GE Consultation/Communication


With another year almost gone, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on what has happened throughout this period. What, if anything, has improved? What has gone backwards? What has remained static? Have the new councillors performed well? Have the old councillors ‘improved’?

There have been some positive steps, although we must admit they are tiny baby steps compared to what is required. We finally, after 18 years of talk, got a significant tree register. However, the roll out of this program is well and truly behind schedule and ultimately will take another few years to reach even the miniscule figure of 250 trees given the current rate. More disheartening is the fact that the tree register remains part of council’s Local Law, rather than being enshrined in the planning scheme itself. A recent VCAT hearing had the member make this comment which reveals how important it is that controls are included in our planning scheme. We quote:

The site contains five (5) trees that are proposed to be removed as part of the car park development. All are of exotic species and the planning scheme does not have any tree removal controls. Hence, their removal is acceptable.

(SOURCE: – https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT//2021/1549.html)

Whether or not one finds the conclusion valid, is a moot point. If council did have a planning scheme which sought protection of ALL trees meeting certain criteria, then perhaps such judgements would be far less frequent.

We have been told again and again that councillors are determined to address the municipality’s lack of public open space, sustainability, increase our canopy cover, and take real action on climate change. All well and good and to be applauded. However, when such aspirations are not backed up by sufficient funding, then we have to query whether anything will really improve over the next few years. The Open Space Strategy states that at least 150 hectares of additional open space is required to meet the community’s needs. The long term financial plan allocates roughly $7M per annum for each of the next four years. This is just enough to purchase roughly 1500 – 1800 square metres of property per annum. Even with the current proposal for an 8.3%  open space levy (when other councils are looking at 10%) this will still not be sufficient to come even close to the ‘required’ 150 hectares.

The above comments can also be applied to council’s action plan on increasing the canopy cover, and acting on reducing carbon emissions. Unless such policies are backed up by sufficient funding, then we can only anticipate a further loss of important canopy trees, and little improvement in climate management strategies. This of course goes to the heart of priority setting by this administration and its elected representatives. When council is committed to massive spending on infrastructure projects such as the Carnegie Pool, to the tune of now $52M (up from the budget forecast of $51M), and when no business case has been made public, we have to doubt the efficacy of such decisions – especially when countless comments from residents wanted the ambience and the foot print of the current pool retained. Very few desired another (mini) GESAC. 

Planning in Glen Eira remains as it has for decades – pro development, and lacking in enforceable strategies and policies. It is quite unbelievable that after the mandated Planning Scheme Review of 2016 we still do not have:

  • Permanent structure plans for Bentleigh, Elsternwick, and Carnegie
  • After being promised structure plans for our neighbourhood centres, we only have ‘guidelines’ (ie Built Form Frameworks) for three neighbourhood centres which are not as yet even in the planning scheme. No indication has been given as to what to expect for the remaining centres.
  • No developer contributions on parking as promised in 2016
  • No Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) policy
  • No review of the residential zones and their respective schedules since 2013
  • And the most damning fact – no housing strategy since 2002 and council steam rolling ahead with amendment after amendment all PRIOR to the completion of an essential housing strategy.

Politics has continued to play an important role in many councillors’ decision making as evidenced by the car park issue and the acceptance (or not) of the $18M funding from the Federal Government. Politics is also evident in the alacrity with which some Labor aligned councillors so heartily support draft structure plans and applications that include heights so out of keeping with resident wishes.

Council signed an ‘agreement’ with several other councils this year to demand greater community and council input into the State Government’s planning agenda. Thus far, we have heard nothing back.  Have discussions been ongoing between councils and the department? If so, why not some updates?

We must also comment on the volume of useless community consultations. We maintain that they are indeed ‘useless’ when the questions on surveys are simply designed to elicit certain responses, and when councillors and the community consultation committee has no input into the final product. Residents are often faced with planning jargon that most will not be familiar with, or with hundreds upon hundreds of pages to plough through in order to come up with some decent submissions. The absence of Discussion Papers that are truly objective and informative is a major failing of this council. Surely a brief document that accurately summarises the issues would not go astray.

Several councillors have bemoaned the fact that the response rate on various issues is poor. Perhaps council needs to start asking why this might be the case. Is it simply because residents are apathetic? Or perhaps it might have more to do with the fact that so many people believe that their views will not be acted upon? Or maybe, the manner in which consultations are carried out, and the ‘useless’ questions are seen as a complete waste of time by residents?  Then again, people are simply tired no doubt, and flooding them with mock consultation after mock consultation is simply demoralising and counter productive. Perhaps more people would respond if more information was included that meant something. For example: pretty pictures of draft designs is not enough. Why not include some basics like -size, cost, footprint? Surely this would elicit some very relevant and greater feedback. The greatest fallacy however would be for this council to assume that because the response rates might not be up to par, that means that the majority of residents are in FAVOUR of the various projects. In our view, nothing could be further from the truth. Disquiet is growing and until this council addresses the fundamental issues of housing, open space, and sustainability, we will continue to head backwards. It is the role of councillors to ensure that this trend is reversed.

Our best wishes to all for a much healthier and far more fulfilling 2022.

The Planning Panel Report on the ‘Hidden Gems’ amendment is now available. Council’s amendment is ‘appropriate’ and the panel has supported most of the recommendations contained therein. More importantly, the panel repeats previous criticisms of the Department and the Minister, where their refusal to include all the precincts identified by the external heritage advisor as suitable for heritage listing were omitted. The rationale was that listing these precincts in the Elsternwick Urban Renewal South, would likely be the ‘primary driver for development outcomes’. In other words – let’s not put any impediments in the way of the mooted high rise that is to go into Elsternwick.

To the Panel’s credit, this was not only commented upon, but the criticism is fully warranted. What is most disappointing however, is that there was not a single peep out of council (at least made public) when they were informed of these exclusions. Would it have killed council to announce their opposition to this decision? Would it have killed council to publish any letters it may have written in response – in fact, was there any correspondence, or did council merely and meekly accept a decision that goes against current legislation, planning practice notes, and its own VPPs? If this was the case, then once again, this council has chosen the route of compliance, rather than support for what the community values – ie heritage!

The following pages, taken directly from the Planning Panel report, show what the Panel thought of Wynne’s and the Department’s decision making and its justification –

Last night’s council meeting included another first – the refusal to allow a councillor his requested time extension. This occurred on the ‘debate’ for progressing the multi-storey car parks in Bentleigh and Elsternwick to the next stage – ie design, background reports, feasibility studies etc.

Zyngier rose to speak against the motion to proceed. He spoke for his 3 allotted minutes and then requested a time extension of 6 minutes. Magee replied that he would consider another 3 minutes first and then see how far Zyngier had got with his statements. The motion to allow the three minute extension was put and voted down. Those opposing the time extension were: Esakoff, Cade, Parasol, and Zmood. Given that Pilling and Athanasopolous were absent, these councillors constituted the majority.

Only Zhang later in the ‘debate’ commented how disappointing it was that this occurred.

It is indeed another sad day for Glen Eira when a councillor is denied his right to speak for more than 3 minutes. To the best of our knowledge, this has not occurred previously. Whatever Zyngier had wanted to say is not the issue. Nor is the final voting the issue. What is the issue, is how politics has come to play a major role in many council decisions and this applies to both sides!

Since none of the above 4 councillors provided reasons for their decision to disallow Zyngier his requested time, we have no idea why they voted the way they did. Simply not good enough.

On another matter, it seems that McKenzie has adopted the Paul Burke method of reading out public questions as fast as she possibly can in a steady monotone, making it difficult to follow the intricacies of the question for those listening or viewing. This was not the case 6 months ago!

As everyone has known for years, Glen Eira has the least amount of public open space per capita in the state. We also lay claim to the 5th densest municipality behind Melbourne, Yarra, Port Phillip and Stonnington (all of these being ‘inner municipalities’). Our rate of development continues practically unabated and lest we forget, East village and Caulfield Village are waiting in the wings for at least another 7,500 residents. Given these facts, it behooves all residents to ask some basic questions of their council – namely:

  • Why can Darebin, Monash produce current amendments which seek a 10% open space levy?
  • Why can Yarra produce a current amendment which seeks a 10.1% open space levy?
  • Why is Glen Eira ‘satisfied’ with a 8.3% levy in the face of its rate of development and lack of existing open space?
  • Is the Open Space Refresh document a valid strategic justification for this 8.3%?

Residents have until late December to provide a submission to this latest proposed amendment. We urge all readers to compare what other councils (with far greater existing open space) see as required compared to what Glen Eira proposes. Until a decent levy is imposed, Glen Eira will continue to see a decrease in its open space requirements.  

The Age has today published a letter from the Commomwealth Minister for Infrastructure in relation to the multi-level car park funding. It is presented below:

Whatever one may think of the entire car park issue, there have been plenty of ‘wrongs’ committed along the way by council and government.  Consider the following:

  • The first real inkling that residents had of council’s possible intention to built high rise car parks came with the structure planning for Bentleigh & Carnegie. At no stage were residents provided with the opportunity to say ‘yeeah’ or ‘naay’ SPECIFICALLY to these structures. An earlier background report for Bentleigh even suggested that two such car parks be erected and that council owned land could be sold off.
  • Now that there has been plenty of adverse criticism for the funding, a ‘consultation’ is finally taking place. But like most Glen Eira consultations, it is far from acceptable. (See: https://gleneira.blog/2021/10/13/multi-storey-carparks/
  • If council are so fantastic in their strategic planning, then why didn’t they get the proposed locations right the first time around?  Why were residents told that a 6 and 5 storey construction was required, to now have these heights reduced – without of course informing us as to the new proposed heights!
  • As for the Minister’s letter, thinly veiled threats are far from acceptable. Nor do we really know whether council was ‘tapped on the shoulder’ (as claimed) for these grants, or whether there was a formal submission. Perhaps if such a document exists, it could be placed in the public domain?

In our view none of this would have happened if a logical and clear process was followed. Namely:

  1. First the decision is made AFTER community consultation that such multi-level carparks are required.
  2. Consultation provides all the necessary detail – ie costings, design, etc.
  3. Government grants and the rationale for decisions are made public

So we are now really and truly in the proverbial! If for example the community is in favour of only one of these car parks, will council receive half the money, or none? Will council react to this clear intimidation, or meekly cave in? If this letter was sent in September, when were councillors informed as to its receipt? Or did they only find out today?

And when will politics finally keep its grubby little hands out of local affairs? Labor and the Greens are keen to use the ‘tainted’ nomenclature to earn some brownie points against Morrison’s gov , whilst the Libs are also not averse to screaming ‘community benefit’.

It will be very interesting to see which way this council jumps – assuming of course that residents will be informed of everything leading up to the final decision!

There can be no excuse for what is proposed for council’s Community Engagement Strategy. The vote on Tuesday night will seek to endorse a strategy that has been rejected by a council resolution on the 23rd February 2021. This resolution still stands!

Council’s presentation for this item is deliberately false, inaccurate, and devious. First off, we are told that the attachment represents the endorsed Community Engagement Policy from 2020. Here is the (false) presented version . Please note the highlighted sections at the bottom of the table.

On the 15th December 2020 the draft contained the following. Again, please note the highlighted sections and compare with what is now suggested as the 2020 policy.

Following public consultation, councillors voted on the 23rd February 2021 as follows:

COMMENTS

It is simply staggering that council should attempt to present such false information and in doing so,  over-ride a clear councillor resolution. Secondly, if this is passed then it achieves a reduction in community input to the most important aspects of council’s operation – ie strategic planning and policy development. As we’ve stated in earlier posts, Glen Eira compared to other councils is determined to limit resident participation as much as possible. ‘Inform’ and ‘Consult’ are the lowest rung of the engagement ladder according to these councils and the IAPP principles.  (see: https://gleneira.blog/2021/01/07/consultation-2-2/. But what is even more damning is our allegation that this is deliberate and an attempt to bypass and ignore a councillor resolution as well as limiting community participation. It is unconscionable!!!!

Council’s agenda is out and once again we despair at the predetermined outcomes that this administration enforces upon its residents. Included in the agenda are the Built Form Frameworks (BFFs) for Caulfield South, Caulfield North and Bentleigh East, as well as the Community Engagement Strategy.

Readers should note the following:

  • The Community Engagement Strategy promises that residents will be provided with feedback on how their views influenced the final council proposal/decision. In relation to the BFF’s this is entirely missing. So much for the ‘engagement strategy’ and its empty promises.
  • The report on the community consultation for the BFFs failed to include the actual comments. What we basically get are ‘summaries’. Given the importance of these strategic plans, and how many residents will be impacted, surely a comprehensive and detailed analysis of all responses is warranted? Of course, readers might like to think back to the actual questions that were asked as part of this ‘consultation’ and how sub-standard they were! (See: https://gleneira.blog/2021/05/12/is-this-fair-dinkum-consultation/ for our ‘review’ of the consultation)
  • The BFFs remain unchanged from the previous versions as far as we can tell. Interestingly, the accompanying draft Design & Development Overlay, is only for Caulfield South. Why? No explanation is given as to why Bentleigh East and Caulfield North are ignored. Is council simply testing the water at this stage? What is the expected time frame for the DDO’s for the remaining two centres?
  • Most importantly, any planning for activity centres has as its major objective to ensure that there is capacity to meet the forecast population growth. Not one single statistic on population and dwelling growth is provided in any of these frameworks!!!! Hence, we cannot find any strategic justification as to why 6 storeys is appropriate, compared to 10 storeys or even 15 storeys if this is the logic behind these plans!   In our view, the link between projected population growth and dwellings required has not been established. That is the role of a Housing Strategy. But of course, council is rushing everything through PRIOR to the creation of a Housing Strategy!!!!!
  • Even more damning is the fact that Council is still relying heavily on its City Plan. We remind readers that this document argues that 5 storeys is the optimum discretionary level for commercially zoned sites in these centres. Yet we are confronted with BFFs that totally ignore this and recommend higher levels. What’s the point of having a policy that is continually ignored?

There is much, much more that could be said in regards to these BFFs and the Engagement Strategy. We will provide a more detailed analysis in the next few days.

Some ex-councillors and even some current councillors appear incapable of admitting that this council can ever get anything wrong. So we have to be constantly beware of misleading and deliberate obfuscation of the facts. Surely it is time for a simple apology and the admission that ‘we stuffed up’. But no! Apologists continue to flood social media with their propaganda and refusal to show any contrition.

We thought that it is therefore time that readers had a clear idea of the history of planning in Glen Eira and to lay blame where it crucially belongs. Yes, the State Government has had a major role, but this cannot excuse the failures of our council – especially when their actions and results are compared to what other councils have achieved.

Please read the following carefully:

  • In 2004, Amendment C25 was introduced which created the minimal change/housing diversity split up of the municipality
  • The Planning Panel report that assessed this amendment used the term ‘interim’ in regards to the amendment 24 times, plus sentiments such as – The boundaries of the neighbourhood centres identified in the amendment are considered by the panel as interim at best.  The Panel also urged council as a case of urgency to undertake structure planning which Council promised to do. This was never done – no review, no structure planning, no parking precinct plans, etc. So 17 years later, we still do not have any permanent structure plans in place, no parking precinct plans, and certainly no review of the activity centre boundaries.
  • The then Planning Minister Guy announced the new zones on 5/8/2013. These were gazetted (ie legally approved) on 23/8/2013.
  • Councillors claim that ‘consultation’ occurred with the 2010 Planning Scheme Review and the zones were a ‘neutral’ translation and what people had told council they wanted. Neighbourhood Character Overlays were introduced via Amendment C87 in 2012 – BUT THEY ONLY COVERED APPROXIMATELY 600 SITES OUT OF 53,000 sites in Glen Eira. Secondly, the 2010 Planning Scheme Review report does NOT EVEN MENTION ‘mandatory heights’ which Hyams for example claims residents expressed a wish for. Nor has there ever been any discussion, much less consultation, on what residents consider an appropriate height for various sectors of the municipality.
  • Prior to the zones there was a ‘preferred’ height limit set of 9 metres in residential areas. With the zones, council had the option of less than 10.5 metres for General Residential Zone and less than 13.5 metres for Residential Growth zone. Council imposed the maximum.
  • Other councils (Bayside, Stonnington, Monash, etc)  had up to 13 GRZ zones where they had differing height limits for each of the 13 or so GRZ zones. In Glen Eira there were only 3 GRZ (and one created especially for Wilks St development) each of 10.5 metres. Thus, a ‘one size fits all’ approach and lack of real strategic work to look at the municipality and work out what’s best for each specific area. Needless to say, these other councils determined their zoning on the basis of their respective Housing Strategies. Glen Eira still does not have one.
  • This means that people woke up on the 23rd August and could legally have a 13.5m building next to them, when on the 22nd the chances of this happening were practically zilch. NO warning, no consultation, and apparently no intention of reviewing the zones themselves. And even with the introduction of the zones, the Glen Eira planning scheme still made it possible for large sites to contain more than 2 dwellings in the NRZ. This remains until this day and well before Wynne’s removal of the 2 dwelling limit.
  • As to the efficacy of these new zones, we have had plenty of recent officer reports that state the ‘radial’ application of the zones (ie drawing a circle on a map) was  ‘inappropriate’ at best, and wrong at worst, resulting in countless streets with at least 3 different zones.
  • In 2015 there was a state wide ‘review’ of the residential zones and committees were set up to make recommendations to the government. In its report on the Glen Eira introduction of the zones, the committee concluded:

The zones were implemented in Glen Eira without public consultation, and without an independent review process. The Reasons for Decision to Exercise Power of Intervention deemed that further consultation through the formal statutory process unnecessary, stating: Consultation has been conducted during the development of the Housing and Residential Development Strategy and in relation to Amendment C25.
The Committee notes the Council’s Housing and Residential Strategy was adopted in 2002, 11 years before the gazettal of Amendment C110. The Committee questions the currency of the policy itself as well as the currency of the community consultation in relation to this policy.
(page 176 of Advisory committee Report: Managing Residential Development Advisory Committee Residential Zone Review).

  • Amendment C25 back in 2004 introduced a 25% permeability requirement for NRZ only. This had nothing to do with the introduction of the zones in 2013. Furthermore, permeability, setbacks, have never been MANDATORY as one ex-councillor would like us to believe. The only thing that became ‘mandatory’ were the heights.
  • As an example of what countless other council currently have in their planning schemes we provide the following table. Glen Eira still maintains it 25% for the NRZ zone, and 20% for its GRZ and RGZ zoning. Readers should also remember that with the proposed amendment C184 for Carnegie, council was quite happy with a new RGZ zone that applied a 5% permeability rating and a 90% site coverage!!!!

Finally, all we seem to be getting with the current ‘consultation’ on the Planning Scheme rewrite is more of the same – empty promises that council will continue with its ‘further strategic work’. Here is what is promised according to the proposed draft amendment. Given this council’s history of doing bugger all if it can, we urge all residents to take these promises with a gigantic grain of salt! With the rate of development that has occurred in Glen Eira and is still occurring, we cannot have another set of empty promises that, at best, could take another decade or more to introduce if there is the will, or at worst, will never see the light of day.

Recent council responses to a variety of public questions have made it clear that permanent planning controls for Bentleigh and Carnegie are expected (probably) in 2024. Elsternwick will be following these amendments – hence we could well be looking at 2025 and perhaps even 2026 for this area. That leaves Glen Huntly which will come after all of these. Is anyone prepared to hazard a guess as to when this Major Activity Centre will be finalised? How about 2026-2028?

Since the Glen Huntly amendment is years down the track, one might well ask why there was the rush to get the draft structure plan ratified now, instead of working all out on the Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie ones? Please remember that unless something is in the planning scheme, via a gazetted (approved) amendment, it has no power to influence council and VCAT decisions.

Even more important than all of the above, is that these structure plans and their respective amendments are being rushed through prior to the creation and finalisation of a Housing Strategy – the work which is meant to be the foundation for all planning and zoning in the municipality. Whilst other council have had housing strategies for well over a decade (and are continually reviewing them), all Glen Eira has is a document that dates back to 2002 and is based on data from 1999!

We’ve also got the additional problem of the Built Form Frameworks for Caulfield North & South and Bentleigh East – all well and truly ‘cemented’ before the housing strategy even sees the light of day. Council maintains that all of its previous work remains ‘relevant’. Not so! Documents created in 2017 are now well and truly outdated as well as being created pre-COVID.

Adding to the mess that is emblematic of council’s planning processes, on the 11th November, we will also have ‘consultation’ on the Planning Scheme rewrite, and the draft amendment for the Open Space levy contribution rate. Again, all before, the development and ratification of a housing strategy. Assessments of neighbourhood character are supposed to be included in such ‘rewrites’. Has, or will, this be done or will we again have areas lumped together without any real municipal wide investigation of current zonings and their schedules. In the age of a ‘climate emergency’ will we still have zones and schedules that only require 20% permeability in GRZ and RGZ zonings when some other councils have up to 40% for these zones? And the most crucial question of all is – given the rate of development in Glen Eira over the past decade, do we still need so many areas zoned for multi-unit development and/or high density development?

In December 2015, Wynne refused council’s request for another time extension on reviewing their planning scheme. They were also ordered to undertake structure planning. By the time we get any permanent controls into our municipality, it will be at least 8 to 9 years since this time. We find it staggering that any strategic planning should take this length of time. Council can keep blaming the State Government all it likes, but other councils have managed to implement their planning scheme rewrites, their structure plans, their increased open space levies, without the ‘problems’ that council claims.  Of course, one could be cynical and argue that the longer it takes to introduce anything, then more and more development can take place. Or being kind, we might simply argue, that what we have is the most incompetent, and out of touch, planning department in the state. The tragedy is that millions have literally been wasted and we are still reliant on policies that provide no real protection or community benefit when it comes to planning.

There are several agenda items for the upcoming Wednesday night council meeting which deserve residents’ close attention. The major focus for two of the items is on heritage, whilst the third item contains comments that apply to planning in general throughout Glen Eira.

What each of these items has in common can be summarised as follows:

  • A history of neglect and dereliction of duty by council on heritage for well over 15 years. Given that we have had, and still have certain councillors with extended time on council, the blame for such inaction must fall upon them.
  • Scant concern for existing heritage overlays and the resolve to initiate controls via planning scheme amendments to ensure greater protection for these sites and precincts.
  • In Glen Eira, development potential usurps heritage protection. In fact, this applies equally to the State Government and VCAT.
  • With the third agenda item (ie submission on the Gov’s Land Use Frameworks) we have the explicit and unequivocal admission that the introduction of the residential zones in 2013 were abysmally implemented. Even worse, is the admission that what council is now proposing is in fact contrary to what the approved structure plans for Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick propose.

We will go through the above and elaborate in order.

HERITAGE AMENDMENT C214glen

Included in the Panel Report for this proposed amendment, we find data collated by the Heritage Council’s review for all municipalities in the state. These are produced below. Please note:

  • How badly Glen Eira compares with other inner metropolitan councils
  • How little has been achieved over the years on heritage, despite the fact that in the 2016 Planning Scheme Review, residents were promised a complete review of the ENTIRE municipality. This has now morphed into individual precincts and suburbs. The promise of 2016 has not been done, which leaves hundreds of properties at the mercy of developers.

The Panel Report, and the officer’s report makes it absolutely clear that the issue of whether or not a site is suitable for heritage protection has nothing whatsoever to do with:

  • Objections
  • Financial costs
  • State of building, or
  • Potential development

This therefore raises innumerable questions as to why council did not utter a single word when the Minister refused to incorporate several heritage precincts in Elsternwick that were evaluated by Heritage experts as being worthy of inclusion into the proposed heritage overlays. The published excuse was that there was no current ‘development pressure’. Council has also used this ‘excuse’ when considering applying for interim heritage overlays. The above Planning Panel report invalidates these excuses and also brings into question why the Minister, in refusing to include these heritage precincts, has in fact acted against his own Planning Practice Notes!

NEERIM ROAD, MURRUMBEENA APPLICATION

This is an application for 7 storeys, and 88 student apartments, and on a site which has recently gained a heritage overlay. There were 115 objections. Previously the site was earmarked for a 9 storey building, which was refused by council. At the subsequent VCAT hearing, the developer reduced the application to 7 storeys. VCAT also refused the granting of a permit, largely on heritage grounds and insufficient setbacks. This latest application argues that the previous VCAT directions have now been attended to via the new plans.

Whilst this latest application receives the nod for a permit, we find the reasons for this view to once again show how pro development this planning department is. The report completely ignores to mention the following:

  • Less than half of the proposed dwellings are more than 20 square metres! Some are in the range of 16, 17, and 18 square metres in size. Readers might remember the furore created by the City of Melbourne’s report that student apartments should have a minimum size of at least 50 square metres in order to be truly ‘liveable’. The Minister had his chance to implement minimum size guidelines with his ‘Better Apartments’ guidelines, but failed to do so.  Glen Eira’s submission to this endeavour stated: While setting minimum apartment sizes is encouraged in principle, this should be considered against the impact it may have on construction costs and consequently, housing affordability. If a correlation genuinely exists between the two, setting an apartment standard may not be ideal.
  • Whilst both City Futures and Heritage stated that the height was still a concern, the report concluded: While Council’s Heritage Advisor does not consider that the proposal has gone far enough to address the specific heritage elements in this centre, it is considered on balance that the proposal has suitably addressed the requirements of the Heritage Overlay, has moderated the bulk and form to a sufficient degree which was a key issue in the VCAT decision for the 2019 Student Housing Proposal and provides for the retention and restoration of the façade of the original building.

It is clear that when it comes to heritage, this council prefers development. We have already seen the granting of a permit for 12 storeys of student accommodation in Derby Road, Caulfield East on a heritage site, and the demolition of several other heritage properties throughout Glen Eira.

If and when this latest application goes to VCAT, we are not optimistic as to the final decision. Why? Because the arguments presented at the previous VCAT hearing remain. Of course, these comments made by the member were not included in the council officer’s report. We quote from this earlier decision:

Unfortunately, there is no structure plan for this activity centre to assist us in considering the built form outcomes for this site. Council has adopted a new City Plan (February 2020). The plan sets out a 4-storey preferred height for those parts of the activity centre to be included within the Heritage Overlay and a 5-storey height for land facing Melbourne Street. The City Plan shows four levels for the front part of 430 Neerim Road and five levels to the rear. The Tribunal in 348-354 Hawthorn Road Pty Ltd Ltd v Glen Eira CC [2020] VCAT 1211 accepted that the City Plan may be the council’s current broad thinking about activity centres in general, but we give it no weight as a tool to assess building height, relative to the urban design tests of the planning scheme as set by both the State and local policy frameworks. While we agree with these comments, we consider that there is an expectation of development within this activity centre of up to five storeys, noting that there are developments of this scale already present in the activity centre

The council submission acknowledges that the local policies do not prescribe particular heights or densities for the neighbourhood centre and that density, mass and scale of residential development needs to be assessed according to the location, physical size, scale and character of the neighbourhood centre.

there is nothing in the planning scheme to indicate that a uniform height is sought for buildings in this centre, or any other neighbourhood centre.

COUNCIL SUBMISSION TO GOV – LAND USE FRAMEWORKS

Whilst this submission is a vast improvement on previous council efforts, given that there are overt criticisms made of the policy, plus the call for more specific explanation and verified data, the overall response includes several paragraphs that should be noted by residents.  The following is in response to the State Gov’s proposal that neighbourhood activity centres be required to accommodate medium to high density development along a range of 800 metres.

Direction 5 – Prioritise housing growth in areas with access to jobs, services and good public transport

This Direction refers to opportunities for new medium and higher density housing to be considered within an 800 metre walkable catchment of activity centres. This is not supported. Many of Glen Eira activity centres are linear and relate better to a 400 metre walkable distance at the most. A radial measurement is not appropriate and opportunities for new housing should be considered at the local level, through structure plans, where the community is involved.

What we have here is the complete disavowel of the residential zones that were introduced in 2013. They were ‘radial’ in countless residential streets. All council did was draw a circle on a map with a radius of 400m. Most of our activity centres and their respective zoning still has not altered, meaning that countless residential streets currently have at least 2 and often 3 different zones. 8 years later we are being told that this is ‘inappropriate’.

Worse still is the admission that a 400 metre ‘walkable distance’ is the best option. If so, then why do our current interim structure plans work on the principle of 800m? Does this mean that the structure plans for Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie will be consigned to the dustbin of history – as they should? How much money has this cost thus far and to what effect?

All of the above illustrates fully what an absolute mess planning is in Glen Eira. Heritage is ‘expendable’ when it competes with development; structure planning for all of our neighbourhood centres remains in the ‘never-never’ and contrition from the likes of Hyams, Magee, Athanasopolous, Delahunty, Lipshutz, and Esakoff, and Pilling, for allowing such incompetence for years and years, is not forthcoming.  Our hope is that with a new crop of councillors, perhaps residents can finally achieve the sort of council that does act in the best interests of its community.

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