Residents must really wonder what is the point of council creating and endorsing policy and strategy documents, when these are all ignored when it comes to development. Either we have policy or we don’t! The latest example of this is an application for 93-101 Poath Road, Murrumbeena. The applicant wants 8 storeys, 77 apartments, and a reduction in onsite car parking as well as some upper level setbacks of a miniscule 3 metres. There will be 6 shops, and the apartments are designated as: 29 one bedroom; 40 two bedroom and 8 three bedroom. That’s a ratio of 90% one and two bedroom apartments and the majority of these apartments will be less than 60 square metres in size.

More disturbing is the fact that in the past we have been told ad nauseum that if a policy is not enshrined in the planning scheme, then it bears little or no weight in the final recommendation. Whilst this officer report does repeat this mantra in reference to the proposed Planning Scheme Rewrite (C220) by stating: Council can have regard to the amendment as part of the assessment of this application but can only give it limited weight –   we then have a full 2 pages and a bit, itemising what this amendment proposes as justification for recommending a permit! We repeat: this proposed Amendment is yet to go through a planning panel. It is yet to be independently assessed and reported on. Yet, we have an officer’s report which bases much of the argument for a permit on something which does not as yet exist in the planning scheme.

There is much to challenge in this report. Some examples:

Neighbourhood centres are areas where substantial built form change is anticipated. Really? That’s not what the various versions of City Plan state, nor the Urban Design Guidelines!!!!

The subject site and broader commercial areas of the Hughesdale activity centre are not subject to specific building height controls within the Scheme, nor are there any proposed by way of overlay controls such as a Design and Development Overlay as can be seen in other centres across the municipality.

Thus the truth (inadvertently, we suspect) comes out. Council has absolutely no intention of ensuring that all commercial centres have appropriate height limits assigned to them. What does this augur for Ormond, McKinnon, Patterson, Gardenvale, etc. just to name a few neighbourhood centres currently without any controls in the commercial areas?

And since when does any report include such garbage as found in the Urban Design report:

Try to redesign the top edge of the building…….

Try to design the western side of the building…..

Try to prevent overlooking…..

Try to ensure that no additional service cabinets…..

Why ‘try’? Either the recommendation is that something doesn’t comply with current planning controls or it does, or whether these aspects of non-compliance may be addressed by conditions. Yet, none of this has occurred. Who is to ‘try’? and what if they don’t?

The bottom line, as we read things, is that council will bend over backwards, to ensure that developers get their permits – regardless of existing council policy, and what the current planning scheme states.