To what extent is council’s planning department in cahoots with developers? A recent application renders this question very, very relevant. The application is for an 8 storey student accommodation building  in Dudley Street, Caulfield East. The proposal is to house 104 students, a shop at ground level and a car parking waiver of 31 spaces. The application is currently being advertised.

All well and good – perhaps. Except that:

  • The site is zoned as Neighbourhood Residential – ie a MANDATORY HEIGHT LIMIT OF 9 METRES OR 2 STOREYS
  • The site is NOT PART of the Phoenix precinct which is (partly) geared towards accommodating student housing.

Yet, this application is now being advertised. Why? Why hasn’t it been refused outright given the above? Secondly, why when the developer admits to ‘pre-application’ meetings with the planning department has council allowed this application to reach this stage of advertising instead of refusing it outright under delegation? Doesn’t the planning department know its own zoning or its own planning scheme?

Regardless of whether Dudley street should have been rezoned eons ago given that there is now 5 storey buildings in this street, the fact remains that it hasn’t been rezoned. So what conclusions can we draw from this? It is clear that council and the VPA intends to expand the Phoenix Precinct. That residents of the area can expect more and more high rise development. This however does not excuse the planning department’s failure to enforce the current planning scheme or to insist that the ‘errors’ contained in the application are removed. For instance: we are repeatedly told that the site is in ‘housing diversity’ area. It is NOT. We are also repeatedly told that the site is part of the Phoenix precinct. It is NOT. Time and again council’s officer reports tell us that it is the current planning scheme that matters and that council’s draft structure plans therefore play no part in the decision making since they are not approved parts of the planning scheme. Surely the same should apply to this application? The fact that it hasn’t, that the developer has been allowed to get away with blue murder, raises fundamental questions about governance, ‘favouritism’, the sheer competence of the planning department and of course, council’s hidden agendas!

We’ve uploaded the current zoning (below)  that clearly shows the NRZ status of the land –

It will be fascinating to see the officer’s report (if we get one) and the rationalising that will undoubtedly attempt to excuse the inexcusable. What is at stake here is the community’s faith in the integrity and objectivity of planning in Glen Eira.