Last night saw a great turnout  of over 90 residents for the Elsternwick structure plan forum. Also in attendance were: David Southwick, Simone Szmood, David Zyngier, Sam Parasol, Jim Magee. Apologies came from two councillors when first invited (Esakoff and Zhang) and after accepting the invite, Athanasopolous was once again a very, very late apology! His record of ‘no shows’ stands intact!

Residents made their concerns and objections very clear. The same old issues surfaced time and again – the need to protect heritage; the importance of sunlight and avoiding overshadowing; the nonsense of allowing 12 storey buildings next to heritage, or even 4 storey developments behind single storey homes. Traffic congestion and parking was also commented on several times. The lack of open space also featured prominently.

Councillors acknowledged that officers were looking at the draft plan and attempting to make changes in response to community feedback. We will not hold our breath! We anticipate that in all likelihood the final structure plan will simply be a tinkering so that 12 storeys discretionary becomes 9 or 10 storeys discretionary (instead of mandatory) and heritage sites will now drop down to 5 storeys instead of 6 storeys. If this does eventuate, then it does little to address resident concerns!

What has been happening in Elsternwick, and in Glen Eira overall, according to the last two sets of census data, makes it crystal clear, how council’s stated objectives and strategies are nothing more than dismal failures. Please look carefully at the following table which features the Elsternwick data from the 2016 and the 2021 census. We then comment on what this table reveals.



Here’s what these stats illustrate:

  • Elsternwick, like all of Glen Eira, is continuing to lose its detached housing at an alarming rate. Yet, they are not being replaced by family ‘friendly’ dwellings. Instead we are getting more and more one and two bedroom dog boxes and in Elsternwick a reduction in 3 and 4 bedroom dwellings.
  • Elsternwick is already the densest suburb in all of Glen Eira – 4,207 individuals per hectare. But the question of density is never addressed nor even questioned as to what it does in terms of overall psycho-social health, the need for more and more open space, sunlight etc. Other councils have realised that personal open space is vital, so in their planning schemes they have succeeded in stipulating that balconies should be a minimum of 12 square metres and 2 metres in width. In Glen Eira we are forever stuck with 8 square metres and a width of 1.8 metres. Yes, a small example but it can be done if there’s the will.
  • Council seemingly plucked out of nowhere a figure of 50:50 ratio of public transport transition and to make this happen, intends to reduce (or completely remove) the requirement for onsite parking in certain spots. As far as the 50:50 figure is concerned, we cannot find one bit of evidence to support this. Yet this becomes the ‘standard’ for all future planning throughout Glen Eira (and at one stage it even became 60:40 for the urban renewal south areas before this was abandoned completely.) Looking at the census stats it is obvious that car ownership in Elsternwick is climbing and that there is a continued decline of dwellings without cars throughout Glen Eira as a whole. The message should be clear – ie that removing onsite parking will not force people to use public transport or to forgo owning a car. The number of dwellings continues to climb, whilst the number of dwellings without cars continues to fall.
  • Even in 2016, in a suburb like Elsternwick which has train, tram and bus services only 25% of residents used public transport and 53.6% travelled to work by car. The data for 2021 can be ignored since this was during COVID and many people simply worked from home.

So what’s the take home message from all of the above?  Council has absolutely no power to force developers into building 3 and 4 bedroom homes. They have absolutely no control over ‘affordability’ so even if townhouses and apartments of3 and 4 bedrooms increases to cater for families, the asking price will still remain high and unaffordable for many people. The Housing Strategy wants more townhouses and more dwellings on various sites. Again, no guarantee that this will meet affordability hopes, or that cramming more and more people into an area of 2.6 square km will achieve ‘liveability’.

What’s also important is that the feedback from this forum does rate a comprehensive mention in any ensuing officer’s report. It is simply not good enough that council’s fallback argument is that this was not a council initiated consultation process and therefore can simply waft into the stratoshere and be completely ignored and forgotten.

Finally, what residents want is not the Magee spiel of last night, that the government will not agree to mandatory heights, or other specifications. This may well be correct. But what residents want is to see their councillors fight tooth and nail for them and to put public and outspoken pressure on a state government that is becoming more and more dictatorial in its processes.