Whatever the outcome of Mr Wylie’s Supreme Court Challenge, the issues are crucial in terms of the planning system itself, and especially how the planning department at Glen Eira Council operates. Part of Mr Wylie’s concerns appear to be the lack of sufficient notification to residents that an application has been submitted to council. According to the legislation, it is council which has the power to decide who and how many properties will be alerted to the fact that an application has come in. Hence, if only a handful of notification letters are sent out, then it is not surprising that there are none, or very few objections. Mr Wylie claims that in his case, only those adjoining sites zoned Commercial 1 were notified and that neighbouring residents were left in the dark – hence the claim that there were zero objections in this matter. It is very plausible to suggest that had neighbours living in surrounding NRZ zoned sites been aware, then the chances of objections to a 5 storey development would have brought in at least a few objections.

But that’s only part of the problem. Not so long ago, officer reports in Glen Eira regularly noted the number of notifications sent out, and the number of ensuing objections. For the past few years this has now ceased. We have absolutely no idea as to how many letters council ordered the developer to send out, nor to which properties. Nor do we know where the objectors lived. Other councils such as Boroondara, feature maps of where the letters went and where objectors lived in relation to the application. (See image below). Other councils (Monash, Port Phillip to name a few) also include maps showing the number of objectors and their residences. In Glen Eira we are left in the dark on both of these important matters.

Also of major concern is the secrecy surrounding council’s DPC (delegated planning committee). We have commented numerous times over the years that this committee lacks all transparency and accountability. Meetings are held during the day, where both the developer and objectors can appear to state their views. The three officers then leave the room and come back in about 20 minutes with their decision to grant, refuse, or impose conditions. No agendas are ever published and certainly no minutes. Hence, residents have no idea  why a permit may have been granted or refused.  Plus, for years our council operated under Section 86 of the legislation meaning that agendas, and minutes, had to be published. An ombudsman’s report in 2016 cited us, and forced Glen Eira to amend its delegation so that it no longer was constituted under the Special Committee requirements. The committee still operates as before – no councillors present, no agendas, no minutes, and no accountability!

Making matters even worse, is that in December 2018, councillors voted to change the delegation authority for this committee. There now has to be at least 16 objections before an application can be brought to council. Anything less becomes the purview of this committee.

We are not suggesting that there is no place for such a committee. Clearly councillors can’t be expected to ‘adjudicate’ on all planning applications. What we do expect, is that there be far more transparency and accountability when it comes to planning.  Other councils have ALL councillors as part of their planning committees – whether or not these are seen as Special Committees. In Glen Eira, councillors are, we believe seen as nothing more than unnecessary appendages that will only hinder the work of the bureaucrats, so let’s sideline them as much as possible. Such an ethos is the antithesis of good planning and full transparency and accountability.