PS: VCAT has handed down its decision on the 18 storey, 150+ student accommodation application in Derby Road, Caulfield East. A permit was refused. What is concerning however is that Monash was not opposed to the height and the member commented that anything approaching 10 or so storeys was ok. See:

Officers have recommended the granting of a demolition and planning permit for 10 St Georges Road in Elsternwick. The application is for a 4 storey and 12 unit development in an area currently zoned Residential Growth Zone and is covered by a Heritage Overlay.

The report itself is remarkable. First off, we find innumerable contradictions from page to page. On page 23 of the agenda we are told that there have been 41 objections lodged. This changes to 39 objections on page 39. Next we are told (page 31) that there will be 25 car parking spaces in the underground basement. Since the proposal is for 8 three bedroom dwellings and 4 two bedroom dwellings, this should equate to 20 residential car parking spots plus 2 for visitors (at 5 per unit). We are then told that there is one shortfall in visitor car parking and that this is ‘acceptable’ from traffic management. These figures can’t both be right. Either there isn’t the provision for 25 car parking spots to begin with or someone can’t count!

The above is the mere trivia – but surely residents should be able to rely on officer reports that make sense and are accurate and non contradictory? The more important issues relate to the zoning and the actual recommendations.


In the archaic 1996 Heritage Review the site is listed as ‘non-contributary’. Council’s current Heritage Advisor recommends that this be changed to ‘contributary’. We’re even told that he/she recommends that ‘Demolition of existing dwelling is discouraged’ (page 31). The Planning Department however, sees things differently and this paragraph neatly sums up council’s attitude to heritage –

Given the altered state of the existing building, its current non-contributary status, and that the replacement building will provide an additional 11 dwellings for future residents ….it is considered on balance, the demolition of the dwelling is acceptable.

Further on we get another comment that should boggle the mind – ie. a contradiction in terms – ‘modern’ versus ‘heritage’?

It is considered that the proposal has appropriately responded to the heritage context. This has been achieved proposing a modern design which does not mimic surround heritage buildings but uses materials (brick and concrete render) which reflect the surrounding buildings.

The report goes on to acknowledge that council is in the process of updating its Heritage Policy and that the building will now be classified as ‘contributary’. However, only current planning controls have statutory weight, therefore Council must consider the existing dwelling as ‘non-contributory’. Rubbish we say! Council can do what it likes as it attempted (unsuccessfully) to argue at VCAT recently regarding its future structure plans.

What should be borne in mind is that we are still waiting for a full Heritage review. Amendment C149 is only looking at existing Heritage Areas and all it will achieve is becoming a ‘reference document’ in the planning scheme. There must be countless properties that were somehow ‘missed’ in 1996. Thus for 21 years this council has been content to sit back and do absolutely nothing on Heritage.


The fact that countless areas throughout Elsternwick, Bentleigh, and Ormond have been zoned for growth via the introduction of the residential zones in 2013, illustrates again the abysmal and shoddy planning of the time. Admittedly, council is now attempting to rezone such areas, including St. Georges. Too little, too late and granting a permit here does set a precedent. Also, we have repeatedly pointed out how many streets that are now earmarked for height reduction have already been destroyed by the number of 4 storeys contained within them. The current attempt to redress this stupidity is an admission of what a mistake the 2013 zones were!

Since there is no structure plan yet in existence, the argument presented for the heritage component remains the same. The area is zoned for 4 storeys, so it is legal and legitimate!

What is not acceptable in our view is the rationale that the planning department uses. Front setbacks are ‘reasonable’ even though ‘a mimimum setback of 8.7 metre is required to strictly comply’. Yet council is happy to accept 5.7 metres!!! Why shouldn’t developers comply ‘strictly’ with ResCode?


It would appear that in the battle between heritage and development the latter wins hands down. This will continue for at least another 2 to 3  years until council gets its heritage amendment up as well as its structure planning.

If council was really concerned about heritage we are certain that the recommendation could have been a refusal. At the very least this would have given time for the amendment to get up. When council is so ‘robust’ as to refuse scores and scores of applications for 2 double storeys in the Neighbourhood Residential zone, and impose these costs and time delays on applicants as they await VCAT hearings, we don’t believe that this couldn’t have happened in this case!

As a final comment, please note that the online version of the agenda was still not available at 4.30pm today. This, despite council’s promise that agendas will be available from 12pm!