This isn’t the first time that the issue of overshadowing of residential properties, especially during the winter months, has come up. Council’s Planning Scheme Review of 2016 acknowledged that this was a major concern for residents and is only exacerbated with council’s decision to seek approval for 12 storey apartment blocks in both Carnegie and Elsternwick.

One public question from last week’s council meeting, returned to this question of what council intends to do to ensure that adequate controls are implemented. Below is the query and the response.

In the above council claims to have “proposed winter shadow controls” for public open spaces. Not a word about residential sites! One must also wonder exactly how the following may be interpreted as ‘controls’.The only mention of overshadowing in the Design & Development Overlays that relate specifically to the 3 activity centres are:

Buildings should minimise overshadowing impacts on existing and future open spaces, commercial footpath-trading areas and existing residential sites. 

AND in the decision guidelines we get this ‘criterion’.

The impact of overshadowing to the public realm.

None of the above are ‘controls’ in any shape or form. Nor do they even mention the winter solstice. The emphases remains firmly on public open space.

Even in the adopted structure plans there are not ‘controls’ mere motherhood statements such as:

Ensure overshadowing from new buildings and works does not result in significant loss of sunlight to future and existing public open spaces.

Ensuring adequate sunlight provision and minimising overshadowing of future plaza space.

Consideration of Council’s Open Space Strategy in the design and function of the new park, including minimising any overshadowing.

The Elsternwick Structure Plan sets out clear key design principles, including:

Σ minimise overshadowing to existing residential sites

ensure no overshadowing of residential areas between 9am and 3pm at the September Equinox,

Minimise overshadowing to existing residential sites

The form and scale of new development must be guided by minimising overshadowing impacts on existing residential sites. Development must satisfy the overshadowing objectives and standards of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme and may need to step down in scale towards residential sites in order to minimise overshadowing impacts

Principles have also been included in the new Carnegie Structure Plan that address concerns such as overlooking, overshadowing and traffic impacts on existing residential areas.

Protect the future open space at Egan and Woorayl Streets, in accordance with Council’s Open Space Strategy, with no overshadowing for a minimum of 5 hours at the September Equinox (9am to 2pm achieved) and 3 hours at Winter Solstice (11am to 2pm achieved).

Ensure no overshadowing of residential areas between 9am and 3pm at the September Equinox.

As can be seen from the above quotes, the only time that the winter solstice is specifically mentioned relates to Egan & Woorayl Streets in Carnegie, and even this does nothing to extend the hours. Further, given that this section of Carnegie is now geared towards highrise, then why oh why wasn’t the same consideration given to Elsternwick?

Telling residents to go off and advocate to the State Government does not abrogate these councillors’ responsibility to do everything they can to implement adequate controls. Given the history of this issue, council has not even been able to come up with official support for Melbourne City Council’s proposed amendment that would extend the winter solstice hours for planning applications. Overshadowing of public open space is important. But equally as important is to ensure that council is doing everything it possibly can to halt the plunging into darkness of those residents who find themselves within the shadow range of 12 storey apartment blocks. This, council has steadfastly refused to do and the reason is obvious. If planning applications have to adhere to winter solstice controls then that means that permits for 12 storeys would be jeopardised and would undermine council’s prodevelopment agenda. Worthy of note is that even the commisioned Peer Review of the Urban Design Guidelines had this to say:

Mid-winter overshadowing controls limit development envelopes to the north of spaces severely with the need for setbacks that are equal to approximately 2.5 times the overall height of the building.
As an example this would require a 12 storey built form to be setback over 90 metres from the northern edge of a public open space.

Overshadowing impacts to Woorayl Street Park would likely to substantially decrease the
overall height and development yield of sites between Woorayl Street and Arawatta Street
(to 5-6 storeys) if June 22 shadows are adopted in Guidelines, while September 22
shadows are more easily reconciled with the maximum height (with community benefits) as
shown in Figure 20. This model has assumed an adoption of September 22 shadow.