GE Council Meeting(s)

The agenda set down for tonight’s council meeting illustrates once again how little has been achieved in a decade and how governance continues to fail miserably.

First off, we have the recommendation to create a heritage overlay on the former ABC studio site in Elsternwick. It currently has no heritage coverage. Originally zoned Neighbourhood Residential council decided to rezone it as Residential Growth Zone in 2013 and according to its draft structure plan, this became 8 storeys. Wynne’s recent intervention will make it 10 storeys.

Given all of the above, and considering that council knew in 2013 that the site was being sold, why has it taken 5 years at least to even start considering a heritage overlay? The property has now been sold and plans are surely on the drawing board for major residential development. This is made absolutely clear by council’s archaic planning scheme itself and their report into the studios in 2013 where it was stated – Given the size of the land (8000m2) and Residential zoning, it is likely that the site will be sold to developers for residential purposes.(Minutes of July 23rd, 2013). Why couldn’t council get off its backside in 2013 and initiate some positive action?

For more info, see our past posts –

The second issue, concerns the use of school grounds. Nothing new here since the minutes of 26th February, 2008 contained this resolution –

Crs Esakoff/Whiteside

That a report be prepared into any opportunities that may exist for Council in the provision of additional/improved areas of open space that could be used for both passive and active recreation within Glen Eira’s existing school network.

The resulting officer’s report was tabled on 20th May, 2008 and basically concentrated on all the ‘problems’ associated with sharing school grounds. The councillor resolution was watered down to ‘let’s write a letter’ – 

Crs Esakoff/Spaulding

That Council write to all primary and secondary schools in Glen Eira along the lines of Attachment A and send a copy to the Victoria Department of Education The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously.

The issue popped up again 8 years later when there was another Request for A Report –


That Officers prepare a report into the potential for Council to collaborate with schools in Glen Eira to utilise their open space and grounds for use by sporting clubs and the wider community.

The MOTION was put and CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY. (Minutes of 19th July, 2016) 

Thus history repeats itself. Motion after motion and nothing is done or reported back on. In fact this 2016 request for a report WAS NEVER TABLED AT ANY COUNCIL MEETING. The ghost of Newton is well and truly still alive in Glen Eira it would seem!

We therefore have 2 issues that have been on the cards for at least 5 and 10 years respectively and council has been satisfied to sit back, be reactive and achieve a big fat zero during this time.

Finally, we turn to planning and ask readers to consider the following officer’s comments for the planning application for Pearce St., South Caulfield. Is it really too much to ask that when plans come in, that council insists that they are accurate, and if it is impossible to ascertain whether they are, that they be referred back to the developer?

The plans will be required to demonstrate that the proposal provides at least 20% permeability across the site, as this is unclear when looking at the provided landscape plans. 

In regards to site coverage, the proposal appears to come in above the required maximum percentage. To further assist the development to integrate better with the neighbourhood character it is recommended that the proposal does not exceed this maximum percentage of site coverage.

Incompetence, laziness, indifference? You make up your mind!

The issue of granting permit time extensions is important, especially when planning schemes and their controls have changed. The officer’s report for this item included this paragraph –

From 1 January to 30 July 2018 there have been 102 requests for an extension of time. In the 2017 calendar year 157 requests were received. This represents a relatively high volume of work and indicates that such requests are common. 

This is literally a staggering amount of applications. Yet the community has no idea how many of these requests for time extensions were granted, or refused. Most importantly we have no idea as to the reasons why they were either granted or denied.

The issue of time extensions is important and has already been shown to have a decided impact on land use in this municipality. The most blatant example concerns an approved permit for 7 storeys in Centre Road Bentleigh. When the permit was granted by VCAT, there were no interim heights. In November 2017, after the amendment was introduced a council planner granted a time extension. Had the time extension not been granted then the developer would have had to put in a new application where the height restrictions applied – ie lower. Council thus provided the developer with a free pass to build his 7 storeys despite the fact that it is council ‘policy’ to NOT GRANT TIME EXTENSIONS IF PLANNING CONTROLS HAVE CHANGED. Below is an extract from a 2012 officer report which makes this abundantly clear. So why was this permit granted and if this is council’s policy then what were the reasons for the approval?

Since the approval was granted under delegation, the question of how council handles its delegations becomes vital. More importantly, it raised questions of transparency and accountability. In March 2018, there was a request for a report to consider the issue. It’s only taken 5 months for this report to make it into the agenda! Excuses have been that council is reviewing its delegations! Please remember that it only took 3 weeks for council to change its delegations from one council meeting to the next (ie 1st May proposed delegations were deferred until 22nd May, when some major changes were added!). There is nothing (legally) to stop councils changing their delegations at any time. Thus why are we still waiting until the ‘near future’ as stated in the officer’s report? And what does ‘near future’ actually mean – 3 months, 6 months, another year?

The officer’s report provides councillors with 4 options. They are:

  • Do nothing
  • Make it a ‘manager decision’ plus the ability of councillors to ‘call-in’ the application
  • Make it a formal council resolution
  • All decisions be via council resolution

The report recommends option 2.

Whilst this is a marked improvement, it still fails to address residents’ major concerns. Here is option 2 & 3 as presented in the officer’s report –

The wording of the recommended option 2 is far from satisfactory. (1) It limits applications to those which were the result of council resolutions alone or which fall under the category of ‘significant community interest’. Very few decisions are made by councillors in planning – less than 5% of applications. Plus, who is to decide what constitutes ‘significant community interest’. Are we talking 10 objections, 15 objections or must the magic number approach more than 50? The final sticking point is that there will be no public disclosure of which applications have been lodged since this will only go to the councillor briefings. The online planning register does not detail this information – or certainly not on a regular basis.  

Option 3 is slightly better in that it calls for councillor resolution and takes it out of the hands of ‘managers’. There is however the repetition of what was stated in Option 2.

If council is genuine in its attempts to improve transparency and accountability then these 4 options will not do the job. The public has a right to know:

  • Which developments are seeking time extensions and what the outcomes are
  • The reasons for any decisions
  • An online register that is comprehensive, up-to-date and accurate
  • Delegations which work in the community’s interests, not the developers!

This post concerns last night’s ‘discussion’ on VCAT Watch. The cases brought up involved Royal Avenue and Manchester Grove, both in Glen Huntly. The former application was for a 5 storey development in the Commercial Zone. True to form, councilors voted for 4 storeys only to be knocked on the head by VCAT with the developer getting his 5 storeys and car parking waivers. The second application also got the nod from VCAT where the site is zoned GRZ (ie 3 storeys).

VCAT certainly is no friend to residents. But neither is council!!!!! Until councilors stop pretending that all the blame should be laid at the feet of VCAT, and that poor old Glen Eira is a ‘victim’ of this autocratic institution, then nothing will change. Glen Eira is in the state it is because that is what was decided and the major culprits are Hyams, Esakoff, Magee, and Delahunty who oversaw the introduction of the disastrous zones without community consultation, and now again attempting a 20(4) appeal to the Minister for 12 storeys in Bentleigh & Carnegie. These same individuals have sat for years and years as our ‘representatives’ and have achieved zero when it comes to proficient planning. Worse is that they still insist on pulling the wool over residents’ eyes, when they certainly should know a lot better.

We urge all readers to listen carefully to what Hyams, Esakoff & Silver said in the following. We will then comment.


HYAMS stated that the member said that ‘the site didn’t need visitor parking because it is near a station” NO, THIS WASN’T WHAT WAS SAID. Paragraph 57 of the judgement states – I am satisfied the provision of one visitor parking space is acceptable. The member also states – I understand the provision of one or two visitor parking spaces rather than three spaces was supported by the Council’s professional planning and traffic engineering officers

So Hyams is taking issue with VCAT because some visitor car parking is waived. Yet officer reports repeatedly use the same arguments as the VCAT member. If Hyams and Esakoff are so concerned about the waiving of visitor car parking, then how come they voted for permits on the vast majority of the following cases? Why didn’t they stand up on their hind legs and ask the traffic department to justify its recommendations? If council’s own traffic department uses the same arguments as VCAT, then is VCAT really the villain or does the fault lie with a council that has no parking precinct plans, or decent parking overlays, even though these were promised in 2004?

Here are some quotes from officer reports for various applications – most of which got their permits from council and were voted through by the likes of Hyams and Esakoff and lately Silver. The quotes are all verbatim from the various reports found in the agenda papers (dates provided so people can check)

Application for 13 storeys, 117 dwellings – Glen Huntly Road/Ripon Grove

The Planning Scheme requirement is for a total of 213 car spaces to be provided on site. There is a total shortfall of 43 car spaces proposed.In relation to the car parking reductions proposed, this is considered reasonable given the commercial location, opposite a rail station, tram line and with short term on street parking available. (agenda of December 17th, 2017 – officer report)

13-15 Hamilton Street, Bentleigh – (10th April 2018 – officer’s report)

The reduction in visitor parking is considered acceptable. The applicant has provided a car parking assessment which outlines that peak visitor demand would likely be up to two, visitor car parking spaces. Given the site is within an area highly serviced by public transport, and there is sufficiently available space within the vicinity of the site to cater for 1 car space to be accommodated (as there is 1 space in the basement), this waiver is considered acceptable in this instance. 

21st March 2017 – It is also noted that the site has good access to public transport. A tram route runs along Glen Huntly Road which operates between Melbourne University and Carnegie. The nearest tram stop is approximate 50 metres to the east. Glen Huntly station is also a short walking distance from the subject site (approximately 400 to the west). 1254-58 Glen Huntly Road, Carnegie – 6 storeys, 79 dwellings)

The proposal is seeking to waive the requirement for one visitor parking space. Given the proximity of the site to the Ormond Train Station (less than 100 metres), this reduction is supported. It is noted that Council’s Traffic Engineers did not raise any concerns with the waiver of the visitor car space. (12th April, 2018) 532 North Road Ormond

9 Royal Avenue Glen Huntly – Given the strategic location of the site, proximity to public transport and the availability of short-term car spacesavailable within the immediate vicinity, a reduction of 2 visitor car spaces is consideredacceptable. .(26th September 2017)

So we have the paradox of councillors now blaming VCAT for something their own transport department endorses!

Adding further salt to the wounds is that councillors have voted in the Integrated Transport Strategy. As we’ve pointed out previously, council’s intent is clear. When parking overlays are eventually introduced, they WILL NOT maintain the current requirements of Clause 52.06. Council will REDUCE the statutary requirements for parking in its activity centres. Thus instead of 1 spot for a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment this will in all likelihood be reduced to 0.8 spots and visitor parking (currently 1 spot for every 5 dwellings) cut back to maybe 1 in ten. Offices and other commercial properties will get even greater dispensations. All one has to do is read the document and ponder what the following (again quoted) has in store –

Where it is demonstrated that office parking usage is lower than the planning scheme requirements due the high level of public transport provision, explore a reduction in the statutory parking requirements for office use. When determining appropriate parking rates, the site specific conditions of the development and the corresponding ability for the centre to adapt to an increase mode share of sustainable travel, should be taken into account. (page 38) 

Where it is demonstrated a public parking availability is underutilised during the evenings, explore a reduction in the statutory parking requirements for these commercial uses. When determining appropriate parking rates, the site-specific conditions of the development and the corresponding parking utilisation of the centre should be taken into account. (page 38)

Next we’ve got the the Esakoff view. Her argument that Royal Avenue isn’t in the ‘core’ of the commercial centre is literally stunning. Since when is the interpretation of a commercial ‘core’ taken to mean a LINEAR line drawn down the major arterial road? That’s not what the planning scheme says. Neither the Urban Villages policy, nor the Housing diversity policy differentiates between commercial sites along the main road and those commercial sites that sit adjacent to the main road. It’s a great pity that Esakoff didn’t think of this ‘problem’ when she voted for the Carnegie structure plan with its proposed 12 storey height limits in Commercial centres that are all over the place and definitely NOT LINEAR! For example Woorayl, Egan, Arawatta. In Elsternwick the same non-linear configuration applies – ie Horne Street branching off Glen Huntly and earmarked for 12 storeys.

Then there’s Silver and his bemoaning of the fact that Manchester Grove’s ‘neighbourhood character’ was overlooked by the VCAT member. We wonder if Silver has even ventured down this street and attempted to define its ‘neighbourhood character’ since council certainly hasn’t! We remind readers that council DOES NOT HAVE any character statements for its housing diversity areas. It does not have ‘preferred character statements’ like other councils. In fact there is nothing except the zoning of GRZ and the go ahead for development. And Manchester Grove is being ‘developed’ constantly. There are already 22 units at 15-17 Manchester Grove and across the road the Coles car park followed by a long series of 3 storey townhouses. Asking VCAT to respect ‘neighbourhood character’ when council doesn’t is the supreme joke!

So ultimately the question becomes – when will these councillors fess up to their mistakes and apologise to the community instead of continuing to spout utter bullshit that shows no respect whatsoever to those they are meant to represent.

An astonishing item (9.8) features in today’s agenda. Council is proposing to enter into a potential 9 year lease with the VRC (aka MRC) for 2 sections of the Wedge – ie the land that has stood vacant at the top of Glen Eira/Booran Rds for years and years. The terms of the proposed lease are:

  • For the first 5 years the payment to council (as committee of management) of $137,500 and for each 2 year extension up to a further 4 years, a rental of $30,400 per annum.
  • The land under discussion includes a 153 square metre area that contains a water bore, and another area to the east of the Wedge of 675 square metres. This second area abuts the current freehold land containing the stables.

Our take on this is as follows:

  • Why would the MRC agree to pay even this pittance for a lease on land that has stood empty for years unless this is nothing more than a major land grab to accommodate future residential development to the east of this strip? Below is a screen dump taken from the VPA website which makes it clear that the MRC is thinking of more development once training goes.

  • Is the payment of basically $27,000 per annum a reasonable rent given that any commercial block of 675 square metres would certainly receive far more in rent?
  • Does this lease mean that training will not be gone for another 9 years at least? In 2011 a 5 year time limit was put on. We are now talking 2027 at the earliest.
  • Why has this item made an appearance at this stage given that the newly appointed trustees are set to begin their reign on the 1st August, 2018. Does the signing off of this lease usurp their power and authority and hence is the timing deliberate? Surely council could have waited another 2 weeks given the years when nothing has happened?
  • What does this mean for the proposed dog agility facility? How can dogs, kids, and adults co-exist with trucks, workmen, etc having unrestricted access to the bore?
  • Why is the last sentence of the Department letter redacted? What potentially damaging info does this sentence contain?
  • One sentence of the officer’s report is worth repeating –As the lease term is less than 10 years Council is not required to give public notice of the intention to enter into the lease with the MRC. Skull duggery at its best! No publicity, no objections, no community involvement whatsoever! Well done council!

All in all another cave in by council and the department to the Melbourne Racing Club!

Council’s ‘update’ on its planning scheme review action plan includes the following on ‘tree protection’ –

Surely it is incumbent on Council to produce statements that are honest, accurate, and informative. The above is both misleading and ineffectual as an action to protect our trees. Here’s why –

  • Wynne’s amendment C143 which introduced the ‘garden requirements’ has got absolutely nothing to do with ‘tree protection’ per se. It simply provides a scale that determines how much of the varying site sizes must consist of ‘garden area’. It does not stop moonscaping. It does not stop the removal of any tree prior to an application being lodged.
  • As for ‘basement’ requirements, there is absolutely nothing in the Better Apartment Guidelines / Amendment VC136 that we can find that specifies the protection of trees. In fact it even foreshadows moonscaping! See below:
  • Then we have the reference to the Urban Design Guidelines. Again, there is nothing in this document to ensure that trees are NOT REMOVED. What we do have is paragraphs such as – To provide side setbacks, towardsthe rear of the lot, with adequate width to permit canopy trees, creating a garden setting for dwellings.

We repeat. All of the above do NOT protect EXISTING trees. They are all looking ahead and what should happen in terms of landscaping once the existing tree has been removed. Yet council is quite happy to claim that the issue of tree protection has been at least ‘partially addressed’ by these documents. Nothing could be further from the truth!

But there’s more to this entire issue of tree protection which has been around since at least 2003 in Glen Eira– despite  consistent data that highlights the priority that residents place on the protection of our trees. Discussion after discussion has been stymied by certain councilors (some of whom are still on council) and who have refused to even entertain the idea of tree protection on private property. As far as we know, council has never provided any data on:

  • The percentage loss of canopy coverage over the past decade in Glen Eira
  • How many private trees have been removed prior to a development application
  • How many permits have been granted for the removal of trees post permit – nor the reasons for such permission (ie 2 recent permits granted in Murrumbeena for tree removal despite what the original conditions of the permit stated)

In short, we know very little about the destruction of these vital assets over the years – and we speculate that council does not know either!

So now we finally have some discussion on a ‘significant tree register’. What council has not explained fully enough to residents via their Clayton’s ‘consulation’ survey is that ‘significant tree registers’ generally feature only a few hundred trees. Nowhere near enough to safeguard thousands of trees from being ripped down by developers.  And a lot depends on the criteria actually used to determine whether something is ‘significant’ or not! Council also appears to be satisfied that if and when a tree register materializes it will only feature in its Local Law, and not be a specific item in the Planning Scheme! Simply not good enough. Further, questions abound – will council introduce permit requirements on private land for large trees that are not listed in the register? Will they follow Stonnington’s lead and introduce ‘compliance’ measures on developers for each application?

In the end, every single site in Glen Eira is a potential ‘development site’. As such, what is needed is far more than a few hundred trees placed on some register.

In what purports to be a ‘progress update’ on implementing the recommendations of the Planning Scheme Review, council has published its  ‘updated work plan’. No real detail is provided. No costings are provided. No real information is provided as to what any amendments might contain. Basically, residents are again being kept in the dark.

Worse still are innumerable statements that are incorrect, misleading, or nothing more than vague, useless motherhood statements that reveal the absolute minimum.  After two years of so-called ‘extensive consultation’, residents should know far more about what council has in mind. The fact that we don’t is testimony to the lack of transparency that is the modus operandi of this council.

Here are some examples which substantiate our claims. The images are taken directly from today’s published agenda (Item 9.5)

Some things to note:

  • Urban Design Guidelines are just that – guidelines. Generally they enter the planning scheme as a ‘reference document’ and thus are pretty useless in enforcing policy and ensuring that VCAT adheres to them. To therefore claim that ‘neighbourhood character’ will be protected at best, or strengthened via the Urban Design Guidelines is a total furphy. What is required is the inclusion of ‘preferred character statements’ for all housing diversity areas (and not just the current structure plans) into the planning scheme as a separate policy with clear directions for interpretation. This would involve an overall Housing Character Study, which council hasn’t really undertaken since 1996 when the document was produced. The 2011 Planishere review basically looked at certain areas for Neighbourhood Character Overlays. It certainly did not revisit the entire municipality which was required. Further compounding the lack of planning is the fact that Glen Eira has never had a ‘neighbourhood character policy’ and only those sites in minimal change have had anything comprising ‘character statements’. Most of these have been unworkable since they incorporate vast areas into their descriptions (ie Bentleigh, Ormond and McKinnon are lumped together in 5 short bullet points). Other councils have been far more proactive and have such policies enshrined in their planning schemes with substantial ‘preferred character statements’ for their entire municipalities. These councils are – Bayside, Boroondara, Darebin, Frankston,  Dandenong, Hobson’s Bay, Knox, Maribyrnong, Maroondah, Moreland, Port Phillip, Stonnington, Yarra. Many of these documents have been completed in the past few years. We’ve uploaded the Stonnington document as an example of what can be done and which Glen Eira has failed to even commence, much less complete. Available HERE
  • The Urban Design Guidelines constantly refer to ‘minimal change areas’ (ie NRZ) as containing One or two detached or semi-detached dwellings built on a lot. The height is one or two storeys. Since Wynne’s introduction of his 2017 amendment that removed the 2 dwellings per lot provision, there have been at least 16 applications go to council for multiple dwellings in areas zoned as NRZ. Many of these have already received permits. Yet, there is nothing in the Urban Design Guidelines that acknowledges this fact and its potential ramifications. Not a word is said about the impact of these developments on ‘neighbourhood character’. Nor are residents given any information as to how the schedules to the zoning might change in any ensuing amendment. If the plan is to ‘upgrade’ hundreds of dwellings so that they will go from 2 storeys maximum to 3 or 4, then how does this alter the ‘neighbourhood character’?
  • And are we still having to wait for at least another 3 years before anything is done? If so, what does this portend for our Neighbourhood Centres? We already have 6 storeys in McKinnon, 10 storeys in Ormond, and 7 storeys in Bentleigh East and Caulfield North. What ‘character’ will council see fit to delineate in these areas?
  • And of course the crucial question is: how can any valid character statements be made when there hasn’t been a genuine revisiting of the housing strategy since 1996?

Far more honesty is required from council. Two years have come and gone since the planning scheme review and all we’ve had is the imposition of changes that fly in the face of community views and without the opportunity to comment on such changes. Thus far we have still to see any strategic justification, or any inkling of what the schedules to the zones will contain. Residents are being treated like mushrooms – kept ignorant until it is too late and plans are set in concrete. That is governance at its most devious and despicable.

As part of the ‘community participation’ section of last night’s council meeting there was a question from an Elsternwick resident regarding a recent Age article ( The article featured Melbourne City council’s concerns about development overshadowing parkland and their letter to the Minister for Planning urging legislation amendments so that the winter solstice period could be extended to 6 hours of sunlight instead of the current 3 hours. The resident basically asked 3 questions – cited verbatim:

  1. Will council also join Melbourne City Council in demanding updated legislation that preserves our parklands and residential amenity in terms of overshadowing and make public any council actions?
  2. Has council had any communication with Bayside Council regarding the winter shadowing given the reach of the proposed 12 storey height limits? What is Bayside’s view of the proposed heights?
  3. If Melbourne City council is concerned about heights above 10 storeys surrounding their open space areas, then would you agree that 12 storeys would be equally detrimental to Elsternwick and its neighbouring councils?

Here is the Ron Torres response.

Please note:

  1. Torres fails to answer any of the questions!
  2. Melbourne City Council HAS produced a formal amendment (C278). They are currently awaiting the Minister’s approval for exhibition. All Torres had to do to confirm this was refer to Melbourne’s website – as we have! See: 
  1. “There is an extensive section on shadowing of existing open space” Torres claims. NO THERE ISN’T!!!! The document is 389 pages. The term ‘overshadowing’ does NOT appear once in this tome. What does occur a fabulous THREE (3) times is the following –

Development should not create adverse conditions in open space such as undue shadowing, increased wind effects, intrusion of unwanted light and noise, use of car parking or traffic access for private uses, interference with vegetation and dispersal of weeds, and loss of visibility. (page 91)  

Factors that could degrade open space amenity, function and use include excessive built form, creating a sense of enclosure, noise, light spill, traffic movements, car parking demand, wind effects or shadowing……Applicants may be required to supply studies demonstrating whether there will be positive or adverse effects on open space.(page 92) 

The open space must receive a minimum of 3 hours of direct sunlight between 9am and 3pm during mid-winter and at least 5 hours of direct sunlight between 9am and 3pm on September 22. Where this minimum is not currently met, the development must not create additional shadowing of the open space. (page 92) 

What Torres fails to inform the gallery and anyone listening is that the Open Space Strategy is nothing more than a reference document in the Glen Eira Planning Scheme. It therefore has no binding power as has been stated time and time again by VCAT. Even Clause 21.13, which is supposed to be council’s local ‘policy’ on open space, does not even mention overshadowing. What we are told is – Ensur(e) siting and design of new development maximises community safety and provides opportunities for surveillance of public open space.

What does all this mean? Council can ‘review’ its open space strategy until the cows come home. It will be meaningless unless firm and clearly stated policies are incorporated into the planning scheme itself. Melbourne City Council’s proposed amendment is how it should be done! (see below).

When residents ask questions, they deserve to have them answered. If officers don’t know the answers, then admit the fact. And since this resident has sent off the questions prior to the meeting why hasn’t any councillor responded accordingly with their view? Why is it utter silence from our elected representatives? In the end, is it really so hard for councillors to say –‘ yes’ we will support Melbourne City Council and write a letter?

What readers must also keep in mind is the failure to act and what this means not only for Elsternwick and Carnegie, but for East Village. Please remember that according to the first draft structure plan, we had 8 storeys surrounding a supposedly central plaza? How great a shadow will such buildings cast and what is council doing about it?


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