Activity Centres & Structure Plans

State governments of all persuasions have encouraged and endorsed councils’ implementation of structure plans. Here’s why:

Structure plans provide the foundation for activity centres change by defining the preferred direction of future growth and articulating how this change will be managed.

Structure plans will guide the major changes to land use, built form and public spaces that together can achieve economic, social and environmental objectives for the centre. To encourage development within centres, government policy encourages local governments to review the purpose and function of individual centres and to revise local planning policies through a program of structure planning for each of their activity centres. (Source:

Stonnington goes further –

A structure plan is a planning tool that sets out a vision for the future development of a place. It establishes a planning and management framework to guide development and land-use change and aims to achieve environmental, social and economic objectives.

A structure plan takes into account all of the issues affecting an area, including its buildings and spaces, land uses, activities and transport. An essential aspect of the structure planning process is feedback from the community on how the area should evolve. An important phase of the structure planning process requires consultation with the community, local residents, traders and the development industry to determine the best outcome for the centre. Each structure plan will require consultation. (Source:

Glen Eira does not have structure plans whilst every other council in the metropolitan area does. Residents have never been provided with an adequate explanation as to why not. Yet we find this paragraph in the current discussion paper on Theme 2 – Urban Design in Activity Centres –

Guidance for development in these areas can include local policies, structure plans, urban design frameworks, zones, and overlay controls. Currently, Glen Eira utilises a combination of zoning and local policies to outline the preferred planning outcomes for its activity centres.High-rise development in commercial zones has recently been raised as a concern as prescriptive height limits do not apply at present.

Readers should also note that:

  • Urban design frameworks do not exist.
  • Design and Development overlays of note do not exist
  • The only ‘overlays’ in activity centres are student parking, and some for flooding and heritage. Yet, in their wisdom, council still decided that some heritage areas should be included in Residential Growth Zones (ie in Bentleigh).

As far as ‘preferred planning outcomes’ goes, all that the planning scheme contains for its major activity centres of Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie, are ill-defined, nebulous and contradictory statements. For example – readers should ask themselves what the following means, when no definitions, or precise criteria  are provided.


  • Where opportunities exist, a range of housing types be promoted at increased densities.
  • Where opportunities exist, medium density housing be encouraged in the residential areas surrounding the centre.
  • The managed change of the neighbourhood character of these areas be encouraged.


  • Encourage higher-density residential development.
  • Increased density residential developments be encouraged.
  • The managed change of the neighbourhood character be encouraged.


  • A multi-storey car park may be developed within the existing Coles supermarket car parking area if sympathetically designed to complement the surrounding built form.
  • All developments provide adequate off street parking to protect the amenity of the residents.
  • New developments provide an appropriate interface to adjacent valued community assets such as the churches
  • This precinct be encouraged as an area for higher density development at heights compatible with adjacent buildings.

The height of residential developments be determined by:

  •  Site context, including the scale and character of surrounding development.
  • Site characteristics, including area, dimensions, orientation and topography.
  • Existing development on the site, including height, bulk and site coverage.

Returning to the discussion paper, we find the most extraordinary sentence:

This (structure plans) can offer certainty for residents and developers alike but takes time to implement due to the complexity of research required.

Should we interpret this as an admission that because something is ‘complex’ that it is beyond the capability of council administration?  And if it does ‘take time’, then council has had 17 years to get its act together and produce some decent planning.

Here are some questions that residents should consider asking their representatives:

  • Is council contemplating introducing height limits on commercial areas only in the major activity centres of Bentleigh, Elsternwick, and Carnegie? Will council introduce height limits on commercial sites in its Neighbourhood Centres such as Bentleigh East, McKinnon, Ormond, Murrumbeena, Caulfield North, Glen Huntly, etc?
  • Why has council refused to introduce structure planning and will they begin this process now?
  • Why are heritage areas zoned as Residential Growth zones in Bentleigh, when the government’s practice notes clearly state that such areas should be excluded from the RGZ?