The agenda items set down for next Tuesday feature more planning applications that are literally tearing the heart out of Carnegie and Bentleigh in particular. Of concern is council’s continued penchant to waive visitor car parking with the most spurious and illogical arguments – none of which are of course justified in the various reports.

Here is our ‘review’ of the first of these:

7-11 Belsize Avenue, Carnegie

The application is for a four storey apartment block with 36 units and a visitor car parking waiver of 4. The officer report recommends a permit plus the increase of visitor car parking from 3 to 4 spots – that means a shortfall of 3 spaces.

Things to note:

  • Once again the report does not state how many of these 36 apartments are single, double or triple bedrooms.
  • Setbacks are inadequate but council’s new line of argument is now – Even though the setbacks are less than ideal they still allowed for inclusion of canopy trees, provided that appropriate species were utilised. PLUS this little beauty – The extent of basement and proximity to boundaries was not uncommon for developments of this scale. North-east, north-west and south-east corners all allowed for planning of larger canopy trees.
  • Council repeatedly resorts to the terminology of “preferred character”, conveniently forgetting to highlight the fact that there are NO PREFERRED CHARACTER STATEMENTS FOR ANY HOUSING DIVERSITY AREAS. The result of this failure is that we get the nonsense of: Whilst a four storey development may be acceptable in principle, the design must also respond to its context and achieve an acceptable degree of fit with the preferred character of the area dictated by existing and emerging building forms. What total rubbish.!!!!! With no preferred character statement, conflating ‘existing’ with‘emerging building forms’ is completely contradictory and nonsensical. There are 19 properties in this section of Belsize Avenue. One property has 13 units and another fronting Neerim Road is also a 4 storey with plenty of units. Thus the majority of Belsize remains intact at this point in time! The residents of Belsize and other areas are therefore paying the price of inept council planning that goes back decades. Why aren’t there ‘preferred character statements’? Why hasn’t this been highlighted in the recent structure planning?
  • We also get an entirely new argument with this paragraph – Limited consideration has been given to the structure plan or guidelines due to the advanced stage of the application when the structure plan and guidelines were adopted by Council. Importantly in this respect, the height of the development is in line with the future expectation for this area. Given that council has on several occasions used the structure plan arguments at VCAT, we find it interesting that there is now a divergence from this position and, of course, all to the advantage of the developer! The fact that several paragraphs earlier the report states (f)urthermore it is consistent with what has been adopted under the Carnegie Structure Plan. Thus we have two totally contradictory positions – either the draft structure plan is worthy of consideration, or it’s not. Council can’t have it both ways! Also worth pointing out that the application was received by council on the 29/11/2017 – hardly eons ago! And finally, residents have consistently been told that height is not the be all and end all – yet here we have council’s ‘excuses’ concentrating exclusively on height.
  • Why can’t Glen Eira provide a table that itemises every single component of ResCode and the other requirements that clearly show what is compliant and what isn’t. Council has done this for some applications (poorly) so why not for ALL applications? That would avoid officer reports filled with weasel word after weasel word and phrases – ie ‘not have a major impact’ on traffic; “broadly consistent’, ‘not unreasonably’ etc. Would someone like to give their interpretation of ‘reasonable’ and what ‘broadly consistent’ means?

Our conclusion remains that officer reports are anything but ‘objective’. They simply highlight all the reasons as to why a development should get its permit and ignores, or undervalues, the reasons why it shouldn’t. That of course is planning in Glen Eira!