The decision for 277-279 Centre Road, Bentleigh has finally been handed down by VCAT. The original application for a 9 storey development was amended by the applicant to 7 storeys. VCAT granted a permit for the 7 storeys.

What is crucial in this decision is the fact that the site sits within the recently gazetted amendment for a 5 storey preferred maximum height – ie under the Design and Development Overlay (DDO8). The amendment was hailed as the ‘solution’ to overdevelopment by council and the Minister – despite residents wanting mandatory height limits for the entire area.

There are several extracts from the decision worth highlighting. They reveal once again council’s inept planning – ie almost nonsensical would be a good description of what constitutes the amendment and its decision guidelines (in bold below). It also points to the current ludicrous plans to allow 8 storeys! Finally, we also find mention of the necessity for a parking precinct plan – something that has been on council’s mind for the last 15 years! They have just never got around to doing anything of course!

The take home message is clear:

  • preferred maximum height limits are useless
  • council’s planning department is performing well and truly below standard
  • these decisions need to be addressed in any structure planning and to ensure that all the countless loopholes are removed
  • strategic justification was not in existence for the Carnegie/Bentleigh amendments. We maintain that they are non existent for the current activity centre structure planning as well!

The source for the following extracts is: –

It is Council’s submission that the introduction of the DDO8 was to temper expectations and outcomes during the period that the controls apply and clearly seek to limit the nature of the development proposed. What Council does not state however is that the overlay does not impose a mandatory height in ‘Area 3’ such as other ‘Areas’ have. This suggests to us that the controls allow for consideration of heights that do exceed the Preferred Maximum. We therefore look for guidance from the DDO8 in assessing the proposed development.

  • If we refer to the decision guidelines of the DDO8 as the relevant ‘test’ to assess if seven storeys, instead of five storeys is appropriate, we make the following findings.
  • Council put to us that this site fails to perform a transitional function (within the activity centre) resulting in a jarring impact at the edge of the Urban Village. We do not agree with this submission. This site is not at the edge of the Urban Village, it may be at the edge of DDO8-3 and DDO8-1. Therefore, we do not agree that it is the role of the site to perform a transitional function. There is currently a five-storey building under construction on the corner of Rose Street which is at the edge of DDO8-1. This is the site that performs a transitional role to the centre and Residential Zones beyond it. The review site is located within the retail hub of the Bentleigh Urban Village and whilst it is not located on the railway station, it is also not located at the edge on Rose Street. We conclude that we do not agree with Council that this site is to serve a transitional function.

There is nothing in the Planning Scheme to require a uniform height in this location. The decision guidelines of DDO8 question whether the proposal is compatible with and respect the character of neighbouring buildings within the same streetscape. We find this a curious guideline. How can a building ‘respect the character of an adjoining single storey neighbouring building when the preferred maximum height is five storeys? Is it to be interpreted that the DDO8 control determines that (in this case) a five storey building adjoining a single storey built form is respectful? It would be nonsensical to assume that a proposed built form even at five storeys would be considered as ‘not respecting a neighbouring building’. This is an example of where strategic work would provide for background as to what and how a guideline such as this is to be interpreted, if indeed, it remained in the overlay. We consider that it has to be the way the proposed built form responds to each interface that is most important, just as the podium base of the building is respectful of the form of built form within the street. This guideline is balanced against others including policies calling for more intense development in activity centres and urban villages.

We conclude that it is reasonable to reduce the car parking requirement and waive the requirement for the 4 residential visitor and 17 commercial spaces. The planning scheme also supports sustainable transport alternatives and the efficient use of car parking. In response to Council’s concerns regarding the future development of the centre and the potential increased car parking pressure, parking in the centre as a whole is a broad issue and one that may warrant strategic planning in the form of a car parking precinct plan.