GE Council Meeting(s)


Here are the closing remarks by Athanasopolous on the Caulfield Station Structure Plan which was voted through on the casting vote of Magee.

One must seriously doubt whether Athanasopolous has ever read the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, or for that matter, given close consideration to officer reports. In his closing remarks presented above, there was the statement that council does not ‘seriously consider’ whether something is ‘excellent’, ‘good’ or bad. That he says ‘is not a consideration for us’.  Nothing could be further from the truth! If the planning scheme had indeed been read then he would have found the following clauses –

To promote design excellence which supports the ongoing significance of heritage places.

The replacement building displays design excellence

Demonstrates architectural design excellence. – Carnegie/Elsternwick/Bentleigh DDOs

Planning should promote excellence in the built environment ….

Avoid visually intrusive design which confronts the established architecture of the centre and
dominates the surroundings

Ensure the highest possible standards of built form and architecture, through contextually
appropriate design that adheres to the policy statements contained in this policy and principles
of economic, cultural and environmental sustainability and universal design

Whether the design is innovative and of a high architectural standard

To top this all off, these statements from the officer’s report of 1st September 2020 (pages 43 and 50) on the 7 Selwyn Street, Elsternwick application, unequivocally embrace the concept of ‘design excellence’. We quote:

Subject to the recommendations of Council’s Urban Designer regarding some of the materiality, it is considered that the proposal displays architectural design excellence and will be a significant architectural contribution to Elsternwick.

The design of the building achieves design excellence and will be a landmark building within the municipality

Whilst it is true that no clear ‘definition’ applies in Glen Eira, at least some other councils have taken major steps to ensure that ‘design excellence’ features prominently in their assessment of high rise dwellings. Here is what Moreland has done.

Other incredible statements relate to the simple black and white dichotomy that everyone should either accept or reject the notion of 1300 apartments. The problem with this is what is not stated. The Caulfield Station area will NOT simply include 1300 apartments. Combined with Caulfield Village the total could be in the realm of 4,400 as stated in the Charter, Kramer Keck analysis.

Even if we accept this 1300 number (remembering that heights will be discretionary and hence could be higher than proposed, thereby facilitating more apartments) his statements are far too simplistic. Allowing 1300 apartments might be fine IF –

  • There was adequate open space provided
  • Overshadowing was negligible and included the winter solstice
  • Buildings were of the highest 7+ efficiency/sustainability
  • Heritage was protected for individual sites and for surrounding precincts
  • Car parking was adequate
  • Landscaping did not include ‘potted’ trees
  • Wind tunnels were avoided
  • Housing diversity – ie 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments. The Charter Kramer report states that the overwhelming majority will be 1 and 2 bedroom places.

There are plenty more points that could be added to the above. Not even mentioning some of these vital components is Athanasopolous’ way of ignoring all facets of decent planning and presenting an argument that is deliberately one sided.

Athanasopolous goes on to claim that no decision on third party objection rights has been made. That all council is saying at this point is that they will ‘consider’ the potential for this. Really? If third party objection rights are viewed as important, then surely it would already have been in the draft? Leaving everything in abeyance until the fine print of the amendment is revealed does not do residents any favours. All it does is skew the odds in council’s and the MRCs favour since going to a planning panel has repeatedly shown how these panels basically support council and developers.

Finally, if the objective is to ‘achieve the best possible outcome for our community’, then there is absolutely no reason why this can’t be achieved NOW in the draft plans and well before things are set in concrete via the amendment. We repeat what we have stated in the past –

Yes this is a ‘framework’ plan, but once it is agreed that 20 and 12 storeys (discretionary) set the parameters, then any ‘controls’ that are introduced later, will not be geared to 7 storeys, or even 9 storeys. They will ‘cement’ what is proposed in the draft. The game is already up at this stage .

We maintain that the role of a councillor is to ensure that his vote is based on sound ‘evidence’. That means looking objectively at all facets of proposals – the positive and the negative – and then coming to a decision. Athanasopolous fails to do this repeatedly. His approach is to reduce everything to the simplest black and white dichotomies, to ignore even mentioning most planning components if they are ‘inconvenient’ and to railroad through decision after decision that facilitates what most residents would see as definitely ‘inappropriate development’.   

It has become a council tradition that public questions are not ‘answered’. Instead we get ‘responses’ that basically ignore the question and substitute a myriad of weasel words, spin, and deliberate obfuscation. In short, we conclude that the outcome is deliberately evasive and potentially dishonest.

We say dishonest because at last council meeting several councillors who voted against the Caulfield Station Structure Plan basically contradicted the responses given in a public question – thereby revealing what was the true state of affairs.

Here is the question and the response. We have bolded the important sections.

Item 8.2 of the agenda is recommending councillor endorsement of the draft Caulfield Station Structure Plan. Given that this precinct will potentially house up to 8000+ individuals and contain the tallest building forms, the decision carries great import for the municipality. Asking councillors to therefore endorse a plan that will set the aspirational vision for the future, should be based on clear, hard ‘evidence’. At any stage throughout this long process, were councillors provided with hard copy research and documentation as to the following – overshadowing data; set back requirements; traffic analysis; the complete survey responses? If so, what is/are the precise date(s) that councillors were given access to each of these nominated items? If not, and if councillors have as yet not been provided with all of the above, then I respectfully submit that they are in no position to complete what should be ‘informed decision making’!

Response: The draft Caulfield Structure Plan, which was presented at the 22 February 2022 Ordinary Council Meeting, was accompanied by a Housing and Economic Analysis prepared by consultants Charter Keck Cramer.

In response to your specific questions:

  •  Councillors were provided with overshadowing data prior to the 20 September 2022 Council Meeting.
  •  Building heights and setback requirements and guidelines have formed a significant component of the structure plan. This work and other content of the structure plan were the subject of several Councillor briefings ahead of the draft structure plan being endorsed for consultation.
  • • The draft and final Caulfield Structure Plan have been informed by traffic assessments prepared by consultants at the request of both the Victorian Planning Authority and Council. Further review has been conducted by Council’s strategic transport and traffic engineering officers. The data shows that the activity centre road network has capacity for the extent of growth envisaged. Traffic analysis and traffic management is an ongoing process and will continue to be reviewed as the structure plan is implemented.
  • • Councillors have been provided with the summary of consultation responses. Copies of all survey responses and all written submissions received during consultation were issued on September 13.

COMMENT

The most important aspect of this response comes in the first paragraph. We are told that councillors were provided access to the shadow diagrams PRIOR to the council meeting. NO DATE IS PROVIDED!!!! Zyngier addressed this when he stated that councillors were given access ‘last weekend’. We interpret this to mean September 17th – 3 days before the council meeting and over the weekend. We also believe that several Jewish councillors (and perhaps others) do not engage in council business over the Sabbath, or a weekend.

The question asked for SPECIFIC DATES to be provided. The only date mentioned in the response is September 13 for consultation feedback. It however refers to only ‘survey responses’ and ‘written submissions’ as being provided ‘in full’. It does not include emails sent to councillors, questions asked at the forums (and the responses provided at the time). One could also query whether September 13th is even enough time for councillors to fully digest the feedback.

Secondly, ‘building heights and setback requirements’ were ‘subjects’ presented at councillor briefings BUT ONLY for the ‘structure plan being endorsed for consultation’. That occurred late last year before February council meeting with the recommendation to go out for consultation. This is completely distinct from the current situation which sought endorsement. We also do not know whether these councillor briefings included hard copy documentation or simply ‘summaries’ provided by officers! We remind readers that the original draft plan had 25 storeys and 12 storeys for the Kambrook Road area. So what is the ‘evidence’ for the changes and the evidence that supported the first iteration?

If council had been working on the structure plan for months and months as claimed, then there is absolutely no excuse for the failure to provide councillors with ALL documentation well before the 20th September. The question and its conclusion that ‘informed decision making’ becomes impossible is reasonable and accurate. As we’ve stated several times, in Glen Eira residents and councillors are viewed as annoying impediments to the administration’s rule and power. But when it descends into evasiveness and deliberately misleading responses, then we are in deep trouble.

By way of contrast, the following screen dump, shows how far this council has come in implementing what is basically a ‘censorship’ program. Five years ago council could release far more data. Not so today.

Adding further insult to injury, Cr Zmood asked whether the shadow diagrams could be published on council’s website. Slavin responded that they would be made public. When pressed for when this would occur, the answer was ‘this week’. Two points on this:

  • At the time of writing (Monday morning) we have not been able to locate the file on council’s website. Surely all it takes is the press of the computer button to upload the document? Or is this administration hoping that residents and councillors forget all about this ‘promise’?
  • A recent public question queried why certain documents were not made public in regard to the Carnegie Structure Plan. The response was that they would be made public ONLY after they had received authorisation from the Minister to advertise the amendment. This of course raises the question as to why one set of background documents are to be with-held in the case of Carnegie, and why a similar document can be made public for the Caulfield Station plan. Both are structure plans; both require ministerial approval; both will eventuate in amendments. Council cannot pick and choose. And it should not take pressure from residents and councillors to ensure that everything this council does is completely transparent and accountable.

Finally, we urge all readers to carefully listen to what councillors had to say about the Caulfield structure plan. It reveals major dissatisfaction and concern as to what is being allowed. And more importantly, it raises fundamental questions as to how this administration operates and its timely and relevant release of information to its decision makers – ie councillors!

The Zyngier comments –

The Esakoff comments –

The Pennicuik comments –

The Zmood comments –

As for the Athanasopolous and Magee comments, we will comment on them in the next few days.

Last night’s council meeting made it abundantly clear how divided this council really is. The Caulfield Station Structure Plan was decided on the casting vote of Magee. Cade was on leave so the vote to adopt the structure plan was 4 to 4. Magee as chairperson/Mayor then used his second vote to pass the structure plan.

The voting was:

FOR – Magee, Athanasopolous, Parasol, Zhang

AGAINST – Esakoff, Zyngier, Szmood, Pennicuik.

What residents must realise is that the continued propaganda of ‘only the first step’ in the process and that the (much) later introduced ‘planning controls’ will ensure great outcomes, is pure bunkum! Once the parameters are set, as this structure plan does, then the eventual planning controls MUST relate to these parameters. For example: the plan sets the height of a discretionary 20 storeys for one site and a heap of 12 storeys discretionary elsewhere. The future planning controls will NOT then attempt to reduce such heights. They will simply tinker with the edges and probably provide only ‘guidelines’ for important things such as setbacks, etc. Nor does the plan provide any firm commitment as to objector rights, overshadowing just in case the discretionary heights are suddenly not 20 storeys but 25 storeys, etc.

This process has happened again and again in Glen Eira. It is a sham, that ties the hands of residents and councillors. Further, the end result will only be formal submissions to a draft amendment that means going to a panel. In our time of observing this council only once has a panel sided with residents in recommending against council.

Over the past few years we have seen this administration do everything literally arse-backwards. This cannot be anything but deliberate we believe in the attempt to set the groundwork that furthers and facilitates the council agenda of more and more growth – regardless of whether or not such growth is needed. We now have:

  • Amendment C220 with its framework plan designating ‘incremental change areas’ BEFORE a housing strategy is completed.
  • We have structure plans BEFORE the housing strategy
  • We have the removal of residential areas from the latest DDO’s so that these have now reverted back to their original zoning of 4 storeys instead of the prescribed 3 storey mandatory that the previous Amendment C157 created.
  • We have community consultation that is anything but and the refusal to publish all feedback
  • We have the sidelining of councillors and the community consultation committee in overseeing the creation of survey questions
  • We now have councillors asked to make major decisions prior to the full evidence being provided to them – or certainly provided in time so that careful assessment, discussion, and decision making can occur.
  • We have consistent rubbish (and that is the only way to describe) the nonsense that flows from the mouths of Athanasopolous and Magee. The tragedy is that last night 2 councillors did not utter a word to explain why they voted as they did – Zhang and Parasol! Surely the community deserves to know the rationale behind their votes?

Our advice to councillors is simple. If you have major concerns with various planning proposals, then voting in favour of the proposal does not do the community a favour. All concerns need to be addressed and remedied prior to being voted in. If the plans are so full of holes, then they should be sent back to the drawing board and redone!

We will comment fully on some of the arguments presented in our next post(s).

 We would also like to commend Esakoff, Zyngier, Zmood and Pennicuik for their efforts last night. It is obvious that they have spent much time thinking about the issue. Whether the same can be said for the other councillors is questionable. They appear to be merely following whatever the State Government and other vested interests want! The victim is undoubtedly the community, and all notions of democratic and sound governance. The benefactors remain developers!

The current agenda features the ‘final’ (Council’s wording) Caulfield Station Structure Plan. If residents were hoping for some major changes they should be mightily disappointed. Adding to the disappointment are the usual characteristics of council’s reporting procedures – ie

  • A befuddled ‘summary’ of the community consultation and no publication of all responses
  • No detailed strategic justification for any of the minor changes included. For example: why in the first version was it thought that 25 storeys was okay and now it has been reduced to 20 storeys (all discretionary – but this is never stated clearly!) What is the rationale supporting such changes? Where is the ‘evidence’ for the first version and now the second?
  • All ‘planning controls’ are consigned to the never-never land of sometime in the future.
  •  No mention per se of parking; traffic; social/affordable housing; quantifying all open space, etc. etc. etc.
  • No clear indication of objector rights – language is typically vague – ‘could’, ‘may’ etc.
  • Relying on 8.3% open space levy. Why? If Virginia Estate claims to have 10% levy and far less potential dwellings (3000), then why should the MRC only be expected to fork out 8.3% when the potential number of dwellings here will be at least an additional 2,500+ on top of the 2000+ for Caulfield Village?
  • Given that the need for ‘housing diversity’ is the cornerstone of the justification for the countless proposed zoning changes in the draft Housing Strategy, then why is council content with allowing high rise towers that will predominantly consist of single and two bedroom apartments. This has already been acknowledged in the published Charter et al document from the first version.
  • No rationale provided to support the creation of 8 storeys in a Heritage Zone along Derby Road

Below we feature some direct quotes from the officer’s report. Please note carefully the spin, the deliberate omission of detail, plus the lack of all strategic justification. Yet councillors are expected to vote this in next Tuesday. What this amounts to is voting for something that cannot in any shape or form constitute ‘informed decision making’!!!!!!!!!

The Structure Plan provides direction for the Caulfield MAC to accommodate significant population growth due to its proximity to Caulfield Station (Metro rail improvements) Monash University, Caulfield Racecourse Reserve and a range of shops and services. In the context of Glen Eira, the Caulfield Activity Centre is positioned to accommodate some of the “heavy lifting” with regards to population growth across the municipality.

COMMENT: So if we combine East Village (3000 dwellings) and Caulfield Station (another additional 2,500+) that’s at least 5,500 of the 12,500 ‘required’ by 2036. With all this ‘heavy lifting’ why do we therefore need a Housing Strategy that proposes zoning and heights that will facilitate far more than 7000 over the next 25 years?

Drafting of planning controls will consider situations where notice and review rights in the ACZ schedule could be switched on. This may include specific sites or applications which exceed proposed development guidelines and where the community should have an opportunity to comment, including the more sensitive residential interface precincts of Kambrook, Booran and Grange. This detail will be further explored and refined in the next stage, during the drafting of the planning controls. Importantly, adoption of the Structure Plan as recommended in this report does not pre-empt any future Council resolution on draft planning controls.

COMMENT: Activity Centre Zones as written in the Victorian Planning Provisions, do not have objection rights. This can be changed by Council and several councils have already done this. In Glen Eira, residents and councillors have to rely on ‘could’ and ‘may’ instead of any firm commitment as to what council hopes to achieve – regardless of whether or not it is accepted by the Minister for Planning! Furthermore, if we are to wait for planning controls that might eventuate in 12 months time, then council will undoubtedly argue that the structure plan has set the stage and these ‘planning controls’ are simply implementing what the structure plan says. We go back to our previous point – how on earth is it possible to vote on something that will set the future when so much detail is not forthcoming?

The CSP (Caulfield Structure Plan) will bring many benefits to new and existing populations. This includes review of gaps in community and development infrastructure in the area. Affordable housing needs and provision may also be addressed through advocacy with public land owners and through negotiated development outcomes.

COMMENT: Here we go again – ‘may be addressed’.  Whatever ‘gaps’ currently exist in infrastructure is unknown yet the recommendation is still to vote on something so unclear. Given that council’s pathetic Social Housing/Affordable Housing policy only aims for 5% we will be lucky to achieve any significant increase of such housing from this development. Once again, the MRC will be laughing all the way to the bank!

This is a very long post, so apologies. The length is due to the gravity of the issues – namely, the lack of transparency and consistency in anything council does or states. Even worse, is the fact that councillors seem incapable/unwilling to even comment, much less challenge the obvious spin and distortions that are emblematic of council’s approach to public questions on strategic planning.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting several public questions focused on the Housing Strategy consultation and the recently adopted Carnegie Structure Plan. Please consider the following carefully.

Carnegie Structure Plan

When the structure plan came up for decision at the 9th August council meeting, both Zyngier and Penicuik in particular commented that they had been concerned about the overshadowing potential with the proposed increased heights in Koornang Road. However, they had seen the relevant documents and were satisfied that this would not be a ‘problem’. Pennicuik even stated that after talking with officers she was ‘assured’ that there would be ‘enough sun’ in winter for Koornang Road. As with Pennicuik, Zyngier also confirmed that he had ‘seen the simulation’ for the shadow diagrams. Zmood brought up the point about the Built Form Frameworks. Neither of these vital documents were available to the public. Hence the following public question –

Question:  Several comments at the last council meeting in relation to the Carnegie structure plan, were that the overshadowing and built form frameworks reports would be made available to the public. It is nearly three weeks later, and the documents are yet to appear on council’s website. Why and when will these important reports be published?

Response: They haven’t been put on the website because the amendment is yet to be authorised by the Minister for Planning. Once Ministerial authorisation is received, the full suite of reports and information will be made available as part of the formal amendment exhibition.

COMMENT

The implication of the above response is that background documentation can only be available once the amendment has been authorised for public advertising. There is nothing in any legislation that we can find which supports this interpretation.  Councils can decide what they wish to put into the public domain!

Even here, Glen Eira is staggeringly inconsistent. For example: the recently adopted Glen Huntly structure plan DID INCLUDE shadow diagrams – PRIOR TO MINISTERIAL APPROVAL! Like Carnegie, Glen Huntly is also a major activity centre. So, the question must be asked, why the far more fulsome publication of documents in one instance and the with-holding of important documents in another? Admittedly, what was published for Glen Huntly was not the entire report, and the diagrams were practically impossible to decipher (deliberate?) – but at least they were public and before any vote was taken! Here are some screen dumps illustrating this:

The result of all this (apart from lack of consistency and transparency) is that when Carnegie is finally advertised, residents will undoubtedly have to plough through hundreds upon hundreds of pages, analyse them, write their submissions, and then be prepared to front up again at a planning panel which invariably supports council in their recommendations.

When such vital issues are up for decision, then why isn’t the public privy to the full background documents which are fundamental to such decision making? Is it that council fears that if residents could see the ‘simulations’ prior to the decision, then some might actually proffer their views as to the accuracy and efficacy of the reports – and hence potentially place some doubt in councillors’ minds? Are we still in the universe of residents should be kept in the dark and only allowed a say once decisions are made?

Housing Strategy Consultation

Over the past 18 months or so, community consultation reports on various important issues have had one common characteristic – summaries instead of full disclosure of all comments, emails, questions asked and answered.  Even with the appalling and biased survey questions, residents have been denied access to the complete range of responses. The result is that when these feedback reports are presented to councillors they are forced to rely on the summaries alone, rather than having the opportunity to read the entire gamut of responses. In other words, their decision making is compromised since it is not based on complete and unedited information.

The Housing Strategy consultation and its feedback has been tainted by these processes – ie no mention of the feedback from the town hall forum; no mention of the questions residents asked and the responses they got in the face-to-face sessions with officers; no mention of how any of this fits in with the IAPP2 principles of ‘consult’ and ‘involve’. The following public question sought to address such issues –

Question:  At the last Council meeting, a resident stated that residents’ concerns at the Town Hall meeting on May 5th were verging on white-hot anger and that these concerns have not been clearly articulated or addressed in Council’s Draft Housing Strategy consultation report. This is a common theme around the inadequacy of the Draft Housing Strategy consultation and as examples, 1) Residents were on mute at the Webinar and could only ask written questions. 2) Despite over 100 attendees, the Town Hall meeting was used by Council as a question and answer session only. 3) Recent face to face meetings were conducted after the completion of consultation. Why didn’t Council use the Town Hall meeting, the webinar and the recent face to face meetings to genuinely listen to the community concern raised and document key findings as part of the Draft Housing Strategy consultation?

Response: Council is yet to decide on the final form of the Housing Strategy. Consultation on the strategy ran for over 11 weeks and there were a variety of methods used to both inform, and gather feedback and input from, the community.

All feedback received will be taken into consideration when a decision is made later this year.

COMMENT

Readers will note that the question asking for complete ‘documentation’ on the consultation was not answered. It was simply ignored with the perennial vague ‘promise’ of being ‘taken into consideration’.

The Housing Strategy itself is replete with vague promises and generalisations, especially about improving landscaping, and the importance of tree retention, the urban forest strategy, etc. Yet, there is nothing within the strategy, or the accompanying officer reports, that tell residents how this will be achieved. Numerous questions on the proposed removal of the mandatory garden requirement in areas zoned GRZ, and how this will achieve better landscaping outcomes remains unanswered. Council’s consistent response has been that all of this will be revealed down the track with future amendments! In the meantime councillors are faced with the dilemma of endorsing a housing strategy that lacks detail!

Thankfully, not all councils operate in the same manner that Glen Eira does. Bayside for example has recently completed its community consultation on the preferred character statements for areas zoned GRZ. The questions asked on this alone put Glen Eira to shame! But more significantly, they also produced the intended zone schedules that could be used to accompany the schedule changes. In other words, they did not have to wait for ministerial approval in order to advertise. They allowed residents to see their full proposals well before it got to that stage and to proffer their views on the proposals. In Glen Eira it’s all kept secret!

Here are some examples of the schedule changes as published by Bayside in its agenda.

CONCLUSION

The onus is clearly on councillors to put a halt on an administration that repeatedly fails to inform its residents; that repeatedly fails to answer (rather than respond) to public questions; that repeatedly seeks endorsement for major policies and strategic planning documents without providing the necessary information to residents or councillors that ensures informed decision making.

The onus is also on councillors to ensure that processes for every single operation is consistent – ie Glen Huntly events compared to what has happened with Carnegie! Finally, sitting there like stoned mullets in absolute silence does not get the job done. In fact, silence signifies ‘consent’.

Last week’s council meeting raises countless questions about governance in Glen Eira and the role of councillors and the community. What is becoming increasingly obvious is that it is unelected and unaccountable officers who are running the show, rather than councillors.  The data on the Carnegie structure plan decision making is irrefutable evidence of this administration’s continued side-lining of both councillors and the community.

The most striking example of how this is happening is when we compare the resolutions passed for the Carnegie structure plan last week, and the resolution passed for the previous versions of this structure plan.

The minutes of the 18th December 2018, show this ‘recommendation’ which was passed. We highlight the section regarding the seeking of Ministerial approval to advertise –

authorises the Manager City Futures to undertake minor changes to the Amendment, including changes requested by the Minister for Planning or the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in order to receive authorisation, where the changes do not affect the purpose or intent of the Amendment;

For last week’s council meeting, this became –

authorises the Manager City Futures to undertake all changes to the amendment documentation in accordance with Council’s resolution (or as required by the Minister for Planning) and to make any administrative changes required where changes do not affect the purpose or intent of the adopted amendment

The omission of ‘minor changes’ in this second recommendation is significant – as is the phrasing of ‘as required by the Minister for Planning’. What this in effect means is that once this has landed on the Minister’s desk, he has been granted council’s sign off to introduce any changes he likes – and without recourse back to councillors and the community apart from the formal submission process.

Questions abound!

Why has the recommendation changed? Why up until now, have all other major amendments seeking ministerial approval to advertise contained the phrasing of ‘minor changes’ and the Carnegie structure plan excludes this important phrase?

Did any councillor ask why this change? Were they alerted to this sleight of hand before the vote?

What discussions have already been held between officers and DWELP? Why aren’t councillors attending such meetings? Have they been provided with all documentation that has passed between the department and officers? If not, why not?

What happens if the Minister decides that 12 storeys is ‘insufficient’ and Carnegie is suddenly advertised as 15 storeys preferred? According to the above resolution, this is a possibility!

Last night’s council meeting illustrated once again how this council is very good at attempting to  justify the unjustifiable. This was especially evident on the ‘discussion’ for the Carnegie Structure Plan. It was voted through 7 to 2 with the only objectors being Esakoff and Cade.

What was most disheartening was that both Greens (Zyngier and Pennicuik) who have repeatedly commented on the importance of ‘sustainability’, trees, climate change, the urban forest strategy and in this case overshadowing, could claim that they have seen the report and are ‘satisfied’ that both sides of Koornang Road will not be impacted by the increase of height from 4 to 5 storeys. They maintained that sunlight to these streets are assured. This most important report was not included in the agenda, so we cannot comment on its validity. The Built Form Frameworks, were also unavailable. So all we have to go on is what the actual Design and Development Overlay (DDO) states in terms of protecting sunlight to Koornang Road. This is presented below:

CLICK TO ENLARGE

To be clear as to what is proposed in the above DDO, one needs to understand the difference between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The winter solstice is ‘measured’ at June 22 and the equinox at September 22nd. The DDO makes it clear that ensuring sunlight reaches the footpaths along Koornang Road will only be assessed according to the spring data AND NOT THE WINTER data. Furthermore, the fact that the word ‘at’ is used is completely contrary to what most planning schemes state. Usually there is a time span included –ie from 10am to 3pm. In this instance, are we to assume that if there is a fraction of sunlight AT 10am, then all is well for the Western side of Koornang Road, and if it happens to be 2pm then the eastern side this is also okay? What about the intervening time spread? How much sunlight is hitting the western side at say 12pm? Or the eastern side at 1pm? How much of the entire street remains in shadow for times other than 10am or 12pm? The very fact that the DDO has been written in this fashion is cause for concern. No councillor of course even mentioned this – nor the impacts on other increased height limits throughout the centre.

The only councillor willing to speak fully about her reservations was Esakoff and to a lesser extent Cade. We present her comments in full below:

The ongoing UNCRITICAL acceptance by most councillors of vital strategic planning documents is unacceptable. They are charged with oversight. They are supposed to represent their constituents and not some allegiance to political parties. It is councillors who are charged with making decisions in the best interests of the community.Thus far this election term, they have been dismal failures for the most part. Instead they are mere rubber stamps for a bureaucracy that is not held to account and is not elected by residents. When will we have councillors with the balls to challenge incompetent reports, biased analyses, and anti-community decision making?

If anyone thought that things couldn’t get any worse as far as planning goes in Glen Eira, then a perusal of the Carnegie Structure Plan proposals put pay to this delusion.  Once again there has not been any community consultation on the latest draft. Instead councillors are being asked to pass this item and send off to the minister for advertising approval. Then it will come back for formal amendment submissions. This does not constitute ‘consultation’ given that planning panels are generally in favour of whatever councils propose. Furthermore, writing submissions and then attending hearings takes time, energy and total commitment by residents. Even worse, is that in order to fully comprehend what is being proposed, residents will have to wade through hundreds upon hundreds of pages. Hardly conducive to good ‘consultation’ and full transparency.

What is clear however, is that this latest version is even worse than the abandoned C184.  A quick summary follows:

  • Heritage along Koornang Road has gone from 4 storey mandatory to 5 storey mandatory
  • The discretionary heights of 12 storeys and 43 metres has now gone up to 46 metres
  • Onsite car parking provision will be reduced
  • Other sites have also gone from 5 to 6 storeys to the south of Neerim Road

There is not a single word that we could find which explains/justifies why there has been this increase in heights – apart from stating that the consultant urban designer thought it was okay. Interestingly, this ‘conclusion’ is proffered but without the publication of any overshadowing documentation, and the admission that in certain areas only the September solstice was considered.

Also gone from the current proposal are such decision guidelines which featured in 2017 and 2018 as –

To preserve and enhance the low scale character of the Koornang Road shopping strip.

Whether proposed buildings on sites that are in the vicinity of a heritage place are respectful of that heritage place.

To ensure an appropriate design response to sensitive interfaces, such as heritage or low-scale residential sites and open space

They are replaced with this hogwash –

responds to the existing heritage fabric in Koornang Road and the heritage significance of the Rosstown Hotel.

We are also concerned that the current DDO which only applies to the commercial and mixed use areas in Carnegie, means that the surrounding residential streets (ie Mimosa) reverts back to its current zoning of 4 storeys, instead of what in 2018 was rezoned as 3 storeys. This applies to other residential areas too. Council is claiming that the zoning will be part of the Housing Strategy, but even this document does not make this clear. Plus, by the time anything is gazetted we could still be looking at another 2 years!

To highlight the newest proposals we have provided screen dumps of what came before and what council now wants for Carnegie and what currently exists.

  1. The current height proposals –

2. The 2018 version

3. And the latest ddo which only concentrated on the commercial and mixed use zones. This proposed amendment even outdoes the following –

It must be remembered that Amendment C184 was abandoned and that 4 councillors voted again the Housing Strategy. In our view nothing has changed except that the latest proposals represent a further deterioration in all aspects of town planning and concern about over-development and the destruction of this municipality.

The current 911 page agenda features a 117 page item that purports to be the ‘feedback’ on the Housing Strategy consultation. If only it were so! Once again this council is incapable of providing a valid, comprehensive, and convincing report on what was said, what occurred and how the responses influenced or did not influence any suggested changes. What we instead get is endless repetition, selective publication of material, and vague promises. The failures of this report can be summarised as follows:

  • All responses are not published so residents have no idea as to what was said by all respondents. The council ‘summaries’ as meant to be taken as gospel instead.
  • Pie charts are provided with percentages and not numbers of responses – making them pretty meaningless, especially when some questions had very few responses. Also no attempt to explain/analyse why certain questions received few reactions/responses.
  • As for the Town Hall Forum, all that is mentioned of this event was that 111 residents participated. What they said, and what occurred is totally ignored.
  • A handful of changes are proposed, but with no real rationale as to why they were included for increased heights in the first place, and why some of these changes have now been reversed (ie Wright Street in Bentleigh)
  • Mention is made twice that officers presented to the Youth Advisory Committee. All well and good – but why was no such process undertaken for the committee directly charged with advising on consultation – ie the Engagement committee?
  • No commentary whatsoever on the questions themselves or their efficacy
  • No ‘evidence’ provided as to the questions asked at the ‘drop-in-sessions’ and yet council concludes that all questioners were ‘generally satisfied’.

For the rest of this post we will go through some of the issues and expand on our criticisms.

Role of a Housing Strategy

As has been stated previously, what is remarkable here is that on the same agenda, council is recommending that the draft Carnegie Structure Plan and its DDO be endorsed by councillors and sent off to the Minister for approval to advertise. In other words, a decision on structure planning will come BEFORE the adoption of the Housing Strategy. Yet the following quotes taken directly from this item state:

The adoption of the Housing Strategy is fundamental to the strategic underpinning of the structure plans for the Major Activity Centres, and subsequent planning scheme amendments to introduce permanent controls into the planning scheme. It is a pre-condition. Without a Housing Strategy, the other strategic work will be extremely difficult to justify through the amendment process. (page 526)

The structure plans for the Major Activity Centres and subsequent planning scheme amendments to introduce permanent controls into the planning scheme rely on the adoption of the Housing Strategy as a key component of their strategic underpinning. Without a Housing Strategy, the other strategic work will be extremely difficult to justify through the amendment process. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is expecting an adopted Housing Strategy in considering authorisation to implement our structure plans. (page 529)

Appendix 1 of the report

Statement after statement in this report is not averse to bending the truth and camouflaging what is really proposed. For example:

Zone change: ­ The Housing Strategy only suggests changes to zoning (and building height) in a small number of areas. (page 2)

In response to a public question submitted on the 15 February 2022 which asked for the numbers of sites in both the NRZ and GRZ zones affected by the proposed changes the specific answer given was:

  • The draft Housing Strategy proposes that for sites in the General Residential Zone (GRZ), the “Garden Area requirement” is switched off. The General Residential Zone represents 11 per cent of all land in Glen Eira (and 13 per cent of all land that allows for residential use in Glen Eira). The overall number of sites in Substantial Change Area 1 (translating to GRZ) as shown in the proposed housing framework plan and therefore proposed to have the garden area requirement switched off is 7,624.
  • • The draft Housing Strategy aims to identify locations where we can have multi-unit / townhouse developments (up to two storeys), that are genuine medium density (units and smaller townhouses). The draft Housing Strategy includes an action to develop specifics requirements to give effect to these aims. 7 per cent of the existing NRZ is proposed to have controls that will allow for multi-dwelling development and better support front landscaping outcomes. This translates to 5 per cent of Glen Eira or 3,075 sites. (page 28 of the minutes)

How on earth we can then get the above statement that only a ‘small number of areas’ are impacted is both untrue and deliberately obtuse. Whilst it is true that ‘zoning’ will not change (ie the sites will still remain NRZ, but the schedules WILL CHANGE so that these proposed 3000+ sites will now have increased site coverage, reduced permeability requirements, and reduced rear setbacks). When the 7,624 sites currently zoned GRZ are taken into account, we are looking at a housing strategy that will affect over 10,000 properties – that is nearly a fifth of all Glen Eira sites!!!!!!!

Garden Area Requirement

Repeated ad nauseam throughout the report and the appendices is the following:

Garden Area Requirement: The Housing Strategy proposes the removal of the Garden Area Requirement so it can be replaced with measures that generate better landscape outcomes. The minimum garden area requirement simply requires a ‘space’ to be set aside on a lot. It has to have a minimum width of one metre, but it can be in permanent darkness or have an impractical or unusable shape. It could have a shed, a patio, or a basement completely underneath it. Essentially, there’s no guidance around what this space can or should be, and therefore does not guarantee good landscaping and permeability outcomes.(page 4)

How removing the requirement for anything from 25% to 35% of a site set aside for ‘garden area’ (depending on size) can assist in generating ‘better landscape outcomes’ is anyone’s guess. This is especially true when all that council is proposing at this stage is landscape ‘guidelines’ – meaning these are non-mandatory and practically useless. What will appear in the actual schedules remains a mystery.

There is much much more that could be said about this bogus ‘feedback’ report. Perhaps the best example of how deficient and totally misleading it is, comes from the following two screen dumps.

We ask that readers pay particular attention to the actual data in the pie charts and then council’s ‘interpretation’ of what these are supposed to represent.

Finally and by way of contrast, it is really illuminating to see how Bayside for example approached its consultation for preferred character statements. In Glen Eira, residents had to plough through reams and reams of pages in order to understand anything that was proposed. Furthermore, in Glen Eira the entire municipality was included and reduced to under 20 distinct areas. In Bayside, they divided the GRZ zones only into 29 different areas and their processes for gleaning what the community thought and wanted was explained, analysed and basically acted upon. See these links for further information on Bayside’s approach –

https://www.bayside.vic.gov.au/news/defining-character-growth-areas

https://yoursay.bayside.vic.gov.au/GRZcharacter

The only conclusion we can draw from all of the above is that the culture in Glen Eira remains pro-development at any cost and that resident views are merely impediments to this agenda. Until we have massive cultural change and major change in personnel, we hold out very little hope that things will improve. It is therefore incumbent on our councillors to ensure that the community voice is not only engaged, but listened to, acted upon, and given the full respect it deserves. If this report goes unchallenged then councillors should resign in shame!

Readers would remember that at the last council meeting, the MRC landscaping plan for the Caulfield Racecourse was voted down by councillors – only 7 were present and the vote was 4 to 3 to reject the application. It has not taken the MRC long to come back with their revised plans.

All we can glean in terms of proposed changes from the officer’s report is contained in the following quotes –

Replacing 6 Magnolia Grandiflora with 6 Tristaniopsis Laurina (Water Gums).

It is noted that the majority of the Southern Magnolias and Water Gums will be planted in above ground planter boxes, rather than in deep soil. There is sufficient soil depth to enable growth. (page 27)

Interestingly, the submitted plans refer to the magnolia variety as a ‘large tree’ with a mature height of 8 metres. We freely admit that our botanical knowledge is very limited. However a quick Google search tells us that this variety of tree can grow to well above the 8 metres. More significant is the Moreland City council information (presented below) which clearly states that planters should not be used for this type of tree. The link is available at: https://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/living-in-moreland/environment/trees/tree-finder/magnolia-grandiflora/

The second variety listed is water gums. Again we get quoted growth sizes of 5 to 15 metres in well drained soil. See: https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp10/tristaniopsis-laurina.html as one example.

All of the above raises these questions:

  1. Why the substitution?
  2. Why planters instead of in ground? Will these trees survive and flourish in planters?
  3. Why are the associated plans not clearly listing trees to be removed? All we can spot are 5 trees labelled as to be ‘reused’ – whatever that means?
  4. Hundreds of plantings will be nothing more than tiny shrubs at best

It will be interesting to observe what happens Tuesday night. If council is serious about tree preservation, the urban forest strategy then these plans do not add anything to the existing policies.

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