Tonight’s council meeting will feature an item that seeks an amendment for a permit that was granted in 2019 for a 5 storey development at 590-596 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick. The property was sold on in August 2020 and the new owner is now seeking an additional 2 storeys, plus 5 apartments. The officer’s recommendation is to grant a permit for a 7 storey building, and 25 apartments, plus a reduction in car parking requirements. The proposed height will now go from 17.2 metres to 23.6 metres.

Readers need to note the following:

  • The site is in a Local Centre and not a major activity centre or even a neighbourhood centre
  • Council’s City Plan posits 3 storey height limit in local centres
  • The abutting and surrounding buildings are all 2 storeys in height

Here’s what it will look like. Note the neighbours!

The question then becomes – how on earth could this application have received a permit for 5 storeys in the first place and now an officer recommendation for a seven storey permit?

The accompanying officer’s report literally beggars belief in some of the statements made. Here are some examples:

Council’s Urban Designer states: A five storey building would be more consistent with current Council policy. Yet the final officer report basically ignores this and instead we get: The scale of the building at seven storeys is considered to be appropriate given the site’s proximity to multi-storey buildings that are in neighbouring sections of the Glen Huntly Road streetscape to the west within the Elsternwick Urban Village and to the east within the Caulfield South Neighbourhood Centre. Accordingly, it is considered that the density embodied in the additional five dwellings (creating a total of 25) will complement the built form character and the role of this centre.

So here we have the ludicrous situation where an area is designated as a local centre, but is being compared to what is happening in our Major Activity Centres and our larger Neighbourhood Centres. Adding insult to injury we also have this comment: Whilst it is acknowledged that a lower height limit would be appropriate in some Local Centres that are located within a pure residential hinterland, this site has unique locational qualities and is suitable for a taller building that departs from this aspect of the Housing Diversity Area Policy. Council’s planning scheme and its policies make no differentiation between Local Centres as this statement implies. Thus again, we have an officer departing from what adopted council policy says!

And we continue to go from the sublime to the ridiculous with this sentence: The proposal to increase the height of the building from the approved five storeys to seven storeys will match the height of a seven storey building at 485 Glen Huntly Road, located 500 metres to the west of the site.  Are planning decisions therefore to be based on what is up to 500 metres away, rather than what council’s own policies state? If the answer is ‘yes’, then we do not need any structure plans, or zonings whatsoever, since these can be so easily rejected. All we have to do is say ‘Yes, there’s a 12 storey 500 metres down the road, so it is appropriate here too’!!!!!!

Finally, as to the competence of this planning department, we’ve uploaded a page from council’s City Plan, which is supposed to indicate ALL local centres in the municipality. This local centre is NOT included in the diagram, yet the City Plan is supposed to be the be all and end all for the MSS rewrite, and other strategic plans. It does appear on another page. The point however, is why aren’t such errors picked up? (The small circles are ‘local centres’)