Please bear with us for this long post which reveals the planning mayhem that is Glen Eira.

In October last year council released its second version of the various structure plans. This followed the July release of version one. Both the Elsternwick and Carnegie October versions maintained the 12 storey height proposals, but this time 2 options were provided for each centre. Our focus of attention is Elsternwick’s Horne Street and its relationship with Ross Street.

The following images depict the 2 current options for this area. Option One is for a complete rezoning of Horne and Ross Street to 12 storeys and the second option is to allow 12 storeys along Horne St., and 4 storeys along Ross Street. Please note that Ross Street is currently zoned RGZ (ie 4 storey maximum height limit of 13.5 metres). Council’s stated rationale for potentially rezoning Ross Street to 12 storeys is interesting to say the least – This option would allow for property owners to gain from the property uplift gained from a future rezoning (Page 56 of the ‘background report’!!!!!!!).

In December 2016 an application came in for a 9 storey development at 1-3 Horne St. We assume that prior to this formal application there would have been plenty of meetings between the developer and the planning department – as council’s own website even recommends! The development application was decided by council six month later on the 13th of June 2017. The officer’s (Rocky Camera) recommendation was a refusal. Councillors voted unanimously to also refuse. Here is part of what the officer’s report stated –

The subject sites have a total area of 612 square metres. The application proposes a maximum building height of 28 metres. Building heights within the immediate area predominately comprise one, two, three and four storey buildings. Despite the policy direction for higher densities in this location, the proposed 9 storey building is likely to present as a jarring and imposing building when read in the context of surrounding lower scale buildings, in particular to the lower scale residential dwellings located to the rear at Ross Street. The design therefore does not appropriately respond or contribute positively to its context or provide an appropriate scale in terms of the bulk and height relative to the scale of the street and surrounding buildings. Development should be appropriate for the area and new buildings should respond to the scale of surrounding buildings. Although there is not always a need to break up the massing of a building based on its context, in this instance it is considered that a predominant lower scale building, characteristic of the immediate surrounding area necessitates a more thoughtful and sensitive design response. (agenda 13/6/2017)

The developer then marched off to VCAT for a review of the refusal. This hearing was held on the 4-5 December 2017. The VCAT member upheld council’s decision to refuse a permit. (See:

The decision and what it implies about council’s planning for the area is fascinating.  In June 2017 council thought that 9 storeys was too high. Yet structure planning was well and truly underway by this time. Barely one month later there was the release of the first draft of the Elsternwick structure plan containing the proposed 12 storeys. So we have the incredible situation where on the one hand council says that something is too high for the specific area and at the same time ignores its own arguments and comes up with 12 storeys instead. Ironic, or just plain incompetent, or have developers, itching to get their hands on some sites been knocking down the doors of council?

Ultimately what does this say about council’s and councillors’ entire planning approach? The VCAT member’s judgement focused quite specifically on overshadowing. Exactly the points that residents raised and which we revealed in our last post. Council of course was forced to admit that they were only now undertaking more ‘sophisticated’ analysis of the impacts. Yet it did not stop them from arguing about overshadowing at the VCAT hearing!

We will finish off with some quotes from the decision.

What is at issue is whether the extent of building intensification at nine storeys is too much for the particular constraints of the site. These constraints include the residential properties to the general south-west of the site, the continuity of development for adjoining commercial sites and the overall presentation of the building to the broader area.

From submissions made and the reasons identified in the council’s grounds for refusal we find there a number of questions we need to determine. These are:

  1. Does the built form adequately respond to its site setting? This is the key matter of consideration and includes how the proposal responds to:
    1. It’s setting in the activity centre at the corner of Glen Huntly Road.
    1. It’s setting to the existing and possible future rear interface of Ross Street and the broader view from the south-west.
    1. Its setting as part of the commercial street of Horne Street, and in particular its immediate abuttal to sites directly south-east of the site.
  1. Does the proposal need to include greater commercial use?
  1. Doe the proposal provide adequate car parking, bicycle and pedestrian access?

The building has a direct interface to three single storey houses at 26A to 30 Ross Street. These sites are located in a Residential Growth Zone where the planning scheme anticipates that there will be redevelopment through consolidation of sites and new building likely to be up to four storeys.

  • The proposed building will present as a nine storey building to these immediate abuttals and the generally lower building forms that exist in the wider area of Ross Street. This includes a three storey apartment building at 26 Ross Street and a 3-5 storey building under construction on the Nepean Highway that has an exposed façade to the court bowl, western end of Ross Street.
  • A key question is what amenity expectation should be held for the immediate abuttals, particularly the secluded open space areas of the three houses at 26A to 30 Ross Street that orientate north-east directly toward the review site

There are two key issues that interlink in this consideration. There are the visual impacts associated with the building bulk and shadow impacts to windows and secluded open space areas. The three adjoining properties all have small secluded open space areas that already receive limited direct sunlight at the equinox.

The proposed building will extend shadow at 9am over the entire roof of the buildings at 28-30 Ross Street. A person standing in these rear yards would therefore be in full shadow. This remains the case generally until sometime between 10.30 and 11am. The western yard at 26A Ross Street is significantly impacted by the shadow by 10am until sometime between 11am and 12pm. By 12pm the shadow of the proposed building moves to the commercial properties at 4-6 Horne Street.

The extent of additional shadow in the morning to these properties is concerning, particularly the complete enclosing of the rear yards at 28 and 30 Ross Street with shadow between 9 and 10am. This emphasises to us not just a question of shadow but also visual bulk to all three of these rear neighbours.

In conclusion we are not satisfied the proposed building sufficiently addresses the amenity of the existing dwellings to its rear. The shadow diagrams indicate that not only will the building cast significant shadow to these sites, but will significantly ‘loom’ over the rear yards of these adjoining sites.

  • Objective 5.1.2 of the Urban Design Guidelines for Victoria seeks to ensure that an activity centre provides a graduated transition between different building scales and uses. We are not satisfied the current proposal at nine storeys, against single storey, or even redevelopment up to four storeys to the south-west, achieves such appropriate graduation.
  • The sharp contrast in heights results in a combination of shadow and bulk impacts to the existing dwellings. We find these impacts to be a key failing of this proposal. Even assuming that the sites are redeveloped we remain concerned that the proposal will create an unacceptable interface to which the adjoining sites would then need to compensate for. We consider this an inequitable outcome.

More important questions arise out of this judgement. Does it in fact mean that council’s proposals don’t even meet the relevant legislation and guidelines for activity centre development?