GE Governance


For the second time, councillors through their voting have sent a clear message to officers,  that the latter’s work is clearly not up to community expectations or standards. Last night’s motion on the Urban Design Frameworks was deferred until next month – the rationale being that councillors needed additional time to discuss and to be provided with far more detail and justification. This resolution follows the abandonment of Amendment C184 on the Bentleigh & Carnegie structure plans.

What does this mean and what are the ramifications long term? We can only speculate, but it is becoming apparent that the planning department is being put under increasing pressure and that many of these new councillors will not automatically be rubber stamping whatever is put in front of them. That is all to the good for residents.

The only ‘negative’ from the debate on this issue was provided by Magee and his vote against deferment. His comments were insulting – ie claiming that as an old councillor he understood perfectly what the Urban Design Frameworks were all about and that there was heaps of ‘detail’. Given that this is the first time that UDF’s have been introduced in well over a decade, we can only wonder as to Magee’s ‘familiarity’ with this planning tool. Secondly, his comments came directly after Zyngier stated that he had received a letter from council and that he had difficulty in comprehending what was proposed. His argument was that when council decides to communicate with residents they need to ensure that the ‘message’ is clear, and in everyday language. This followed on from Zmood’s points that Urban Design Frameworks should not be seen in isolation but that they are the result of looking at the municipality as a whole – ie via a Housing Strategy and that data must constitute the first step.

Magee also covered himself in glory with his views on Heritage. Suddenly he has become the saviour of properties with a heritage overlay on them – or so he would like us to believe. Put simply, he stated there is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Could he then perhaps explain to residents if heritage is that important, why he seconded and voted in favour of the demolition of a contributory building and the erection of a 12 storey monstrosity on top of the heritage building next door in Derby Road, Caulfield East? For those interested we invite you to listen to his diametrically opposed comments below –

Item 8.1 last night –

AND

From November 2018 –

Consistency has never been Magee’s strong point on development and other issues. What residents must by now realise is that every ‘speech’ must be taken with a huge dollop of salt when Magee opens his mouth!

Council never fails to disappoint with its latest planning effort – the release of the Urban Design Frameworks/Guidelines for Caulfield Park, Caulfield South, and Bentleigh East.

Once again we have 3 documents short on detail, statistics, and images that are barely legible or comprehensible.

As per usual, we find adopted policies such as the City Plan being completely ignored when it comes to the latest recommendations. The City Plan specified a 5 storey height limit for its neighbourhood centres. The latest documents recommend a discretionary maximum height of 6 storeys for vast stretches within all of these centres. Why the inconsistency and how is this height increase justified when not one single piece of data is presented to account for this divergence?

Even more disappointing is the inclusion of currently designated ‘local centres’ into some of these frameworks and the recommendation that they can also reach for the skies.

We have already commented on the consistent failure of this council to conduct its consultations in an appropriate and meaningful manner. We ask:

  • Why is there no mention of this ‘consultation’ in the April edition of the Glen Eira News?
  • Why is there no Discussion Paper listing all the relevant concerns, and the potential pros and cons?
  • Why is there this insistence on a top-down approach to consultation instead of first asking residents what they want and then producing the draft documents?
  • Why is the consultation period a short 4 weeks, in contrast to some other councils that instituted an 8 week period?
  • We have not as yet seen the ‘Have Your Say’ version of the consultation, but aren’t holding our breath that the questions will elicit too many decent responses.

For all those residents living in, or near, these neighbourhood centres, we invite you to peruse these maps so that you know what this council is planning for your area and its likely impact on your neighbourhood. Needless to say, there is barely a single word about how this council will deal with: open space, infrastructure, parking, traffic congestion, etc. In conclusion, another set of documents that do nothing to instill any confidence in this planning department and an administration that is not prepared to listen and genuinely consult with its residents.

We will comment in greater detail in the days ahead.

Amendment c155 (East Village) has now been gazetted. The result is another slap in the face for residents and highlights once again council’s pathetic ‘advocacy’. Readers will remember that the main areas of contention were:

  • Whether the number of proposed dwellings be a mandatory 3000, or whether they would be regarded as a ‘soft cap’ meaning that the developer can exceed this number
  • Whether the 8 storey height limit for the majority of dwellings be mandatory or discretionary
  • Whether there would be the removal (entirely) of third party objection rights

Each of the above has been decided in favour of the developer by the Department and/or the Minister. So, there will be more than 3000 dwellings and there will be buildings that are higher than 8 storeys and all without the possibility that residents can object to any development plan that comes in for the various sectors.

In what has too often become the typical council grandstanding, in July 2020 we had Hyams and Cade moving a motion that included accepting the Panel report but asking for mandatory heights and dwelling numbers, plus 3rd party objection rights. Too little too late we say and again, what a convenient scape goat to blame government now. Readers must remember that it was council who introduced a structure plan that allowed 8 storeys and 3000 dwellings. Why was this structure plan accepted in the first place after plenty of community opposition? Why was there the decision to send off to a panel, knowing full well that panels tend to support developers? Why didn’t council fight tooth and nail for the above 3 factors when the Comprehensive Development Plan was first mooted? Pretending that council cares after all of these processes have been gone through is not advocacy. It amounts to pulling the wool over residents’ eyes in our view! And adding further salt to the wounds is that this entire structure planning process cost ratepayers over $400,000!

In our view, the amendment should never have gone to a panel and should have been abandoned as happened with the Bentleigh & Carnegie structure plans. Yes, the developer would have gone to the Minister and he might have intervened. At the very least, council would have emerged with some integrity and the perception that it does indeed care about its neighbourhoods and residents.

For years now, council has been losing millions of dollars annually on its aged care provision. Ratepayers have therefore been subsidising this program. There is nothing wrong with this. Even if council is the only municipality to still provide aged care, that is no reason to get rid of the facilities or the various programs. And besides, ratepayers have been subsidising developers for eons now because this council does not have a development contributions levy, or a community infrastructure levy which countless other councils have.

Before any decision is made regarding the future of aged care in Glen Eira, we believe that there simply has to be a full, comprehensive and genuine consultation with the entire community. This is not a decision solely for bureaucrats or 9 elected councillors. The community has got every right to determine where and how their money is spent. If the majority of residents are opposed to council run facilities, then so be it. If the majority prefer that the $3m or so each year is spent elsewhere, then again, so be it. But if the majority still want council to continue to care for our frail and elderly, then that is a decision that must be respected. That is democracy!

As for the consultation itself, and before any decision is made, residents need to know the full facts, such as:

  • What is the full cost to council (including staff, upgrade of facilities, cleaning, etc?)
  • What is the likely current and future demand for beds based on demographics?
  • Are there waiting lists?
  • Are the current facilities in the right areas, given demographic change?
  • What areas are deficient in aged care?
  • How many jobs are currently associated with aged care? What is the future job projection(s)?
  • How many (if any) Spurway residents were moved against their will or their families wishes?
  • How many private facilities are currently in the municipality and where?
  • What is the entry and weekly costs for residents associated with each of these private facilities?
  • What are the potential financial impacts of the recommendations likely to be made by the Royal Commission?

Once all of these facts are presented in a clear and concise manner to residents, the consultation should be straight forward, and include such questions as:

  • Should Glen Eira City council continue to provide aged care facilities?
  • Do you believe that private aged care can provide a better service? Why?
  • Is anyone in your family likely to require aged care in the next 10 years?

The other ramifications if council does decide to close Spurway, and potentially the others in time, is what happens to the land, the buildings, the staff? Additional questions that residents must have a say on, would focus on these areas:

  • Are you in favour of council land being sold off for private development?
  • How would you like the Spurway 2500 square metres of land used in the future?
  • Would you support the Spurway facilities being turned into social housing? Open Space?

Until this council learns to be upfront and honest with its ratepayers, we will continue to have the turmoil of 2019. In camera decisions are the antithesis of open, transparent government on issues such as this and what happened previously.

About two weeks ago, VCAT held a compulsory conference for the proposed development at 7 Selwyn Street, Elsternwick. Readers should remember the following:

  • The proposed height of 9 storeys is the equivalent of the 14 storeys that the Woolies application (directly opposite 7 Selwyn Street) stipulated. The Woolworth’s application was refused by both council and VCAT.
  • Council last year granted a permit for the 9 storeys with a vote of 6 to 3 in the face of stern opposition from residents.

Apparently at the compulsory conference the applicant made no concessions in terms of reducing the proposed height. What did come out at this conference however was that council is quite prepared to spend tens of thousands of ratepayer funds to ‘defend’ its decision to grant a permit.

So the stage is set for a major hearing lasting at least 8 days. Interestingly, the developer will be requiring 3 days to present evidence and expert witnesses, whilst council is asking for 4 days to present their 2 lawyers and 4 expert witnesses! So we have the ludicrous situation where council is actively fighting its own residents, spending their/our money, and doing more than the applicant himself in attempting to justify his application!

As far as money goes, we can only speculate how much this will end up costing ratepayers. Most expert witnesses charge at least (conservatively) $4000-$5000 per day. Barristers can charge around $6000 per day and some charge even more. Lawyers are another cost. Our reckoning comes out to at least $60-$70,000 that council is prepared to spend on defending its decision to grant a permit!

Whilst it is reasonable to argue that councils have every right to defend their decisions, and to use ratepayer funds in undertaking this defence, we maintain that it is NOT okay when a permit has already been granted, and certainly not to the extent of 4 expert witnesses plus a bevy of lawyers. Councils do front up at VCAT and argue their case, but this is when they have refused a permit and not when one has already been granted as is the case here.

We also need to take a look at what Glen Eira has been doing at VCAT in the past. The following list of hearings and attendances clearly shows that what council is about to do has NOT occurred previously – especially when permits have been granted. Most of the time a council planner attends and that is the end of the story. Where urban designers have been called, these are the selected consultants on contracts to council.

There are however two cases listed below where lawyers and one expert witness was called when council had granted a permit. Both cases represent different circumstances. In the Horne Street development readers will remember that the application was for 14 storeys and council granted a permit for 8 storeys. The VCAT member severely criticised council for its decision making and lack of strategic justification. The other case involved 411-415 Glen Huntly Road, and this was an appeal against council’s failure to issue a secondary consent within the prescribed time limits regarding amending the planning permit for 8 storeys and demolition of heritage buildings. Much of the hearing centred around what is called ‘accrued rights’ and the introduction of the DDO10. Hence it became an important question of ‘law’.

We have not found any other case at VCAT, where council has gone to the lengths it is doing here to defend a decision to grant a permit. So why is this happening now? What pressures are being applied and by whom? How on earth can council justify spending all this money in fighting its own residents?

In order to support our claims, we present the following list of VCAT hearings for the past few years and those who attended on behalf of council (as listed in the respective decisions). They are under two headings – council refusals of permits, and council’s granting of permits.

DECISIONS WHERE COUNCIL REFUSED PERMIT

348-354 Hawthorn Road, = Mr Kristian Cook, town planner (council).

679-683 Glen Huntly Road, = Mr P O’Leary, town planner, Polplan.

6-8 Bevis Street, Bentleigh East = Mr P O’Leary, Town Planner of PolPlan Pty Ltd

51 Hawthorn Road, = Mr Michael Dowel, town planner (council)

39 Lilac Street, Bentleigh East = Mr Stuart Taylor, town planner.(council)

6-8 Bevis Street, Bentleigh East = Mr P O’Leary, Town Planner of PolPlan Pty Ltd (1ST HEARING)

103 Gardenvale Road,GARDENVALE = Mr M Dowel (Day 1) and Mr K Cook, Coordinator Urban Planning (Practice Day Hearing).(council)

31 Weeroona Road, MURRUMBEENA = Mr P O’Leary, PolPlan Pty Ltd.

371-377 Hawthorn Road and 3 Olive Street, Caulfield South = Ms K Piskuric, solicitor of Harwood Andrews

9A and 9B Muntz Street, = Mr Stuart Taylor, planner of  Glen Eira  City Council.

31 Weeroona Road, MURRUMBEENA (1st hearing) = Mr P O’Leary, PolPlan Pty Ltd.

9 Marlborough Street, Bentleigh East = Ms Alison Orwin, Senior Urban Planner

12 Wheeler Street, ORMOND = Mr Peter O’Leary, town planner of Polplan Pty Ltd

2 Pearce Street, Caulfield South = Peter English, town planner.

342-346 Centre Road, (time extension) = Ms M Marcus, Solicitor, Maddocks, Mr R McGauran, Urban Design

11 Caleb Street, BENTLEIGH EAST = Mr Andrew Crack, town planner of Crack & Assoc.

45 Hoddle Street, = Mr A Crack, Andrew Crack & Associates Pty Ltd.

81 Dalny Road, Murrumbeena = Mr Andrew Crack, town planner of Andrew Crack

2 Wattle Grove, McKinnon = Mr Andrew Crack, town planning consultant.

24-26 Vickery Street, (time extension) = Ms Sarah Porrit, Barrister, instructed by Ms Jacqueline Simpkin, Solicitor, of Maddocks.

277-279 Centre Road, Bentleigh (time extension) = Ms Mimi Marcus of Maddocks Lawyers

43-45 Kokaribb Road, Carnegie = Mr P O’Leary, Polplan Pty Ltd.

4 Clarinda Street = lucy Bond (council)

430-434 Neerim Road – Ms Mimi Marcus, Solicitor, Marcus Lane

388-394 Hawthorn Road – Mr Zac Van Grondelle, town planner (council)

64-68 Lumeah Road, Caulfield North – Mr Anthony Adams, Principal Urban Planner (council)

42 George Street – Mr Michael Dowel, town planner, from Glen Eira  City Council

679-683 Glen Huntly Road – Mr P O’Leary, town planner, Polplan.

348-354 Hawthorn Road – Mr Kristian Cook, town planner.(council)

6-8 Bevis Street, – Mr P O’Leary, Town Planner of PolPlan Pty Ltd

10-16 Selwyn Street – Ms Susan Brennan SC and Ms Jane Sharp, both of Counsel, instructed by Marcus Lane lawyers; Ms Anita Brady (heritage); Mr Tim Biles (urban design);Ms Leanne Hodyl (urban design);Mr Jim Antonopoulos (acoustic);Mr Damien Iles (planning);Valentine Gnanakone (traffic).

51 Hawthorn Road – Mr Michael Dowel, town planner (council)

103 Gardenvale Road = Mr M Dowel (Day 1) and Mr K Cook, Coordinator Urban Planning (Practice Day Hearing). (council)

 

DECISIONS WHERE COUNCIL GRANTED A PERMIT

 

9 Faulkner Street, BENTLEIGH = Mr Julian Berzins, Town Planner (council)

Lot S4, PS448063B, 441 Inkerman Road, = Mr K Cook, Coordinator Urban Planning.(council)

10 Quinns Road, = Mr P O’Leary, town planner (council)

335 Chesterville Road, Bentleigh East = Mimi Nuciforo, town planner (council)

1 Portland Street, = Ms Alison Orwin, town planner of Council.

7-15 Horne Street, Elsternwick = Terry Montebello, Solicitor of Maddocks, Robert McGauran (architect) of MGS Architects

506 Hawthorn Road CAULFIELD SOUTH = Mr Alistair Dunlop, development planner (council)

122 Grange Road, Carnegie = Michael Dowel, town planner City of  Glen Eira

285-287 Neerim Road, = Mr A Dunlop, Town Planner (council)

51 College Street,  = Mr Alistair Dunlop, Town Planner (council)

1207 Glen Huntly Road, = Mr Peter O’Leary, town planner of PolPlan Pty Ltd.

38 Eddys Grove Bentleigh = Ms Mimi Nuciforo, town planner (council)

679 South Road, = Phoebe Hanna, town planner (council)

3 Ripon Grove, = Alistair Dunlop, town planner (council)

411-415 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick = Ms Mimi Marcus, Maddocks Lawyers (December 2018)

9 Faulkner Street = Mr Julian Berzins, Town Planner (council)

441 Inkerman Road – Mr K Cook, Coordinator Urban Planning. (council)

39 Lilac Street, – Mr Stuart Taylor, town planner. (Council)

The agenda for Tuesday night’s council meeting again features Amendment C184 for Bentleigh and Carnegie. Once again the recommendation is to abandon the amendment and to start on a Housing Strategy, plus individual amendments for both of these major activity centres.

Whilst we support this recommendation, we still do not have any real answers as to why there has been this monumental stuff up and who is responsible. Nor are we told in this latest report what extra external ‘expert’ advice was relied on. Were they lawyers – if so, who, and how much did this cost? If planners, again who were they? But the real question remains – why weren’t all these drawbacks picked up years ago?

At last the current officer’s report goes some way to enunciating the significance of a housing strategy. Up until today, this has been entirely ignored. What is clear, is that housing strategies are vital not just for the resulting built form of major activity centres, but for any Municipal Strategic Strategy rewrite, and its purpose is not only to look at individual centres, but the entire municipality. What we have instead is a concocted City Plan that is anything but a housing strategy. We also have the residential zones that have now been acknowledged to be not up to standard in regards to heritage and other constraints.

THE ROLE OF A HOUSING STRATEGY & GLEN EIRA COUNCIL

In July 2014 there was introduced what is called a ‘ministerial directive’ number 16. It specified several important points that councils had to do, namely:

  • use a housing strategy to inform the balanced application of the three residentialzones
  • evaluate and monitor the implications of the application of any of the three residential zones within two years of their gazettal into the planning scheme 

Glen Eira introduced its zones in August 2013. There certainly has not been any ‘evaluation’ and monitoring of the efficacy of these zones and certainly not done in accordance with this directive at the time. In fact the MRDAC committee concluded that the manner in which Glen Eira introduced their zones (by stealth!) was far from acceptable. We quote:

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).

Thus as far back as 2014, Council were, or should have been aware of the need for an up-to-date Housing Strategy.To therefore imply, that this bit of news has only now come to council’s notice via the Minister’s letter of 2019 is pure bunkum. Interestingly, other councils took real notice of this directive. In Glen Eira it did not rate a mention!The following screen dump comes from Boroondara’s council meeting of 14/12/2015.

Whilst this directive was rescinded several years later, the demand for a housing strategy still exists. How any council can pretend to plan for the entire municipality without an up to date strategy beggars belief. In Glen Eira, such acknowledgement always comes years and years too late when many of our streets and suburbs are already beyond redemption.

For all readers’ information here is what other councils have been doing for years and years and which our lot have stubbornly refused to do. Again the perennial questions: why have all these councils got Housing Strategies and Glen Eira does not? How ‘genuine’ will the proposed community consultation on the upcoming strategy be? Or will it remain a simple tick the box sham as with the current City Plan?

Here is the work that other councils have done and the dates of their strategies:

Kingston – adopted in 2020a nd awaiting ministerial approval to advertise

Bayside 2012 and 2019

Hobson’s Bay – 2017

Maribyrnong – 2011 and updated 2018

Darebin – 2012 and is currently out for consultation review

Stonnington – 2020 revision of existing housing strategy

Boroondara – 2015

Casey – 2019

Banyule – 2009 and currently being updated

Bendigo – 2018 updated strategy

Frankston – 2018

Mornington 2020 is updated strategy

Darebin – 2013 and being updated

Brimbank – 2012 updated 2020

Yarra Ranges – 2009

Wodonga – 2018

Yarra – 2018

Latrobe – 2019

Knox 2015

Whitehorse 2014 and being reviewed in part

Surf Coast 2006

Nillumbik – 2020 and ongoing

Maroondah – 2016

Port Phillip – 2007 and updated for specific precincts regularly

Moorabool – 2016

Warnambool – 2013

Council has announced its ‘consultation’ start for the Urban Design Frameworks for Caulfield South, East Bentleigh and Caulfield North via the Have Your Say page. See: https://www.haveyoursaygleneira.com.au/caulfield-south-neighbourhood-activity-centre.

As we’ve repeatedly stated, there is much that is missing in order for residents to believe that this can in any way be a ‘genuine’ consultation rather than another exercise in fulfilling various pieces of legislation.

Here’s what is missing:

  • Any information as to whether these Urban Design Frameworks will also include Design and Development Overlays.
  • Whether there will be any discussion papers outlining the issues each centre faces
  • Whether there will be a Community Reference Group
  • Whether the maps included are the final borders
  • Whether abutting residential areas are likely to be rezoned

Once again, we are facing a ‘top-down’ approach to consultation. The draft will be created and then presented. Residents will only then be invited to provide feedback and then presumably, largely ignored. All of this when council’s adopted Engagement Strategy from last council meeting specifically stated that major strategic planning projects would increase from the ‘inform’, ‘consult’ categories to also include ‘involve’. Such short term memories from our administrators!

We keep asking the same questions with no satisfactory responses.

  • Why can so many other councils produce initial discussion papers?
  • Why can so many other councils implement community panels on major planning projects?

Until this council is fully committed to giving residents a voice that is listened to, we will continue along the same path. The result will be more disillusioned residents who feel like they have been totally disenfranchised.

A myriad of questions needs to be asked and answered in regard to Amendment C184. For starters, here are some:

  • When did council first learn that the submitted first draft was running into major difficulties with the Department?
  • How many meetings were held with Department officials seeking some ‘solutions’? What were the dates for these meetings? Were any councillors party to these ‘discussions’? Were councillors informed as to the outcomes of these meetings?
  • How many times in these discussions did the issue of a Housing Strategy come up and in what context and when?
  • At last week’s council meeting and in response to the Athanasopolous question of why council is only now considering a Housing Strategy, Torres responded by saying in part – ‘council chose to continue with the amendment and seek some definitive answer from the minister’. Who made this decision – officers or councillors? Where is this documented? And what were the grounds for forging ahead, when it was clear there were major difficulties?
  • Given that within the space of 3 or so months, there is now the recommendation to abandon the amendment, what has changed? How well did council consider the possibility of ‘success’ at a planning panel last year, especially since no new documentation was included in the proposed amendment?  If ‘failure’ is now a real possibility, why wasn’t this picked up prior to advertising of the amendment?
  • Who should be held accountable for the waste of ratepayers’ money?

Even more intriguing is the rationale presented in the last officer’s report. We are told that much has changed in government requirements, especially with the publication of Practice Notes 90 and 91. These were released in December 2019! Repeated numerous times in these documents is the role of a Housing Strategy. The chart below is clear on the significance of the role that a Housing Strategy needs to play together with a Neighbourhood Character Strategy for any framework plan, or even zoning. Glen Eira has neither a viable housing strategy and definitely no Neighbourhood Character Strategy worthy of that name! Yet it has taken 14 months for council to even get around to putting out a tender for a consultant to work on the Housing Strategy.

If we go back in time to the Aiden Mullen report contained in the agenda for 26th November 2019 (page 31) we find this statement:

Officers had understood that due to the various State time frame demands, the structure plan amendments could run separately to the planning scheme rewrite. However, as the Minister has now clearly expressed a view that the housing strategy needs to be incorporated into the scheme alongside the structure planning amendments, Officers will now review how best to achieve this, which will include bringing an updated Strategy to Council in the short term, to seek adoption. 

So even before the release of the relevant Practice Notes, this council was fully aware of the need for a Housing Strategy. 15 months later we are still waiting – so much for ‘short term’!!!!!

We are still waiting to get permission for the Planning Scheme Rewrite. We predict that given what was submitted, council will not get permission to advertise and we will face the same situation with the rewrite as we are now facing with Amendment C184.

All residents need to think carefully as to where the blame should be sheeted home. Does the fault lie with the Minister, the Department, or with our planning department and its failure to produce work that is up to the required standard? When other councils have invested their resources to produce some decent housing strategies that go as far back as 2005 and are continually updated, all Glen Eira has to show is a pathetic ‘city plan’ that is devoid of data, of detail, and instead features nothing more than glossy pictures and graphs that a ten year old could question the validity of. Torres, in our view has much to answer for!

In what can only be described as a $1 million plus cock-up by this planning department, the CEO, and all those councillors who voted in favour of exhibiting Amendment C184, we now have the recommendation to abandon the amendment! This represents not only a wastage of rate payer money, but a clear indication of the complete incompetence of this planning department. What has occurred over the past 5 years is a damning  indictment of this council.

The current officer report now recommends:

  1. receives and notes all written submissions received following the exhibition ofAmendment C184;
  1. extends its appreciation to all those who made written submissions;
  2. notes the officer responses and attachments in response to submissions;
  3. abandons Amendment C184 under Section 23(1)(c) of the Planning and EnvironmentAct 1987 to enable Council to pursue revised permanent planning controls in theBentleigh and Carnegie Activity Centres;
  1. endorses the commencement of a new process beginning with a Housing Strategy, a revised Carnegie Structure Plan, an updated Bentleigh Structure Plan and two newplanning scheme amendments based on the revised structure plans; and
  1. notes that there would be a separate and subsequent amendment to implement theHousing Strategy into the Planning Scheme

We are not opposed to the abandonment of this Amendment. It should never have been exhibited in the first place. As with most things done by this council, the cart is always put before the horse. How on earth structure plans can be adopted prior to any decent Housing Strategy is beyond belief. And when one considers that Wynne’s letter to council in November 2019 stated:

Whilst it is evident that the council has undertaken significant strategic work on housing capacity within the municipality, the amendment is not underpinned by an adopted municipal wide housing strategy that provides clear policy direction about where residential development should occur

Why then has it taken a year for council to even advertise a consultant to undertake the work on a Housing Strategy. This appeared in the Age on Jan 30th 2021.

The officer report is full of admissions as to the failings of the draft Amendment. Of course, the basic argument is that because there is so little strategic justification, the amendment would have little hope of being endorsed at a planning panel and going to a planning panel could cost upwards of $200,000. It’s a pity that what money has been spent thus far to no avail, does not receive much comment, except to say that it is still ‘useful’.  However, we then get told time and time again that what council needs to do now is:

  • Proper traffic analyses
  • Peer reviews of urban design
  • Change zonings that are in error
  • Test shadow controls – especially for winter solstice
  • Zoning inaccuracies that are not in alignment with structure plan
  • Open space needs and locations to be addressed upon creation of an ‘implementation plan’
  • Multi deck car park to be ‘revised’
  • Need to rewrite to consider cumulative impact of parking from developments
  • Heights and setbacks to be reviewed by ‘independent urban design advice’. Please note that this has already been done in October 2017 when a 6 metre setback was reviewed as okay, only to have council change this to 5 metre setbacks! No justification of course provided except that some developers ‘complained’!!!!!!!

We could go on and on, detailing what needs to be done and what wasn’t done.

Finally, a comment on how the information has been presented to residents. The tables and other comments lack quantification . For example what do such terms referring to submitters, actually mean – ie  ‘a few’, ‘some’, ‘several’? Are we talking about 5 submissions, 20 submissions, or even 50 submissions. Who are these submitters – developers or residents? Why isn’t this made clear? And why can’t council publish in full, all submissions that came in? And council is still publishing documents that cannot be highlighted. Simple PDF versions rather than scanned jpegs are necessary. Why has this been going on for nearly 2 years? Again, this goes to the heart of transparency and accountability in this council!

Our real concern however is with what this means for Bentleigh. Many of the officer responses indicate that Bentleigh in the new version will be accorded much higher heights than currently. 5 storeys is about to go out the window – and again without any strategic justification for these comments. The argument about accommodating ‘higher density development’ once again is made PRIOR to any housing strategy, or real analysis of what is happening throughout the municipality.

What we have here is a monumental stuff up that has cost at least a million in ratepayer funds at a time when councils as a result of COVID have had budgets and plans wrecked. We can only hope that what is about to be spent now is finally up to standard and councillors deliver proper oversight!

Last night’s planning conference on the Bentleigh/Carnegie Amendment C184 was illustrative of the divide between developers, their representatives, and residents. Predictably, every single developer not only supported the advertised amendment as it stood, but most wanted even more, such as:

  • Higher built form (especially in Bentleigh)
  • Diluting of overshadowing/sunlight guidelines
  • Discretionary setbacks
  • Some even wanted the draft rezoning from 4 to 2/3 storeys to be returned to the ‘original’ 4 storeys.

Residents, on the other hand spoke passionately about the myriad of negative impacts on their lives that this amendment would create, or exacerbate –

  • Overshadowing and loss of sunlight all year round
  • Lack of open space and adequate infrastructure
  • Parking and traffic mayhem
  • Lack of acknowledgement of COVID and what this does to outdated population targets
  • Heights that will dwarf surrounding properties
  • Loss of neighbourhood character
  • Lack of fairness and absence of strategic justification
  • No planning for environmental/sustainability issues

THE PROCESS

What occurred last night was, in our view, nothing more than another example of a council determined to restrict residents from having any meaningful, public dialogue with councillors and/or planners. It’s also worth pointing out that in one of our recent posts we highlighted how other councils will interact with residents on important structure planning decisions that will go much further than the basic inform’ and ‘consult’ hierarchy of ‘consultation that Glen Eira does. (See: https://gleneira.blog/2021/01/07/consultation-2-2/)

No questions were permitted. The objective was simply to repeat orally the written submissions. Given that this was an amendment, and not a specific planning application, we have to wonder why the format was designated as a ‘planning conference’, especially since council’s stated aim in holding ‘planning conferences’ was the opportunity for ‘negotiation’ and potential consensus between developers and objectors!  Last night had no scope for any ‘negotiation’ or consensus.

Readers should also be very aware of the fact that Amendment C184 did NOT undergo any community consultation whatsoever. Council’s original draft which was not cleared for exhibition, also did not undergo community consultation. In both instances, the drafts were included in council agendas and the resolution was passed to send these documents off to the Minister seeking permission to advertise. All residents could do, was to then plough through hundreds of pages of documents, and if they had the time, energy and inclination, they were allowed to submit a formal objection/support to the amendment. Hardly ‘consultation’ – especially when there is not a single word to justify what is proposed such as the hundreds upon hundreds of rezonings, discretionary heights instead of mandatory, removal of mandatory garden requirements, and loss of permeability requirements in NRZ2.

Even more suspect was Magee, who chaired the zoom meeting and his comment to one resident. We’ve uploaded what she said and Magee’s retort below. Make up your own mind as to the appropriateness of Magee’s comments.

 

For those residents who were unable to attend, we’ve uploaded the entire audio that you may listen to.

 

 

 

 

Next Page »