For all the spin that the Urban Design Guidelines will ensure the right buildings in the right places, recent events reveal how ineffectual such ‘guidelines’ really are. Here’s why:

  • They are ‘discretionary’ and NOT mandatory
  • They are Reference documents only and NOT part of any specific clause of the planning scheme
  • There is nothing in the recently gazetted structure plans which mandate developers to abide by the aspirations of this ‘reference’ document

Best illustrating how council’s spin does not equate with reality, we have the example of 100-104 Mimosa Road, Carnegie. Originally an application came in for a 4 storey apartment block of 49 apartments. With the introduction of the structure plans we now have a ‘revised’ application for 3 storeys and 41 apartments. Height is the only aspect of the structure plans which are mandatory (only for Bentleigh & Carnegie), hence the removal of one storey. All well and good people might say. Except that Mimosa Road is, according to the structure plan, located in Precinct 2. And Precinct 2 is supposedly designated as ‘Garden Townhouse’ of up to 3 storeys, 11 metres. In other words, NOT an apartment block.  Yet this is what is now proposed – definitely NOT ‘townhouses’!

On the 28th February 2018, council minutes contained the following in regard to the Urban Design Guidelines –

The Quality Design Guidelines were produced to:

Respond to the aspirations of the Glen Eira community regarding neighbourhood character and to deliver on the vision for our neighbourhoods.

Encourage a high level of architectural design in new developments.

Provide clarity and certainty about Council’s expectations for new developments.

Support and supplement existing design guidance provided by the Glen Eira Planning Scheme and relevant State Government initiatives.

AND

Beyond ensuring better design outcomes are achieved across Glen Eira, implementation of the Quality Design Guidelines will deliver four significant benefits:

  1. Clarity and certainty for everyone
  2. Garden townhouses in residential streets
  3. Protection of character and human scale of shopping streets
  4. Maximising community benefit on strategic and urban renewal sites

Another ‘advantage’ of the Garden Townhouse aspiration was that –

  • Ground floor living reduces the impact of overlooking onto neighbouring backyards
  • Less dwelling density in residential streets address concerns of parking and traffic

The developer’s ‘revised’ application puts pay to all of this spin. We quote directly from the Urbis report:

…it is noted that the setback, landscaping, building design, landscaping and all other objectives are considered to be discretionary, whilst the specified height is considered to be mandatory. 

The built form currently proposed is an ‘apartment’ style building. It is considered that although a ‘town house character’ is encouraged by Amendment C157, it is noted that an apartment style character is a common characteristic within this neighbourhood setting 

It is noted that the proposed development does not provide the number of canopy trees required to be planted on the entire site and deep soil planting is restricted along the rear of the boundary and partly along the side boundaries. However, the street trees are proposed to be retained as part of this proposal and additional planting can be provided within the front setback of the development 

There are plenty of other problems with this application. For example:

Site coverage is 68%. Supposed to be 60%

Permeability is cited as 20% the required amount, but one has to query the following phrase attached to this number – ie deep soil area is 13% remains unchanged. What does this say about permeability per se, or the extent of the basement car park? Please remember that council’s ‘promise’ was to ensure that basement car parks did not cover practically the entire site!

What happens with this application will be instructive to say the least. More than anything it highlights once again the failure of this council to produce results that have real effect.

Finally a comment on governance and the continued monkey business that occurs with council’s online register. The application for 4 storeys came in months and months ago. It then disappeared entirely from the online register. Nothing such as ‘withdrawn’ was noted. It then made a reappearance as an entirely new application but still contained the SAME DATE as the original application for 4 storeys.

Online registers are required to contain information about every single application – their amendments, dates, decisions, etc. Far too often in Glen Eira inaccuracy and obfuscation replaces legal requirements!

Here are the two different applications and please note the dates: