It is becoming clearer and clearer that council’s interpretation of ‘consultation’ is to provide as little succinct information as possible and to create survey questions that lead nowhere. Instead we are given spin, and more spin, that undoubtedly cost quite a bit to produce.

In this post we will focus on the supposed ‘consultation’ for the Caulfield Station Structure Plan. Unless residents are prepared to undertake at least an few hours of solid reading, they would have absolutely no idea that the recommendations include:

  1. Discretionary heights everywhere ranging up to 25 storeys and most will be 12 storeys
  2. The anticipated number of final dwellings will be in the order of 3,600 to 4,400.
  3. There is the acknowledgement that the overwhelming majority of these apartments will contain one and two bedrooms only.
  4. Heritage along Derby Road will have a discretionary height limit of 8 storeys.

What we do have is an 11 page ‘summary brochure’ that reveals practically nothing of the above. We maintain that this document is nothing more than an exercise in camouflage and public relations. It is a wonderful example of how not to consult with your community – that is, if you really want them to be informed and to provide considered and valuable feedback.

Let’s take the example of Derby Road, which is covered by a heritage overlay as depicted below.

The ‘summary brochure’ describes the plans for this sector as: Character and Scale: Higher built form demonstrating design excellence and reflecting the Precinct’s role as a gateway to the Centre but also respecting the heritage character of Derby Road. Of course, no mention here of the anticipated height limit!

Even worse, is the following image meant to depict what Derby Road will look like –

We ask:

Is it sheer coincidence that no 8 storey building is visible. There is the intimation of greater height but this is conveniently hidden behind a tree!!! This isn’t a depiction of what will occur – it is an attempt to hide all unpleasant truths as much as possible and hence delude the unsuspecting respondent(s) to the survey!

The actual survey questions themselves fair little better – especially when the majority of responses available are ‘strongly agree’, ‘agree’, ‘neither agree or disagree’, ‘disagree’ and ‘strongly disagree’. This might be okay, if the actual questions were open ended, informative, and valid. They are not. For the Derby Road question we get this blurb:

The draft Caulfield Structure Plan suggests the Derby Road precinct has potential to be a lifestyle destination, with a revitalised street, increased outdoor dining opportunities and improved public transport stops. This would be supported by some taller built form that would be designed to respect the valued heritage streetscape.

The question following this bit of public relations propaganda reads: To what extent do you agree with this measure to revitalise this part of the structure plan area while respecting the heritage streetscape? The answers should be as listed above – ie ‘strongly agree’, etc.

The remaining questions are of the same ilk – vague, non-defined, and straight out of some political spin department! Nothing is broken down to be able to validate the various aspects of the proposals. People may be in favour of outdoor dining, but opposed to an 8 storey height limit. How are any answers to this question then interpreted and do they actually reveal anything about resident views – and that’s assuming that respondents have read the voluminous documentation PRIOR to answering the survey.

What this and the Housing Strategy ‘consultation’ foists on residents is anything but genuine consultation. Once again we see a process that leads nowhere, except to the already predetermined outcomes.

PS: We forgot to mention this sublime irony or perhaps even contradiction. Much of the rationale behind council’s Housing Strategy is that there is a requirement for more medium density especially in the form of smaller townhouses. Yet, they seem quite prepared to accept over 4000 single and two bedroom apartments in this precinct. Out of the 1100+ apartments already built, or nearing completion, for Precincts 1 and 2 of Caulfield Village, there are only 30+ 3 bedroom apartments. So, how can you argue for more medium density townhouses on the one hand and allow potentially the largest development in the municipality to consist of everything we’ve been told does not constitute ‘medium density’ and therefore does not meet the requisite needs of our growing population?