections to the application!