GE Consultation/Communication


Apologies for this long post but it highlights once again how residents have been lead down the garden path in so many ways by our representatives.

The current agenda includes an item on the 2018 Planning Scheme Review – done without consultation. There is an updated Work Plan that stretches out for years and years, or simply does not provide any time schedules. The promises of 2016 are in tatters. Instead we get a euphemistically labelled Planning Scheme Review, that is anything but a comprehensive ‘review’. The objective of any Planning Scheme Review, according to Practice Note 32 is to:

….assess whether the scheme provisions, such as local planning policies, zones, overlays and schedules have been effective and efficient in achieving the objectives and strategies of the planning scheme.

What has been dished up now does not contain one single word of analysis for any of the above. Even the purported VCAT decisions are nothing more than summaries. No recommendations have been made on how to tighten the scheme, what to scrub, or what needs including.

Of far greater importance however is the newly proposed Work Plan. We have created a table below which features the promises from 2016 and put them alongside what is the plan today. One major difference between 2016 and 2018 that should be highlighted is the disappearance of any intention to introduce a Neighbourhood Character Policy. In 2016 we got these statements:

A Neighbourhood Character Policy is recommended to clarify when protection of existing character is required, and clarity on neighbourhood character design outcomes for ‘change areas’

AND

The work plan also recommends that the residential zones support the neighbourhood character policy by including additional neighbourhood character objectives and increased schedule standards to protect and enhance character.

In 2018, this has gone and with no explanation, justification, or further reference, is replaced with this single sentence – The implementation of the Quality Design Guidelines addresses the Planning Scheme Review 2016 Work Plan action to implement a Neighbourhood Character Policy. 

There are several things to note about these proposed changes:

  • The Quality Design Guidelines only apply to the existing structure plans of Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie. They are not mandatory.
  • Its status in the Planning Scheme is nothing more than a ‘reference document’ and hence is basically useless. At least a full blown POLICY, whilst also not mandatory, would at least have more weight at VCAT than an appended ‘reference’ document.
  • The 2016 statements applied to ALL housing diversity, not just the 3 Activity Centres of Bentleigh, Carnegie & Elsternwick.  Yet even in these latter activity centres nothing has changed in terms of the schedules for permeability, site coverage, open space, etc.

There is much, much more which has been tossed out in the 2018 version -ie

  • The major heritage ‘review’ is now set down for the Major Activity Centres with no time line as to when the entire municipality review will be completed.
  • Tree registers and open space amendments are years down the track
  • And poor old neighbourhood/localcentres such as Ormond, McKinnon, East Bentleigh, etc.will not have any protection for years and years. Council is only committing to ‘one or two’ urban design frameworks starting in 2021/22!!!! PLUS no longer any talk of ‘structure plans’ for these centres just Urban Design Frameworks!!!!.
  • Limiting the impact of car parking basements is also watered down so instead of definitive standards such as Bayside implemented years ago in its schedules to the zones (ie max of 75% site coverage) our council is happy with statements such as this in its so called QUALITY Design Guidelines – Buildings should minimise basement footprints within the front and rear setbacks to provide for deep planting. No ‘musts’, no numbers, no changes to the schedules throughout the municipality.

Here is the table which quotes verbatim the August 2016 report and the current 2018 report. We have only highlighted some of the most important issues. The dates in parenthesis for 2018 merely indicate the STARTING TIME AND NOT COMPLETION TIME.

Please read carefully and consider the consequences.­­­

This is anything BUT a Planning Scheme Review. Yes we acknowledge that after 15 years of doing nothing Glen Eira Council is certainly behind the eight ball. But this should not be the excuse for watering down what was promised in 2016 without consultation and most importantly, without any strategic justification. It is merely another example of why this council cannot be trusted!

PS: Announcement today of a second campus for McKinnon High at Virginia Estate. A $70m, multi level school catering for 650 students. Whilst this is definitely needed we have to ask: is the site 1.2 hectares only? how high is multi level? will these 650 students be using the adjoining open space of the reserve and hence letting Gillon et al off the hook from providing sufficient open space for the proposed burgeoning population at the site? Plenty of other questions too regarding traffic, drainage, etc.

Another month and another set of figures that show no sign of a development downturn in Glen Eira. If anything, the number of building permits granted is increasing rather than decreasing. Thus even if we accept the figures that council relies upon so heavily to push their pro-development agenda, Glen Eira is maintaining its record of being far ahead of all required net new dwellings to cater for population growth.

Council keeps spouting the Victoria In Future (VIF) 2016 projections that an additional 9000 dwellings are necessary by 2031. Inexplicably, the government or the DWELP has failed to come up with Victoria in Future 2017 and neither have they produced Victoria in Future 2018. Promises to provide new Planning Practice Notes following VC110 on how to apply zoning, have yet to materialize – 18 months later! An abysmal record of planning all round!

Even if we accept that between 2016 and 2031, Glen Eira should produce an additional 9000 net new dwellings that means a lowly average of 600 net new dwellings per year. Glen Eira is currently TRIPLING THIS NUMBER and then some.

The tables below reveal the latest ABS stats published today. We have combined the totals from the year 2011 onwards, for our surrounding municipalities, as well as indicating the numbers of single houses. If we subtract the house numbers from the overall totals for the 2016/17 period up to the present, then we find that in Glen Eira, there have been 4,365 building permits granted for net new dwellings – in the space of 26 months! That’s an average of 2014 net new dwellings per annum! More than triple what VIF 2016 projected and more than double what Plan Melbourne Refresh indicates! Yet council still seems hell bent on more and more development according to its doubling of activity centre areas and believing that 12 storeys in Elsternwick and Carnegie are required.  Isn’t it time that council stopped with its propaganda and finally admitted that they see more and more development as their goal and raison d’etre!!!!

Please peruse the following tables carefully. We’ve uploaded the ABS stats HERE

To their credit, councillors last night voted to refuse (unanimously with Esakoff absent) the two controversial planning applications – ie 300 Glen Eira Road, and Wattle Grove McKinnon. Much was made of site coverage and permeability and the fact that the McKinnon application would directly overshadow a memorial park.

Yet, there was not one single word from any councillor regarding the ‘quality’ of the officer’s report. The most fascinating aspect involved several councillors claiming that the McKinnon plans did not meet the ‘standards’/’guidelines’ set down in the Open Space Strategy for developments abutting open space. The officer’s report on this component stated –

In relation to the assessment criteria in this strategy, the proposal:

Σ Fosters good access to the open space

Σ Provides passive surveillance over the open space

Σ Presents an appropriate residential interface envisaged under the strategy

Σ Maintains an appropriate level of direct sunlight during the winter solstice and equinox

Overall, it is considered that the proposal is consistent with the guidelines for development nearby open space

How the planning department can see something as ‘consistent’ and ‘appropriate’ with the ‘standards’/’guidelines’ and councillors the opposite needs investigation. Either the guidelines are so vague that they are useless, or there are plenty of hidden agendas.

One further question requires consideration. When council officers produce sub-standard reports who should be held accountable?  Who signs off on the report? Torres? McKenzie?

TREE PROTECTION (MAYBE?)

Following last night’s discussion on the consultation feedback on the significant tree register, we have major doubts as to whether this will eventually get up, or if it does, whether it will be so emasculated as to be practically worthless.  Magee, Strajt, and based on historical record, Esakoff, are firmly opposed to protecting trees on private land. This was made abundantly clear last night.

ABC STUDIOS

Another extraordinary motion put up by Delahunty and voted in unanimously regarding the ABC studios and council’s desire that the land not be sold and instead utilised for ‘community benefit’ – ie open space, affordable housing, heritage protection, etc.

Part of the motion included council’s possibility of employing the ‘compulsory acquisition’ component of legislation. Bluff and bluster in spades here and it certainly does not excuse years and years of inaction.

Council knew in 2013 and maybe earlier, that the site was up for sale. Where were Delahunty, Magee, Hyams and Esakoff then? Why has it taken 5 years for council to suddenly decide there is heritage value in the property? How on earth would council even dream of compulsory acquisition when it is forecast that the land will sell for $40 million?  The Commonwealth provided the ABC with $90 million for their relocation. The sale will recoup some of this money. If council proceeds with the threat of acquisition, then council is liable to pay the land value to the owners. Currently council is in hock up to its ears. The prospect of paying the land valuation price, plus legal fees is a pipe dream. So is, we suspect, the hope that either the federal or state government will forgo millions in handing over the land.

Bluff and bluster indeed. The tragedy is that for years and years this council sat on its backside and did nothing – as is so often their want!

Alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear following council’s report in the current agenda on results of the significant tree register consultation. Yes, there is acknowledgement that the vast majority of the feedback supports tree protection on both private and public land. The problem lies in what council proposes to do with this feedback and how it will be implemented, overseen, and what results are likely to emerge. Of course, the next question is WHEN will anything be done and will it be worth a cracker?

The recommendations read as follows:

That Council:

  1. notes that community consultation indicates support for tree protection on both public and private land.
  2. commits to developing controls to protect trees on private land.
  3. notes that officers have formed a set of objectives in response to community feedback to protect trees.
  4. requests officers to present a report with options for controls that best protect trees in line with the set of objectives.

All well and good (perhaps), until we get to the ‘objectives’ that have been set.

OBJECTIVE 1

Seek to strongly protect significant native trees on both public and private land as a matter of priority. 

At no stage throughout this consultation was there any mention of protection FOR NATIVE TREES ONLY! Glen Eira abounds with a multiplicity of ‘foreign’, introduced species. Does this mean that they will be ignored? That any ensuing tree register will only accept ‘natives’? If this isn’t the intent, then why is this word so deftly and innocuously placed in this objective?

OBJECTIVE 2

Seek to provide a review mechanism for removal of large trees on private land which takes into consideration both value of tree and reason of removal. 

Does this objective only apply to ‘large’ trees? And what is a ‘large’ tree anyway? And who decides? Strange indeed, especially since we are told that there were 18 ‘tree attributes’ that might be considered for the register. This is now reduced to the one criterion of ‘large’!

Given other comments in the officer’s report, the language of ‘review mechanism’ is also cause for concern. On the potential appeal process we get this:

The second round of consultation signals strong support for some type of limited appeals process. However, careful reading of Community Voice survey questions and responses indicates the community feel strongly about having an opportunity to speak publicly about the removal of significant trees, particularly those on public land. This may be able to be achieved through an alternative to an appeals process. 

Other councils (Bayside, Stonnington, etc) have no problem with a straight forward appeal process. Yes, it would cost the owner and council some money. These councils work on the basis that (1) a permit is required to remove or lop a tree on private land. If refused by council an arborist’s report accompanies the refusal. The developer/owner can then appeal and provide his own arborist’s report. Council then makes the final decision in an open and transparent way at a full council meeting! Hardly rocket science!

OBJECTIVE 4

This objective is the acme of gobbledygook plus inserting all those necessary loopholes that would actually limit consultation. Further, the question needs to be asked – why do we even need community consultation on separate, individual tree issues? If the process is in place (as outlined above for appeal matters) then there should be no need for any more ‘consultation’!

Explore the possibility of a mechanism for the community to voice opinions about proposed tree removal, including who, when and why feedback can occur, noting certain controls may have limitations regarding community input.

OBJECTIVE 6

Define the relationship between tree protection and land development  

Readers are free to read as much, or little, into this sentence as they like. It is a catch all, meaningless statement – especially since the report confirms that the majority of responses deemed trees more important than (over)development! It also ignores the fact that once again other councils such as Monash, Whitehorse have as part of their Planning Scheme a Tree Conservation Policy that establishes clear parameters for when trees may be removed from development sites.

There are many other points that could be made about this report and what it suggests about council’s overall intent. Here are some further comments to consider:

  • The report states that 93% of respondents were in favour of a tree register and that “no alternatives to a tree register were suggested”. Since residents weren’t informed about possible alternatives, then it is not surprising that this is the result. You get what you ask for! If the consultation was intended to be ‘comprehensive’ and open-ended, then why weren’t residents informed that:
  1. Tree registers generally only include between 100-250 trees
  2. That tree registers can be included in the planning scheme itself, rather than remain as part of the less powerful Local Law.
  3. Will residents be given the opportunity to nominate those trees they wish to see on any list or will this be the exclusive domain of officers?

The report concludes with – The next step is to pursue options for tree protection controls in Glen Eira that meet the objectives. But if the objectives are so limiting and vague, then we can only conclude that tree protection in this municipality still has a million miles to go before residents get what they’ve been asking for since at least 2003!!!!!!!!

The latest ABS building approvals show Glen Eira still well ahead of all dwelling projections. These figures simply make a mockery of council’s claims that there is the need for doubling the size of activity centres and the newly introduced height limits of 12 storeys in Carnegie and preferred 12 storey height limits in Elsternwick.

We remind readers that Plan Melbourne Refresh includes projections from 2015 to 2051.

Council insists on using figures that ignore the 2015 projections and start from 2016. Even granted this sleight of hand, Glen Eira is well and truly meeting its obligations . Plan Melbourne Refresh sets an aspirational figure of 125,000 net new dwellings in the 4 municipalities (Bayside, Boroondara, Stonnington & Glen Eira). Even if Glen Eira is supposed to accommodate 30% (rather than 25%) of these new dwellings, that means 37,500 dwellings by 2051. Thus 2015 to 2051 equals 36 years and produces a requirement of 1041 net new dwellings per year.

The ABS building approvals reveal that Glen Eira is tracking on average at close to double those figures. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of these permits will have been enacted well before 2051!

For the last 3 years alone (ie 2015-July 2018) Glen Eira has had 6424 building permits issued. When we remove the ‘houses’ numbers (ie no net increase) then the figure for this period is 5430. That’s an average of roughly 1750 for this entire period and Plan Melbourne Refresh data requires only a tad over 1000 net new dwellings per year.

We’ve uploaded the ABS data HERE and ask that residents pay careful attention to the following tables that capture the long-term dwelling increases.

The figures that council produces simply don’t add up. And, as we have repeatedly stated, if the figures are awry, then all that follows is also awry. Council is yet to produce one single scrap of hard evidence that supports 12 storeys nor the doubling of activity centre sizes.

Glen Eira planning scheme

 

Mr DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh)

— On Monday the Minister for Planning visited Carnegie to make a pretty big announcement for both Carnegie and neighbouring Bentleigh. My community in Carnegie specifically are acutely aware of the devastation caused by the former government and the then planning minister, now the Leader of the Opposition — I think they called him Mr Skyscraper — changing the rules to allow developers to take over Carnegie, and people have paid the price since then.

I am really pleased that on Monday the Minister for Planning came to Carnegie and announced everything that the Glen Eira City Council had asked for in relation to height controls — that is, maximum mandatory height controls in Carnegie, which will help protect the remaining character of that wonderful suburb. I am really pleased that the minister visited. I think it was his third visit to Carnegie, and I appreciate his support. He understands the need to balance development with community expectations, and that is exactly what he delivered on Monday.

Council’s Media Release –

Please pay careful attention to our highlighted sections given that:

  • No mention is made of the fact that hundreds upon hundreds of current properties will be upgraded from 2 to 3 or 4 storeys when the final amendment sees the light of day
  • ‘Discretionary’ height limits basically mean nothing when challenged at VCAT
  • Exactly what are the ‘positive outcomes’ and what is the data to justify 12 storeys?
  • Amenity is defined in the dictionary as – “any feature that provides comfort, convenience, or pleasure”. We doubt very much whether increased traffic, increased shadowing, decreased open space per resident qualifies as providing ‘comfort, convenience or pleasure’ for the vast majority of residents.
  • As for the ‘shared vision’ bullshit we suggest that councillors go back and read residents’ comments about what they wanted for their activity centres! These documents are anything but a ‘shared vision’ – they are the vision of a council determined to progress its pro-development agenda at the expense of ‘amenity’ and community representation!

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