The Planning Panel Report on the ‘Hidden Gems’ amendment is now available. Council’s amendment is ‘appropriate’ and the panel has supported most of the recommendations contained therein. More importantly, the panel repeats previous criticisms of the Department and the Minister, where their refusal to include all the precincts identified by the external heritage advisor as suitable for heritage listing were omitted. The rationale was that listing these precincts in the Elsternwick Urban Renewal South, would likely be the ‘primary driver for development outcomes’. In other words – let’s not put any impediments in the way of the mooted high rise that is to go into Elsternwick.

To the Panel’s credit, this was not only commented upon, but the criticism is fully warranted. What is most disappointing however, is that there was not a single peep out of council (at least made public) when they were informed of these exclusions. Would it have killed council to announce their opposition to this decision? Would it have killed council to publish any letters it may have written in response – in fact, was there any correspondence, or did council merely and meekly accept a decision that goes against current legislation, planning practice notes, and its own VPPs? If this was the case, then once again, this council has chosen the route of compliance, rather than support for what the community values – ie heritage!

The following pages, taken directly from the Planning Panel report, show what the Panel thought of Wynne’s and the Department’s decision making and its justification –