In a packed gallery last night, overflowing into the passageways, councillors voted unanimously to refuse the Selwyn Street application for the 10 and 14 storey towers. Hardly a surprise given the failings of the application itself and the strong opposition mounted by residents.

Objectors asked several questions in the ‘community participation’ section of the meeting. One wanted a commitment that when the developer headed off to VCAT, that council would employ a top quality ‘silk’ to defend the refusal. The response was that council had already held discussions with lawyers and would provide a good ‘legal team’.  Hence, the question whether more than a (lowly) solicitor would be employed was never really answered. Readers will of course remember the Calvary/Bethlehem Hospital case in Kooyong Road where council’s ‘legal team’ consisted of one hired ‘solicitor’ (Mr Vorchheimer) and 2 expert witnesses – a traffic engineer and an urban designer. It was up to the residents themselves to hire a barrister and town planner.

As for the comments of councilors themselves, there was the usual grandstanding and claims of caring about community and what a wonderful job council has been doing with its structure planning and how it has been listening to resident aspirations.

Interspersed throughout the various comments there were blatant untruths and distortions of historical fact that are mind boggling. We highlight these below.

SILVER: Admitted that the structure plan is not as yet an accepted document in the planning scheme and that it would anyway be of the ‘lowest order’ – ie merely a ‘reference document’. He then goes on to state that the Urban Villages policy provides greater guidance and that …’we are in the unfortunate situation this site is about to accommodate, based on the planning scheme, more than many people would be comfortable with’. Thus council’s planning becomes dependent on a document that began its life in 1999 and was finally gazetted in the early 2000’s. If Silver and the other councillors therefore rely on the planning scheme it should be asked:

  • how can they suggest in their draft structure planning a height of 8 storeys for this site when residents’ throughout the ‘community consultation’ phase were vehemently opposed to such heights.
  • And if the planning scheme’s Uban Villages policy is the be all and end all as claimed by Silver, then how can they now support an 8 storey height that differs from what the planning scheme states – Development in Selwyn Street be of scale similar to surrounding buildings with buildings greater than two storey being located towards Glen Huntly Road, and buildings to the northern end of the street being sympathetic to the character of the surrounding streets due to its visibility.
  • There is also this gem – No retail activities occur along Selwyn Street.

DELAHUNTY: “that design and development overlay has been in place for some time’…’it was certainly no surprise to the applicant’ and we ‘rested upon it quite successfully for a number of years here in council’.

Absolute hogwash. The DDO10 was only gazetted by the Minister on 16th August 2018 – hardly a period of years as Delahunty goes on to claim. The first developer application made it into the public arena in February 2018. Discussions with council had clearly been on the cards well and truly before this time. The overall draft structure plan only made it onto the council agenda on 27th February 2018 when it was resolved to seek the Mnister’s intervention without further community consultation. And please remember that the first inkling that residents had that council was contemplating 12 storeys anywhere in Elsternwick or Carnegie came in July 2018.

SZTRAJT: claimed that council’s structure planning was to give the community ‘reassurance’ as to ‘where development should go and where it shouldn’t go’. Said he didn’t believe that the application ‘matches the community expectations’ that council ‘went out and sought’ when they developed the structure plans’.

The one consistent element of all council’s shoddy community consultation was that the overwhelming majority of responses did NOT WANT the ‘urban renewal’ heights that Council determined. None of the structure plans are in accordance with community expectations as to allowable maximum heights. Sztrajt concludes that the application ‘just doesn’t fit’. Perhaps residents should start asking whether council’s proposed 8 storey height limit would also ‘fit’ this site given its location abutting heritage areas, schools, etc. It would also be wonderful to see some real justification for even 8 storeys given these constraints!

ESAKOFF: was the only councillor that at least sounded some disquiet with council’s planning – ie ‘the whole aspect of community benefit itself troubles me’ and ‘allowing’ extra height for community benefit is ‘fraught with problems’. Another problem lies with ‘architectural excellence’ and how this will be adjudicated. Went onto dissect the compliance ratio of Clause 58 where she stated that 11 comply and 10 don’t comply and another 6 could comply with conditions.

ATHANASOPOLOUS: claimed that the application doesn’t ‘address’ how the ‘interface’ doesn’t address what is in the planning scheme. Said he also heard comments that council is destroying Glen Eira but that council was working very hard to ‘achieve some very important zoning changes’ which the site had before. Wanted residents to think about the ‘work’ that council is doing to ‘achieve the best possible outcomes that we can’.

So introducing a structure plan that has zoning changes of 8 storeys (or 10 storeys) abutting heritage is council’s idea of the ‘best possible outcome’!!!!!!!!

MAGEE: claimed he always looked at ‘transition’ and how a development ‘transitions’ from the ‘activity centre’ to the residential areas and that has to be ‘from highest to lowest’. Said that the application ‘goes the opposite’ – from lower to higher.

Of course this flies directly in the face of council’s structure plan and DDO – where they decided that up to 8 storeys would sit quite comfortably alongside one and 2 storeys!!!!! and in other areas of Elsternwick, that 12 storeys is a good fit against 4 storeys!!!!!

The most astounding thing to issue from Magee’s mouth was the plea to objectors to go to VCAT and fight the application on ’emotional grounds’ – how it affects them. After 11 years on council this is the most ridiculous statement and displays either one of two things – that Magee knows nothing about the workings of VCAT or that he simply enjoys more grandiose grandstanding. Even with the 2015 Objector’s Bill passed by Labor, the onus still remains on planning law and what is in the planning scheme. Magee should know this very well given his appearance at VCAT when the Claire Street debacle occurred and the member stated in this decision – The Tribunal’s role is to interpret and implement the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, in a manner that is separated from the emotional or political positions brought by all parties. A fundamental component of any assessment against the Glen Eira Planning Scheme is consideration of the policy intent, particularly the local policies drafted by the Glen Eira City Council.

HYAMS: stated that council had asked for 8 storeys mandatory but Wynne made it 10 storeys discretionary. However, ‘perhaps’ when the amendment for the structure plans comes in then the ‘protections’ might ‘vary one way or the other’. The government he said did provide interim protection once VCAT showed ‘it was no longer listening to our policies and you got 12 storeys going in other places’.

Hyams statements are lamentable. VCAT has NOT changed its position on council policies. Council simply had NO POLICY on height control in Mixed Use and Commercial and only in 2013 were height limits made mandatory for large swathes of residential land in Glen Eira – again without any community consultation. So concerned were council about ‘heritage’ in Elsternwick that they zoned huge areas as suitable for 4 storeys (RGZ). The sheer hypocrisy is unbelievable. Even when draft structure plans were produced for Bentleigh and Carnegie, Elsternwick was left out completely – giving free rein for more and more inappropriate development. As a designated Major Activity Centre why wasn’t Elsternwick included in the first set of drafts? As for the potential for council to now backtrack and reduce the height limits contained in the interim controls is a joke – even if council were willing which we doubt. No Minister will approve going backwards from 12 storeys to 6 or even 8 storeys.


We concur that this application is totally inappropriate and there are very many planning reasons for why it should be rejected. This however does not excuse councilors getting up on their hind legs and making statement after statement that lacks veracity, is misleading, or displays their total ignorance. We are left to wonder whether another decision might have been arrived at if there were not 187 formal objections, a petition of over 1700 and a packed gallery of angry and upset residents.

The bottom line is that council

  • HAS NOT LISTENED TO residents in its strategic planning
  • No justification has ever been provided as to why Glen Eira needs 12 storey buildings and thousands upon thousands more dwellings when the municipality is well and truly meeting its population growth demands

What residents want is a set of councillors who have the gumption to stand up and speak honestly instead of continually attempting to cover up this council’s woeful and continued shocking record in planning. Instead of congratulating themselves as to how well they get on with State Government (an item in last night’s agenda) residents would like council to stop being so compliant and to do their jobs – ie representing the wishes of residents above the wishes of developers!