A couple of basic questions to start with:

  • How much does it cost ratepayers to defend the indefensible at VCAT?
  • How ‘competent’ are our planning staff, or
  • Are we witnessing the expansion of council’s agenda that is designed to reinforce the image of VCAT as the awful ‘villain’?

For the past year or so, council via ‘manager’ has refused an extraordinary number of planning applications for 2 double storeys in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone. These applications then invariably head off to VCAT and we estimate that over 90% are granted their permit and council’s refusal is set aside.

Here is a sample and the full summary for the past year is uploaded HERE

The applications in this image are all well and truly over 600 square metres and one is over 700 square metres. Surely, any ‘transgressions’ could have been remedied via thoughtful conditions rather than incurring the costs of going to VCAT  for both the developer and council.

What is literally staggering is the quality of the council arguments that then occurs at VCAT. A recent VCAT decision must surely take the cake for the most inept and farcical attempt to defend council’s refusal. We quote:

  • The responsible authority’s key concern focused on the rear of the site and what it considers to be an open backyard character of the area. In particular, it was concerned that the rear setback of the first floor of the proposed dwelling 1 would be closer to the rear boundary of the subject land than the rear setback of the older dwelling at number no.16 Molden Street. It submitted that the rear setback of the first floor of the proposal should not extend deeper into the review site than the rear setback of the existing dwelling at no.16 Molden Street.
  • We do not agree with the responsible authority that it is appropriate the prevailing setback to the rear boundary of a dwelling built some seven decades ago should prescribe the rear setback of one or two new contemporary dwellings. Simply ruling a line across the subject land aligned with the setback of the existing older dwelling on no.16 Molden Street does not comprise site and context responsive design. It is a very blunt tool to use to determine whether a proposal is respectful of the existing character of the area. More importantly such an approach has no basis in the scheme.

So the questions remain:

  • Why are so many applications in NRZ being refused? Surely they can’t all be that poor? and especially when they meet all the NRZ schedule requirements for site coverage, height, permeability, setbacks as the one cited above has done?
  • Why is council content to waste its planners’ time and effort in defending the indefensible?
  • How much is this costing ratepayers – especially in an era of supposed cost cutting and pressures on councils to be far more frugal and proficient in what they do?
  • We suggest that instead of spending tens of thousands on such cases, that council should employ far more competent planning staff to deal with the current planning chaos that is Glen Eira!

PS: in order to provide a little more context to the above we add the following – a list of all published VCAT outcomes from January 2016 to the present day. All decisions involved 2 double storey applications in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone. Council’s record as revealed below is literally appalling with only one ‘refusal’ upheld and only several ‘varied’ – ie council’s conditions chucked out. More applications are awaiting decision.

8 Bokhara Road, Caufield South – set aside

45 Mortimore Street, Bentleigh – affirmed

285 Alma Road, Caulfield North – set aside

20 Cushing Avenue, Bentleigh – varied

40 Fromer Street, Bentleigh – set aside

19 Thomasina Street, Bentleigh East – set aside

12 Anarth Street, Bentleigh East – set aside

20 Begg Street, Bentleigh East – varied

1 Heatherbrae Avenue, Caulfield – set aside

6 Glenmer Street, Bentleigh – set aside

309 East Boundary Road, Bentleigh East – set aside

6 Burreel Avenue, Elsternwick – set aside

3 Malcolm Street, McKinnon – set aside

1 Jane Street, Bentleigh East – set aside

633 Warrigal Road, Bentleigh East – set aside

7 East Boundary Road, Bentleigh East – set aside

1A Osborne Avenue, Bentleigh – varied

8 Murrong Avenue, Bentleigh – varied

34 Omar Street Caulfield South – set aside

25 Coates Street, Bentleigh – varied

2 Draper Street, McKinnon – set aside

5 Lord Street, McKinnon – varied

3 and 4 Beatty Crescent, Bentleigh – set aside

18 Richard Street, Bentleigh East – set aside

30 McArthur Street, Bentleigh – set aside