We have to continually scratch our heads and ponder exactly what this administration is doing in terms of open space purchases. Are they simply wasting the monies set aside for open space, or are their purchases really adding anything to the municipality’s desperate need for more usable and effective open space?

We ask, because in the latest agenda we are told that Council has purchased the commercial property at 751 Centre Road, East Bentleigh. Sounds great, but once people delve into this purchase, there appears to be no valid and cost benefit justification for this purchase.  

Here are the details:

Site Area – 237 square metres

Sold – 27th October, 2021

PRICE – $2,227,500

Surely this is a massive overspend on a property of this size? Will we again learn that this property will be leased out for another 2 to 3 years before anything happens? Why this position anyway? When we look at the map (below), surely there is already existing open space well and truly within 400 -500 metres of this site.

Other questions come to mind. Since the 1988 Open Space review, council has known that the areas of open space deficiency are in Camden Ward, as well as in the major activity centres of Carnegie, Bentleigh and Elsternwick. Glen Huntly and Gardenvale are also fairing very badly. So why on earth spend this amount of money for a site that doesn’t add to already existing major deficiencies?

Council will no doubt argue that this is in one of the gap areas identified in the latest Open Space Strategy (OSS). This still doesn’t justify the purchase and the neglect of the areas which need it most. The OSS even has this comment on page 48 –

This table highlights the difference that urban density can make to overall provision of open space. For example, Bentleigh East has less open space relative to the overall suburb area (3.8 per cent) but a higher proportion of open space relative to population density than Carnegie and Caulfield South

So, in terms of ‘need’, East Bentleigh is behind other suburbs.

Next on page 135 we find this recommendation: Provide a new Local Open Space close to, but not facing Centre Road. The purchased property faces Centre Road!!!!!! In addition the OSS’s definition of Local Open Space is: from 0.26 hectares to 1 hectare (page 34). This purchase doesn’t even come close to the recommended size! More illuminating are the examples provided for the purchase of Local Open Space. We quote: Examples include Gardenvale Park, Memorial Park Caulfield North and Springthorpe Gardens Murrumbeena. Each of these examples are triple the size of what has been purchased.

Summing it all up, we seriously question how this council is spending money on open space. Why aren’t they targeting the areas that are continually identified as having shortages or have the highest population density? If the OSS is the gospel, then why ignore its major recommendations? Why spend a fortune on a block of land that you couldn’t swing a cat on? Who makes these decisions?