Please listen very carefully to the following audio from last night’s council meeting. It features one resident’s questions that exemplify everything that is wrong with this council. Needless to say, the responses to her queries were anything but satisfactory!

This is not the first time that applications have gone to VCAT and been ‘settled’ at what is known as Compulsory Conferences. Countless times we have the situation where councillors have refused a permit outright, only to find that the planning delegate at VCAT has caved in and the developer got everything he wanted. Since these compulsory conferences are ‘confidential’ residents have no idea as to the reasons behind the cave in. Caving in at a compulsory conference also means that there is no full hearing and no decision published. Perfect for avoiding full transparency and accountability!

Here are some decisions that were agreed to by council’s delegate at VCAT compulsory conferences. More disturbing than anything is the fact that some of these decisions fly in the face of councillor resolutions to refuse the permit outright. We doubt that councilors are even aware of what officers argue in these compulsory conferences and certainly not the grounds upon which permits are granted. Since no decision is published since a full hearing was averted, the community has no idea why some of these applications  got their permits. This in itself says heaps about the lack of transparency and accountability.

Here are some examples of cave ins at compulsory conferences:

2/4 Blair Street, Bentleigh. Councillors refused permit for 4 storeys and 24 apartments. A consent order granted 4 storeys and 22 apartments!

12/14 Howe Street, Murrumbeena. Councillor refusal. Permit granted for 10 x2 storey dwellings.

670 Centre Road & 51 Brown’s Road. Councillor refused amendment for addition level (up to 6 storeys). Permit granted for 6 storeys.

233/47 Glen Huntly Road. Councillors refused permit for 13 storeys . At compulsory conference permit granted for 12 storeys and 105 dwellings.

777 Glen Huntly Road, Caulfield. Councillors refused permit for 4 storeys. Permit granted at compulsory conference.

8 Egan Street, Carnegie. Councillors refused permit for 8 storeys. Permit for 8 storeys at compulsory conference.

Besides these major cave ins, there are plenty of others which were refused at officer level (ie never even making it to council) and then suddenly they get their permits at compulsory conferences. Admittedly, some developers might compromise and adjust their plans. This does not however excuse the granting of permits for high rise that were refused overwhelmingly by councilors.

So the questions remain:

  • Do councilors even know what happens at compulsory conferences in regards to the planning officer’s position on the application?
  • Have councilors voted or even agreed to the planning delegate’s position?
  • Why do Glen Eira councilors continue to allow unfettered delegations that excludes councilors completely from their rightful roles as decision makers?

Finally, we provide the following screen dump (from Boroondara council meeting) which shows clearly that not all councils operate in the same manner as our lot. Until our councilors have the balls to stand up to this planning department and insist on full transparency and accountability, then nothing will change. Residents will continue to be the casualties of a planning department allowed to run riot!

None of the above listed applications came back to council for deliberation.