Developers continue to have a field day in Glen Eira. Council can spruik its planning prowess all it likes, but its performance has been abysmal in protecting suburbs, residential amenity and heritage. Elsternwick is Glen Eira’s current sacrificial lamb, following on from Carnegie.

We now have another application alongside the Coles development for an 8 storey, shops, offices and 23 apartments – the majority being 2 bedroom with 8 being three bedroom apartments. Of greater significance is that the site is located in a heritage overlay and the existing buildings are deemed as ‘contributory’ in the planning scheme. Furthermore, according to the current structure plan, there is a preferred height limit of 4 storeys. But of course, since the height limits are only ‘preferred’ there is nothing to stop any developer applying for 8 or 10 or even more! We have to wonder how hard Council fought for mandatory controls in Elsternwick overall, and specifically in these heritage overlay areas. If Bentleigh & Carnegie achieved mandatory heights, then the question needs to be asked as to why Elsternwick is the odd man out. Plus why wasn’t Elsternwick included in the first set of structure planning undertaken by council?

What is remarkable with this application is that the developer has been ‘advised’ by a heritage ‘expert’ that –

Perhaps this expert should explain what ‘modest level of heritage value’ means – especially since the buildings are designated as ‘contributory’.  Surely, either something is of heritage value or it isn’t! But it’s not only these dwellings. This ‘expert’ sees the entire heritage overlay as being of ‘modest’ value. Of course, there is nothing stated to ‘quantify’ or even justify such perverse adjudication!

We must also wonder how an 8 storey building plopped on top of a 2 storey building can be ‘consistent’ with any heritage overlay as well as creating a ‘responsive heritage outcome’.  Here’s what is proposed and readers be the judge as to whether this is a desirable outcome –

There is plenty of other things to be concerned about with this application. Set backs for the storeys above the podium will only be 3.5 metres along Orrong Road. What does this do to overshadowing, etc? And given that in February 2018 council proclaimed –

The Elsternwick shopping precinct is truly unique in wider Melbourne. The shopping strip has
an existing heritage overlay, which seeks to preserve the unique and intact heritage
streetscape. Despite this heritage protection, recent VCAT approvals have seen a number of
taller buildings of up to 8 storeys being constructed in the shopping strip.

When justifying taller buildings in the heritage overlay, VCAT has pointed to the lack of
alternative priority development areas in Elsternwick to accommodate the centre’s future
growth. If this current development trend continues, the heritage precinct is in danger of
being significantly eroded by, or lost to, major development.

Thus the existence of heritage overlays which supposedly curtail development became the argument for 12 storeys along Nepean Highway. Since Glen Huntly Road is now a developers’ paradise, one could very well question why we still need 12 storeys along Nepean Highway? Or an even better question – given current high rise activity along Glen Huntly Road, and if the heritage shopping strip is so ‘truly unique’, then why has the major Heritage Review been put off until years down the track? If heritage is truly a priority then nothing can excuse this inaction. But then again, we remind readers of councillors’ dismal record on heritage when they recently voted to grant a permit for a 12 storey building in the Derby Road heritage area. We anticipate more of the same here with the argument being that there already are plenty of high rises along Glen Huntly road and its surrounds, so one more won’t matter! This of course makes an utter mockery of their structure planning! The only ‘certainty’ has been provided to developers. The message is clear – go for it and the higher the better!