VCAT has handed down its decision for the Daily Planet, Elsternwick application. This was for a 14 storey building with 21 apartments. Readers should note that council’s Structure Plan states that this area be 8 storeys but with ‘community benefit’ be allowed to reach 12 storeys. With Wynne’s interim height amendment (C157) the site was granted discretionary heights of ‘up to 12 storeys’.

What is remarkable about this decision is the fact that VCAT has spelled out in full the sheer incompetency of Glen Eira Council’s planning; their lack of action, and once again councillors who do not have the guts to do the right thing by their residents. On this last point we quote the decision:

We choose to observe that, if the Council had determined to refuse to grant a permit for the proposed development, rather than condition a reduction in height by six storeys, we would have readily supported that decision that no permit be granted.  We agree with the submissions of nearby residents, lead by Mr Jones and Ms Smith, that the proposed building results in a range of built form impacts, that will even be considerable with a reduction in height to 8 storeys.  Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a position where a permit has been granted, and we are left to determine particular contested conditions, which only influence particular elements of the overall proposal.  Having regard to the various considerations that we need to balance in our decision making task, we consider that the fairest outcome we can offer to all parties, is to support the Council’s position in relation to building height. 

At the council meeting of 19th March 2019, Delahunty & Magee moved the motion for refusal. This was defeated and an alternate motion granting a permit of 8 storeys was carried. The movers for this second motion were Silver & Sztrajt. So much for  Camden ward councillors protecting their ward! This was carried. Thus the developer got his 8 storeys. Yes, better than 14, but certainly something that could have been avoided.

But there’s far, far more to this decision that pin points exactly what is wrong with our council and by implication asks how on earth Wynne could have rubber stamped the interim amendment when there is absolutely no strategic justification for anything!

Here are some of the quotes from the decision and we’ve uploaded the full document HERE

…. by grouping the review site with the adjacent residential neighbourhood in Precinct 3, despite its commercial zoning, the policy at Clause 22.05 undersells the development potential of the review site.  …..One reason for this conservative policy position is the age of this policy, which we understand dates from 1999, and therefore does not take account of successive redrafting of State policy which increasingly raises the bar for the extent of redevelopment expected in higher order activity centres

While Clause 22.05 forms part of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme and must contribute to our decision making process, we choose to give it limited weight, given its inconsistency with the next two documents, and its failure to be revised in a manner consistent with the progress of State policy over time.

1           Under the ESP (Elsternwick Structure Plan), the review site is identified as having a height of between 8-12 storeys.  These heights are only expressed as storeys, and not as metres. (meaning that the developer has put in a height that is equivalent to approx 50 metres!) …..

2            It is fair to say that we have some concerns with the content and guidance contained in the ESP, which we summarise as follows:

  1. The ESP contains no urban design or built form analysis, and no meaningful strategic planning analysis, which explains how the recommended heights of 8-12 storeys are arrived at. The lack of any rigour or meaningful analysis in establishing these heights, lends us to give less weight to them.
  2. The ESP contains a series of eleven design principles, without explaining how these design principles are intended to interact with the recommended building heights. Relevant to the review site are the following two design principles.
  3. As we have already observed, the ESP is largely devoid of any urban design or strategic analysis that supports the heights set out in that structure plan, which appears to form the basis for the discretionary height limit set out in DDO10.
  4. The ESP identifies the need for more analysis and assessment to be undertaken to further refine building heights, as well as the treatment of interface locations and the likely shadows to impact residential properties. It appears that none of this work has been undertaken prior to the introduction of DDO10.
  5. DDO10 contains very little guidance to enable a decision maker to assess whether a building that is at or under the discretionary height limit, achieves an appropriate built form outcome for a particular site. We accept that a useful decision guideline exists for developments that seek to exceed the discretionary height limit.  Decision guidelines and requirements also apply that relate to particular elements of a built form, such as the use of materials and colours, the provision of entries, the placement and design of building services, the potential overlooking of nearby dwellings, the treatment of interfaces to heritage places, and the desired treatment of the lower levels of the building.  However, when one comes to assess the appropriateness of the overall height and scale of a building, the extent of guidance is very thin, and amounts to not much more than the following statements, some of which are only somewhat relevant to the issue of building height and scale.

Firstly, we form that view having regard to the absence of any genuine urban design or strategic analysis that supports the 43 metre discretionary height limit currently set out in DDO10. Secondly, we are also concerned that the existing DDO10 is an interim control, and that the more permanent planning controls and built form guidance for this activity centre are still being created. In the absence of a considered, tested and permanent set of built form controls for this activity centre, we are loath to approve a 14 storey 59.8 metre tall building on the review site, that will have the effect of permanently transforming in a significant manner the built form language for this activity centre


We have been asking for years now for council to provide strategic justification for its planning decisions. These answers have not been forthcoming. This judgement makes it absolutely clear that:

  • There is NO STRATEGIC JUSTIFICATION for a 12 storey height limit
  • There is no strategic justification that covers this height and the overshadowing impacts
  • There is no adequate building design
  • We have a planning scheme that belongs in the museum of antiquities
  • We have councillors who do not have a clue and repeatedly betray their constituents