As part of the ‘community participation’ section of last night’s council meeting there was a question from an Elsternwick resident regarding a recent Age article ( The article featured Melbourne City council’s concerns about development overshadowing parkland and their letter to the Minister for Planning urging legislation amendments so that the winter solstice period could be extended to 6 hours of sunlight instead of the current 3 hours. The resident basically asked 3 questions – cited verbatim:

  1. Will council also join Melbourne City Council in demanding updated legislation that preserves our parklands and residential amenity in terms of overshadowing and make public any council actions?
  2. Has council had any communication with Bayside Council regarding the winter shadowing given the reach of the proposed 12 storey height limits? What is Bayside’s view of the proposed heights?
  3. If Melbourne City council is concerned about heights above 10 storeys surrounding their open space areas, then would you agree that 12 storeys would be equally detrimental to Elsternwick and its neighbouring councils?

Here is the Ron Torres response.

Please note:

  1. Torres fails to answer any of the questions!
  2. Melbourne City Council HAS produced a formal amendment (C278). They are currently awaiting the Minister’s approval for exhibition. All Torres had to do to confirm this was refer to Melbourne’s website – as we have! See: 
  1. “There is an extensive section on shadowing of existing open space” Torres claims. NO THERE ISN’T!!!! The document is 389 pages. The term ‘overshadowing’ does NOT appear once in this tome. What does occur a fabulous THREE (3) times is the following –

Development should not create adverse conditions in open space such as undue shadowing, increased wind effects, intrusion of unwanted light and noise, use of car parking or traffic access for private uses, interference with vegetation and dispersal of weeds, and loss of visibility. (page 91)  

Factors that could degrade open space amenity, function and use include excessive built form, creating a sense of enclosure, noise, light spill, traffic movements, car parking demand, wind effects or shadowing……Applicants may be required to supply studies demonstrating whether there will be positive or adverse effects on open space.(page 92) 

The open space must receive a minimum of 3 hours of direct sunlight between 9am and 3pm during mid-winter and at least 5 hours of direct sunlight between 9am and 3pm on September 22. Where this minimum is not currently met, the development must not create additional shadowing of the open space. (page 92) 

What Torres fails to inform the gallery and anyone listening is that the Open Space Strategy is nothing more than a reference document in the Glen Eira Planning Scheme. It therefore has no binding power as has been stated time and time again by VCAT. Even Clause 21.13, which is supposed to be council’s local ‘policy’ on open space, does not even mention overshadowing. What we are told is – Ensur(e) siting and design of new development maximises community safety and provides opportunities for surveillance of public open space.

What does all this mean? Council can ‘review’ its open space strategy until the cows come home. It will be meaningless unless firm and clearly stated policies are incorporated into the planning scheme itself. Melbourne City Council’s proposed amendment is how it should be done! (see below).

When residents ask questions, they deserve to have them answered. If officers don’t know the answers, then admit the fact. And since this resident has sent off the questions prior to the meeting why hasn’t any councillor responded accordingly with their view? Why is it utter silence from our elected representatives? In the end, is it really so hard for councillors to say –‘ yes’ we will support Melbourne City Council and write a letter?

What readers must also keep in mind is the failure to act and what this means not only for Elsternwick and Carnegie, but for East Village. Please remember that according to the first draft structure plan, we had 8 storeys surrounding a supposedly central plaza? How great a shadow will such buildings cast and what is council doing about it?