In what purports to be a ‘progress update’ on implementing the recommendations of the Planning Scheme Review, council has published its  ‘updated work plan’. No real detail is provided. No costings are provided. No real information is provided as to what any amendments might contain. Basically, residents are again being kept in the dark.

Worse still are innumerable statements that are incorrect, misleading, or nothing more than vague, useless motherhood statements that reveal the absolute minimum.  After two years of so-called ‘extensive consultation’, residents should know far more about what council has in mind. The fact that we don’t is testimony to the lack of transparency that is the modus operandi of this council.

Here are some examples which substantiate our claims. The images are taken directly from today’s published agenda (Item 9.5)

Some things to note:

  • Urban Design Guidelines are just that – guidelines. Generally they enter the planning scheme as a ‘reference document’ and thus are pretty useless in enforcing policy and ensuring that VCAT adheres to them. To therefore claim that ‘neighbourhood character’ will be protected at best, or strengthened via the Urban Design Guidelines is a total furphy. What is required is the inclusion of ‘preferred character statements’ for all housing diversity areas (and not just the current structure plans) into the planning scheme as a separate policy with clear directions for interpretation. This would involve an overall Housing Character Study, which council hasn’t really undertaken since 1996 when the document was produced. The 2011 Planishere review basically looked at certain areas for Neighbourhood Character Overlays. It certainly did not revisit the entire municipality which was required. Further compounding the lack of planning is the fact that Glen Eira has never had a ‘neighbourhood character policy’ and only those sites in minimal change have had anything comprising ‘character statements’. Most of these have been unworkable since they incorporate vast areas into their descriptions (ie Bentleigh, Ormond and McKinnon are lumped together in 5 short bullet points). Other councils have been far more proactive and have such policies enshrined in their planning schemes with substantial ‘preferred character statements’ for their entire municipalities. These councils are – Bayside, Boroondara, Darebin, Frankston,  Dandenong, Hobson’s Bay, Knox, Maribyrnong, Maroondah, Moreland, Port Phillip, Stonnington, Yarra. Many of these documents have been completed in the past few years. We’ve uploaded the Stonnington document as an example of what can be done and which Glen Eira has failed to even commence, much less complete. Available HERE
  • The Urban Design Guidelines constantly refer to ‘minimal change areas’ (ie NRZ) as containing One or two detached or semi-detached dwellings built on a lot. The height is one or two storeys. Since Wynne’s introduction of his 2017 amendment that removed the 2 dwellings per lot provision, there have been at least 16 applications go to council for multiple dwellings in areas zoned as NRZ. Many of these have already received permits. Yet, there is nothing in the Urban Design Guidelines that acknowledges this fact and its potential ramifications. Not a word is said about the impact of these developments on ‘neighbourhood character’. Nor are residents given any information as to how the schedules to the zoning might change in any ensuing amendment. If the plan is to ‘upgrade’ hundreds of dwellings so that they will go from 2 storeys maximum to 3 or 4, then how does this alter the ‘neighbourhood character’?
  • And are we still having to wait for at least another 3 years before anything is done? If so, what does this portend for our Neighbourhood Centres? We already have 6 storeys in McKinnon, 10 storeys in Ormond, and 7 storeys in Bentleigh East and Caulfield North. What ‘character’ will council see fit to delineate in these areas?
  • And of course the crucial question is: how can any valid character statements be made when there hasn’t been a genuine revisiting of the housing strategy since 1996?

Far more honesty is required from council. Two years have come and gone since the planning scheme review and all we’ve had is the imposition of changes that fly in the face of community views and without the opportunity to comment on such changes. Thus far we have still to see any strategic justification, or any inkling of what the schedules to the zones will contain. Residents are being treated like mushrooms – kept ignorant until it is too late and plans are set in concrete. That is governance at its most devious and despicable.