When tens, if not hundreds of thousands of ratepayers’ dollars are spent on consultants then surely it is incumbent on those consultants and the officers who advise and vet the final reports to ensure that they are accurate. This is not the case with the latest Planisphere document entitled Urban Design Analysis – Bentleigh, Carnegie & Elsternwick (uploaded HERE).

Consultants are ‘hired guns’ – employed to do a job where they are bound by their brief and terms of reference set by council and completely reliant on the data that is provided to them by officers. How much they are paid is also correlated to the amount of work expected. If the data is deliberately skewed and the brief so narrow that it becomes meaningless, then the validity of any ensuing ‘report’ must be questioned. This is the case with the Planisphere effort.

Here is the section highlighting the recommendations on Carnegie –

Please note the following:

  • There are no ‘approved’ permits of 16 storeys in Carnegie. The 8 Egan St application for 16 storeys has twice been rejected by both council and VCAT. The first in 2015 and the second in May 2017. Why does Planisphere then state that VCAT approved this application? Readers can check these decisions at – http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2015/1565.html and http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2017/695.html
  • As far as we know there has also not been a 13 storey permit granted. The application was for 12 storeys. Emphasising these illusory ‘permits’ is intended to bolster the argument that greater heights are now a reality in Carnegie and hence the proposed ‘urban design’ is warranted.
  • There is no explanation provided as to why this document concentrates exclusively on the areas nominated in the interim height amendment – especially since many of council’s proposed changes are OUTSIDE the areas included in the amendment – Rosstown Road for example. There is not a single word about Elliott, Tranmere, etc. Why? If the brief was this narrow, then council needs to tell its residents the reasons why and on what basis the changes in other areas were made.
  • The language used is also a concern in our view. For example: south of the railway line we find that an 8 storey permit is labelled as only a ‘minor breach’ of the interim height guidelines of a preferred 6 storey height limit. Yet, North of the railway we find the language changes to ‘significant breaches’ when only one permit has thus far been granted. We remind readers that the overriding reason given by VCAT for this permit was the lack of any height and building design guidelines in the planning scheme!
  • The most startling comment is the recommendation for a 9 storey height limit. Council’s ‘concept plans’ nominate an 8 to 12 storey height limit in this area. Thus we have the ludicrous situation where consultants recommend a potential for 9 storeys and council for some unjustified reason decides that 12 storeys is appropriate! Whether or not this is simply council’s opening ambit claim with the intention of ‘softening’ up the community and making them feel relieved that it will ultimately only be 9 storeys remains to be seen. But surely it is strange that so called experts call for 9 storeys and council wants 12 storeys?

There is much, much more throughout this consultant’s report that needs challenging – especially when activity centres as in Bentleigh have doubled in size and the consultants completely ignore what is happening outside the immediate commercial areas. And surely by any accepted definition ‘urban design’ must include analysis of setbacks, open space, traffic, etc. Planisphere is silent on these issues and residents are left to wonder what else council has up its sleeve?