Councillor Performance


The next 6 months or so will see the final structure plans for both Bentleigh and Elsternwick – two of our major activity centres as well as the Caulfield Station precinct. Most of the published documentation thus far, and this includes the Housing Capacity analysis which accompanied the woeful Housing Strategy, is anything but convincing given that the draft proposals are mostly based on data from the 2016 census and not the latest 2021 figures. The 2021 census figures barely rate a mention. So we have the ludicrous situation where the future of the municipality is being determined on pre 2016 trends rather than what has been happening since 2016 and the import of this latest trend.

Yes, trends are important, but the overall council analyses thus far seems to have largely ignored what the 2021 census results reveal about the present and the recent past. In order to see exactly what has been happening in Glen Eira over the past 5 years, we have compiled the following tables, from the 2016 and 2021 census data. They provide a good insight into:

  • The continued and accelerating loss of detached housing
  • The continued increase in the number of single and two bedroom dog boxes which in most instances would not cater adequately for a family with kids. Families with children constitute the largest percentage of our population (48.2%) whilst couples without children represent 37.2%.
  • The failure to reduce car ownership so that council’s integrated transport strategy and the aspiration of a 50:50 mode share is literally a pipe dream. Yet, we still find that strategic planning and the stated intention to reduce car parking provisions is based on this unachievable target.
  • The number of properties has increased, but the number of dwellings WITHOUT CARS keeps going down.
  • A pie in the sky assertion that housing affordability can be improved by increasing site coverage, reducing permeability requirements, etc.
  • Travel to work data via public transport or cars cannot be taken seriously in the 2021 census given that this was at the height of COVID and just under 40% of residents in Glen Eira were working from home. We have however included the data.
  • The housing capacity analysis stated that many homes have ‘excess’ bedrooms. The data for both Elsternwick and Bentleigh shows that the number of persons per bedroom is on the rise. What this means is that in these activity centres amenity is sacrificed for density and very little is being built that will accommodate family living.

Please look through the following tables carefully and keep asking this council why they have steadfastly refused to include the most relevant data in their costly consultant reports!!!!

BENTLEIGH CENSUS RESULTS

ELSTERNWICK CENSUS RESULTS

GLEN EIRA AS A WHOLE

Another year is fast drawing to an end with very little ‘progress’ in most major areas of council business. 2023 will undoubtedly be crucial in setting the foundations of what Glen Eira will become over the next 20 years.

2022 was basically very disappointing. Following the Wynne letter of December 2015, which basically ordered council to pull its finger out, 7 years later we still do not have:

  • Permanent structure plans for our major activity centres
  • Any comprehensive reviews of the residential zones (circa 2013)
  • A developer contributions levy
  • An ESD (Environmental Sustainability) policy in the planning scheme
  • A WSUD (water sensitive urban design) policy in the planning scheme
  • Parking precinct plans – promised at least 15 years ago

In many ways transparency and accountability have also gone backwards. For example:

  • No longer is there publication of all community consultation feedback. Instead we get carefully manipulated ‘summaries’.
  • The Annual Report now no longer publishes data that fully explains everything. We are told that council planted 2000 trees but are not given any indication of how many were ‘replacement’.
  • Important background documents such as traffic analyses are not provided in many cases PRIOR to the call for community input. In other words, residents are asked to comment on something that is vague and lacks the strategic justification for the recommendations – literally making consultations practically meaningless for residents. Even councillors don’t get to see all the data prior to their important decision making.
  • Nothing of real consequence for tree protection. It will not be part of the planning scheme.
  • No update on flooding since 2006 when climate change is central
  • Urban Forest Strategy that lacks sufficient funding
  • Probably hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on glossy planning documents and consultants that amount to nothing – ie car parks; Inkerman Road bicycle path etc.
  • FOI applications fought tooth and nail by this administration to prevent full disclosure

So, are there any good points that featured in 2022? There are a few in that it is clear that some councillors at least are not enamoured with the way this council conducts its strategic planning. The very fact that the notorious Housing Strategy was voted in by 4 to 3 means there is division. Had both Esakoff and Cade been present at this meeting then we have no doubt that the Housing Strategy would have been voted down. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t put back until the next council meeting when these 2 councillors would have been present?

2023: The year ahead

The coming year will be pivotal in setting the scene for the next 20 years. Up for decision we will have:

  • Bentleigh, Elsternwick structure plans and the accompanying DDO’s.
  • Review of the Planning Scheme. Whether or not this will incorporate a review of the actual zoning everywhere is anyone’s guess.
  • What happens to the remaining 10 neighbourhood centres that are currently without any DDO’s or Urban Design Frameworks, and definitely no structure plans? Will they be left untouched for another decade?
  • Will community consultation come close to genuine consultation where councillors and the community consultation committee have direct and influential input into the survey questions?
  • Will we ever get decent parking policies and parking precinct plans?
  • How much funding will go to our declared climate change policy and all its attendant duties – ie Urban Forest strategy and real protection for trees on private property?

As stated earlier, it’s now been seven years since the Wynne letter to get things right and we’re still waiting. No other council that we know of has taken this length of time to produce some decent strategic planning. What is wrong with Glen Eira?!!!!!! Until there is a major change in council personnel, and in culture, we believe that the pro-development of this council will remain.

Finally, we wish all our readers a fantastic festive season and a healthy and fulfilling 2023. We also thank readers for their continued support and encouragement.

Council has finally put up its responses to the questions asked at the Elsternwick Zoom Meeting. The document may be accessed via this link: https://www.haveyoursaygleneira.com.au/81078/widgets/391968/documents/248250

We ask residents to pay particular attention to the following question and the ‘answer’ –

What justification is there for 8-12 storeys?

Elsternwick is growing and there is demand for new dwellings and employment space into the future. State planning policy directs growth to activity centres. The draft Structure Plan aims to balance growth with protecting heritage and other characteristics valued by the community. While there are areas proposed to allow 8- 12 storeys to accommodate some of this growth, taller built form is restricted to a small part of Elsternwick, close to the train station and Nepean Highway. At the same time, the draft Structure Plan is proposing a considerable amount of down zoning from 4 storeys to 2, to protect residential heritage. Most of Elsternwick is proposed to remain low-scale.

 The claim that the decision to allow buildings of 8-12 storeys is ‘restricted to a small part of Elsternwick, close to the train station and Nepean Highway is not only inaccurate but wilfully misleading – especially when this statement is compared to the actual proposed heights along all of Glen Huntly Road.

It’s clear that a vast amount of sites will now be liable to accommodate a DISCRETIONARY height limit of up to 12 storeys! And many of these sites are nowhere near Nepean Highway or even the train station. Which leads to the most important questions:

  • When will council have the courage to call a spade a spade?
  • When will councillors insist that spin and obfuscation are not the hall marks of every single council pronouncement?
  • When will residents stop being treated as idiots unable to understand anything about sound strategic planning?

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Somewhere between 90 and 100 residents showed up Wednesday night for the Elsternwick Structure Plan ‘face-to-face’ meeting with the Camden Ward councillors. Crs Szmood and Zyngier were present whilst Cr Parasol was an apology.

The night was extremely valuable in that residents could directly address councillors with their concerns, their views on the draft structure plan, and how they generally perceive officers’ attitudes to residents and their aspirations for the suburb.

We present below a selection of comments that were made throughout the 2 hour meeting. It was very clear that there was much dissatisfaction with the structure plan itself, but also the entire consultation process, and how little heed council pays to resident views.

Some of the following audio is not crystal clear. It was a very large room that often sounded like an echo chamber. So please bear with us and listen to these comments.

PS: It’s also worth mentioning that council stated that the audio of the recent Zoom meeting on Elsternwick would be published. It was also promised that all questions would be answered. It is now over 2 weeks since this event and we still have not been provided with this audio or the responses to the queries. Perhaps officers are simply hoping that residents would forget?!!!!!

Glen Eira residents have been told repeatedly that structure planning and associated Design and Development Overlays (DDOs) CANNOT provide MANDATORY height restrictions for commercial sites unless they are heritage listed or have other extenuating conditions. This of course ignores the fact that other councils have been successful in having their strategic planning approved and gazetted.

 The most recent example comes from Bayside City Council for the Highett Neighbourhood Activity Centre.  Here is the current zoning applying to this DDO. Note the Commercial zoning and the fact that these sites are NOT under any heritage overlay.

Here is the Bayside gazetted DDO – as recently as September this year!. Please note the 3 and 4 storey MANDATORY height limits.

Why has Bayside managed to implement a MANDATORY 3 and 4 storey maximum height limit on these sites, in comparison to Glen Eira’s 6 storey discretionary height for Caulfield South, Caulfield North and East Bentleigh? Why is our council so compliant and unwilling to achieve what other councils achieve? What is really going on within our planning department?

After 7 years of incompetency, we are still back at square one, where the agenda remains more and more development regardless of what it means for residential amenity and meeting community concerns.

We continue to be appalled at the manner in which this council conducts its business and its total disregard for residents and their views. The latest example comes in the agenda for Tuesday night’s council meeting and involves the Inkerman Road ‘Safe cycling corridor’.

Some preliminary observations:

  • The item consists of 510 pages out of a 1309 page agenda
  • The agenda was published around 10am on Friday morning – literally 4 days before the council decision (and this includes a weekend) – hardly enough time to read, digest, analyse, and comment by residents. Some of the associated documents date from August 2022 whilst one is from April 2022. Why couldn’t these have been published earlier so that residents can get their heads around them? When were councillors themselves provided with access to these documents?
  • From a very brief scan of the associated documents, nothing is definitive and recommendation after recommendation includes the need for further research once the project is given the go ahead – despite the plethora of caveat after caveat stating how difficult it is to provide real data and projections for increased cycling numbers, etc.  Nor do we know how much all of these consultant reports cost!

What is the most staggering aspect of this item is the following recommendation:

That Council:

1. Adopts Option 2 (Attachment 3) as the preferred corridor design for the purpose of community consultation, once the following pre-conditions have been met:

a) Funding to deliver the project is confirmed through Council’s future budget allocation process.

b) The City of Port Phillip resolves to proceed to wider community engagement on its section of Inkerman Road / Street.

2. No further design work and/or community consultation is to commence until pre-condition a) and b) have been met.

3. Informs community and stakeholders of Council’s resolution.

COMMENT

  • Why on earth would you commit council to an estimated expenditure of $14M+ before you undertake further (and hopefully genuine) community consultation on the actual options provided?
  • If voted in, then what impact on other projects does the $14M have? What would be abandoned or delayed – especially if no state or federal funding was received?

WHAT WE ARE TOLD

  • Option 2 is preferred even though it means that only 47% of current car parking will be retained. How many car parking spots will thus be lost?
  • Currently the estimated average daily cycle numbers for the Glen Eira sections equals 163 cyclists. The claim is that the increase in cyclists would fall ‘somewhere’ between 84% – 207%. Hell of a range forecast upon which to spend $14+M!!!!!!! and we’re even told that estimating cycling demand is exceptionally difficult
  • In terms of cycling instead of using the car the result is likely to be only about 6-8%!

Even if the number of cyclists along this stretch of road increased to 800 per day, that is still an expenditure of $17,500 per cyclist!!!! Nor is there any guarantee that this is money well spent in terms of overall safety – ie

The Independent Safety Review found that for both design Option 1 and 2, due to the bi-directional bicycle lane, there are expected risks for cyclists given the high number of intersecting driveway crossovers on the south side of Inkerman Road, largely applicable to westbound cyclists as departing vehicles may not expect a cyclist to arrive from this direction.

To address this the design includes the provision of bicycle line markings and surface treatments at the crossovers which serves to advise the presence of bicycle lanes. With the report concluding, “nonetheless, the prevailing issue is the unexpected arrival of a bicycle in the eastbound direction. As a primarily residential area, it is anticipated long-term residents will quickly adapt to the proposed design, and the risk associated with this item will reduce over time”.

On a wing and a prayer the above quote, rather than any assurance that in the early stages cyclists and motorists will be ‘safer’!!!!!

CONCLUSION

Glen Eira City Council is clearly addicted to grandiose projects that cost the earth and will look good on certain CVs. Whether or not the projects represent real value for money, or even achieve the desired outcomes is seemingly immaterial. All that matters is that agendas are rammed through and virtue signalling becomes the modus operandi for all council decisions.

Finally, we very much doubt that this important item is listed at the end of the obscenely long agenda by accident. What that means is that there will probably be very little time for ‘robust’ debate/discussion!!!!!

Council has stated that its intention is to create a new zone – NRZ2. The stated criteria for earmarking these areas are supposed to be sites along major roads/transport and that they are at a minimum 600 square metres in size. We have previously highlighted that there are countless streets that are not within coo-ee of such measurements. Here is another example – Sycamore Street in Caulfield.

Please note that there is only ONE SITE in the following image that is over 400 square metres. All of the rest are 300+ square metres – half of the size ‘recommended’ in the housing strategy. This leads to some basic questions:

  1. What on earth is this planning department doing? Have they actually bothered to investigate the sizes of the various streets earmarked for increased intensity? Or have they merely sat at a computer and drawn lines around various streets and properties?
  2. How can they produce criteria and then simply ignore them?
  3. Is this simply incompetence, or a total indifference to the basic rules of planning?

PS: here’s some more – Beech Street, Caulfield South.

All of the sites in this image are barely over 300 square metres, yet they are designated to become NRZ2 which means increased site coverage, reduced permeability, etc. In the attempt to make the measurements clearer, we’ve left off some sites, but their width and length is similar to those depicted. They will also be just over 300 square metres.

PPS – and Filbert Street, Caulfield South. Please note: not one site over 500 square metres and the vast majority just over 300 square metres.

Please consider carefully the above table. It provides a breakdown of what’s been happening between the 2016 census and the 2021 data. ‘Medium density’ is defined as townhouses, attached dwellings, units, etc. High density is apartments over 3 storeys. Profile id. has used the 2021 census and compiled these figures for each municipality. You can access the individual data sets from this link and then type in the required council – https://profile.id.com.au/glen-eira/dwellings?WebID=10

We already know that Glen Eira is the 5th DENSEST municipality in the state – behind Melbourne, Yarra, Stonnington and Port Phillip. All of these councils are ‘inner Melbourne’ and most importantly, they include heaps more land zoned as Commercial – and that’s where most development has occurred in these municipalities. Glen Eira has about 3.3% zoned commercial compared to Stonnington which has 10% and more industrial land to boot. What this means is that development in Glen Eira has occurred everywhere in our quiet, residential streets. This has been further advanced by Glen Eira’s lack of any development levies on developers, ill considered zoning, no real tree protection to speak of, incomplete heritage protection, and a low open space levy especially for activity centres. All of these factors have accelerated overdevelopment in Glen Eira.

Yet the question of density remains irrelevant to our council. Given that we have the lowest amount of public open space per capita in the state, a drainage system that includes 100 year old pipes, 40% of the municipality covered by the Elster Creek flood plain, a pathetically low canopy tree cover, Council still wants more and more inappropriate development as evidenced by our recently adopted Housing Strategy and various structure plans.  All this when research clearly shows that high rise development has only one advantage – it is cheaper for developers to build whilst at the same time is less energy efficient and certainly does nothing for essential open space.

Remember that council plans to:

  • Increase site coverage in NRZ areas
  • Decrease permeability in NRZ areas
  • Remove the mandatory garden requirement in ALL GRZ areas
  • Reduce the open space requirement in various areas
  • Remove the 4 metre setback in NRZ areas
  • Upzone scores of residential streets from 2storey to either 3 or 4 storeys
  • Allow (as it stands at the moment) up to 20 storey ‘discretionary’ developments in certain areas
  • Reduce onsite car parking requirements in various spots
  • Allow 6 and 8 storey heights in heritage overlays

The Glen Eira planning department is god’s gift to developers as it has been for eons. Nothing has changed except that our density is going through the roof and will continue to do so if these strategic planning documents are allowed to go through without a whimper from our residents.

Last night’s council meeting reached a new low when the Housing Strategy was passed with a vote of 4 to 3. Had both Esakoff and Cade been present we have no doubt that the vote would have been 5 to 4 against given that both these councillors had previously voted against the draft document going out to another bogus ‘consultation’. Had they been there, we would now not be stuck with a strategy that will lay the foundations for continued overdevelopment and the continued destruction of residential amenity for decades to come. Perhaps this is why the suggestion by the three opposing councillors to delay decision for another three weeks went nowhere!

Magee, Zhang, Athanasopolous and Parasol voted in favour whilst Zyngier, Pennicuik and Szmood voted against. The change of heart by Parasol leaves countless questions since he previously voted against the draft that has basically remained identical. Why the change of heart, and what pressures or carrots, may have been applied, remains the $64 question!

Residents were assailed with the usual garbage from Magee, Athanasopolous and Zhang! Sadly all that the latter could come up with was a regurgitation of the black/white dichotomies so often used by Athanasopolous  – ie. we can’t have a ‘perfect’ strategy, so something is better than nothing! When the ‘something’ is so appallingly bad, lacks strategic justification, and fails to respond to community feedback, then the ‘something’ is worse than what currently exists. Besides, why the failure to ensure that what is produced is as close to ‘perfect’ right from the start? Get it right at the beginning and this solves so many issues that have to wait years and years for correction. The perfect example is the council admission of how badly they stuffed up in 2013 with zoning heritage precincts as suitable for 4 storey development!

Even more alarming are the claims made by this administration and its pro-development lackeys like Magee and his cohort. We were informed that:

  • If the Housing Strategy did not get up, that this would be the ‘end’ of strategic planning in Glen Eira and that there would be no further work on structure planning.

What this ruse does is to put unprecedented and we maintain illegal pressure on councillors. Here’s why:

  • Planning Practice Notes 90 makes it absolutely clear that the role of a council is to produce a Housing Strategy as an integral part of its land use planning.
  • Section 16 of all council planning schemes directs councils to “Manage the supply of new housing to meet population growth”. Without the cornerstone of a housing strategy, councils would fail to meet this objective.   Refusing to carry on such work is not only a dereliction of duty by this administration, but a thinly veiled threat!
  • We also heard last night that the chance(s) of planning controls being introduced and formally gazetted PRIOR to the end of June 2023, when the interim DDO’s expire, was highly unlikely. This therefore means that the voting last night was basically meaningless.

Magee’s summation of the situation deserves special comment. Here is what he said in his closing remarks having moved the motion in the first place and seconded by Athanasopolous. Interestingly, he resorted to a script and read his prepared remarks. No doubt written by the likes of the planning department! –

COMMENT

Magee conveniently neglects to mention the most salient point. The current interim controls for Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie do NOT for the most part impact on our ‘local residential streets’ as claimed here. The existing DDO’s (Amendment C228) apply ONLY to the commercial and mixed use sites. THEY DO NOT COVER SURROUNDING RESIDENTIAL AREAS. Our streets do have MANDATORY PERMANENT CONTROLS as a result of the zoning introduced in 2013. These are now back in play as a result of this latest C228 amendment. All that is at stake here are the commercial and mixed use sites.  The assertion that ‘more growth will occur’ in local streets as a result of refusing the housing strategy is untrue. Growth will occur regardless of the existence of this Housing Strategy thanks to Wynne’s directive that all NRZ zones will now be able to accommodate more than 2 dwellings. What the Housing Strategy achieves is to guarantee development that is unnecessary and destructive to thousands upon thousands of residents.

We already have 13 storeys in Carnegie and Elsternwick and 7 to 8 storeys in Bentleigh – all ‘discretionary’. If a developer decides to put in an application for 16 or 20 storeys his chances of success are limited given that in most instances such heights would impact on surrounding residential properties. Regardless of what council would decide in such instances, the application would end up at VCAT meaning a time lag, huge costs, and a planning scheme that currently provides MANDATORY height limits in residential areas. These are not perfect of course, but they are now in play and do protect our ‘local streets’ – contrary to what Magee has stated. Besides, most of the currently zoned RGZ areas are already built out to a maximum. The emphases should be on protecting the 13% of sites zoned GRZ. The Housing Strategy fails to do this.

So the question needs to be asked: how much does it matter if the commercial and mixed use sites do not have discretionary permanent heights assigned to them? What is the real possibility of 20 storeys in Bentleigh or Elsternwick given that both Glen Huntly Road and Centre Road abut heritage precincts and RGZ/GRZ areas. No VCAT hearing would allow a 20 storey building alongside a 4 storey building we believe in Glen Eira. We have already seen evidence of this with the first VCAT hearing for Selwyn Street, and a 16 storey application for Derby Road. Both refused by VCAT. We also have the VCAT decision on Horne street where the VCAT member criticised council for granting a permit of 8 storeys. He also stated he would have refused the application had council previously refused it. VCAT is far from perfect, but it MUST adhere to the existing planning scheme and currently our planning scheme has MANDATORY HEIGHT CONTROLS for all residential areas.

To scare monger as Magee and this administration has done is in our view unconscionable and potentially illegal.

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