GE Governance


We have been alerted by a reader as to the following imminent development in Egan Street, Carnegie.

Whilst we have no problem with the need for more affordable and social housing throughout Victoria, we do have major issues with what seemingly is being proposed here.

Our reasons are:

  • The current interim Design and Development Overlay (DDO9) for this precinct has an 8 storey height limit.
  • The site has a permit for 8 storeys, so presumably this site has been sold on by the owner. Previous VCAT applications for this site featured applications for a 16 storey student block. This was rejected by both council and VCAT.
  • Car parking according to council’s planning scheme is deficient for both the apartments and retail sectors.

Of greatest concern is the fact that under Wynne’s Amendments and the Big House guidelines, third party review rights are removed. There will supposedly be ‘consultation’, with council and the community once the plans are released. The option however, of going to VCAT is removed.

Here’s what the legislation includes:

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Government policy is rightly pushing for more social housing after decades and decades of neglect. This however should not be assumed as a carte blanche for either government or council to IMPOSE upon neighbourhoods 10 storey (or higher) apartment blocks without the possibility of review.

For all council’s talk about the need for social housing, their actions belie their rhetoric. When the opportunities surfaced to extract significant social housing components in major developments Glen Eira council fell by the wayside and settled for the bare minimum. The latest Caulfield Village permit for 437 apartments contained only 21 such dwellings designated as ‘affordable housing’ – that’s a percentage of 4.8% and the reduced rent is only set for 10 years! We also have the debacle that is Virginia Estate where from at least 3000 apartments, social/affordable housing managed to eke out a miserable 5%! Other councils are now attempting at least 20% for their major developments.

Nor are we provided with any warning as to what council will offer up to the government. How much of council land will be sold off for social housing? Will residents be informed well in advance? How many of these apartments will end up in private developer’s hands – ie a ‘private/public’ partnership?

In the end, we see this as the start of a process that denies residents a say in the future of their neighbourhoods.

The agenda for next THURSDAY’S council meeting is now out and features Version 3 of the Glen Huntly Structure Plan. Readers will remember that the first draft went out for consultation in mid 2020 where council wanted 10, 8 and 6 storeys for many sectors. Following consultation, the 10 storey site at the supermarket was reduced to 8, with several other reductions. This was rejected by councillors in September 2020 with the arguments that 8 storeys in the second smallest suburb in Glen Eira, and with the densest population was a step too far. So now we have version 3, which to be blunt, is another pathetic planning document that is without strategic justification, without due consideration to residents’ views, and which will deny residents any say in what is approved.

The newly proposed changes are literally miniscule – a few nominated heritage properties to the west, and some in the commercial eastern side. Basically, this new version remains very much the same document as before – heights, to the greatest extent, remain the same as do setbacks. Thus, if councillors saw fit to reject this earlier draft, we see no reason as to why this ‘newer’ version should gain their approval!

The following paragraphs go through the proposed plan and highlight what we believe is so erroneous and constitutes poor planning.

What can be gleaned from the officer’s report and the draft structure plan itself:

  • This structure plan will be adopted BEFORE a Housing Strategy is completed and any permanent controls will only see the light of day AFTER the Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick structure plans have been done. Given that Elsternwick is stated as blowing out to 2023, that means that the Glen Huntly structure plan will have no statutory weight (ie.being included in the Planning Scheme) for years to come. This represents nothing more than another example of putting the cart before the horse!
  • There is currently no Heritage Overlay that exists for the proposed sites. This again, means that there is nothing available to stop a developer coming in and demolishing what council now believes is heritage worthy. Given the long process for having amendments included in the planning scheme, again we are looking at least another 2 years if not more, before any constraints are placed on developers – we quote: No changes to heritage overlays are proposed at this time. They will be pursued as part of a Planning Scheme Amendment at a later date
  • What is implied throughout this report is that the surrounding residential areas of Glen Huntly will be looked at down the track and this will cover the ‘study area’ for potential rezonings. As a Major Activity Centre, this will invariably mean that many sites now zoned GRZ (3 storeys) have the potential to be increased to RGZ (four storeys), plus the fact that the size of the activity centre will undoubtedly expand. We see no other way to interpret the following: again, we quote from the structure plan itself (page 17) – a review of the boundary of the activity centre as required  AND page 26 – the whole activity centre study area is considered a potential housing opportunity area. Council will undertake a housing strategy to determine the scope for residential change across our city. This will include assessment of residential land within the study area of the Glen Huntly major activity centre.

OVERSHADOWING/SUNLIGHT

Glen Huntly is a Major Activity Centre (MAC) in the same way that Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie are. The only difference is that it is far smaller (roughly 1 square km) but far, far denser (ie 63 people per hectare, compared to Bentleigh’s 38.92, Carnegie’s 54.51 and Elsternwick’s 44.73. But far more worse is that currently, Glen Huntly has 35% of its land mass zoned as appropriate for 3 storey dwellings. Many of these immediately abut the commercial and mixed use zones that the structure plan is considering. Given this proximity to increased heights of 8 and 6 storeys in some sections, we are completely flabbergasted as to why the proposed overshadowing requirements are different to what was thought appropriate for Bentleigh and Carnegie via the rejected Amendment C184.

Bentleigh and Carnegie were privileged to have overshadowing requirements that were form 10am to 3pm on September 21 AND 11am to 2pm for various precincts on June 22st – ie the winter solstice. Poor old Glen Huntly does not get anything for the winter solstice and only from 10am to 2pm for the September calculation. The officer’s report tells us – The shadow analysis was prepared for the September equinox from 10AM to 2PM. We also get these ridiculous statements from the officer’s report (page 138 of the agenda) –

  • The southern footpath of Glenhuntly Road in the Central Retail Precinct is not in shadow from 11AM to 2PM on the spring equinox.
  • 75 per cent of private open space is in sunlight for 5 hours on the spring equinox.

What happens to the southern footpath at 3pm? 4pm? How much is in shadow? What impact will this have on residents sitting drinking their coffees on the footpath? And what on earth does 75% of private open space mean? Which open space? Have consultants surveyed and done shadow diagrams for all of the ‘private open space’ in Glen Huntly? And if we take this statement at face value,does it mean that 25% of ‘private open space’ is in shadow and for how long?

PODIUM HEIGHTS & SETBACKS

When it comes to these two components of planning,  Glen Huntly again comes off a second best compared to the proposed Bentleigh & Carnegie structure plans envisaged by Amendment C184. For large swathes of land in Bentleigh/Carnegie their street podium heights were designated as 2 and 3 storey. In Glen Huntly, it is somehow fitting that these podium heights can be up to 15 metres (4 storeys) in 2 large precincts. And this is when the current sites along Glen Huntly road are predominantly 2 storeys in height! Why? Readers should peruse page 24 of the draft to see the full details.

The same applies to setbacks. Compared to the far greater setbacks imposed in Bentleigh & Carnegie, Glen Huntly is supposed to be content with a majority of 4 metre setback opposed to the standard 5 metres in these other MACS. The higher the building, then Glen Huntly is again worse off! Why?

HERITAGE

As we’ve stated, council has belatedly undertaken some heritage inspections of sites and come up with proposals for heritage inclusion. Yet even on this level, there is some major discrepancy between what Glen Huntly is afforded and what is stated for Bentleigh & Carnegie.  The officer’s report tells us – When the Built Form Framework was prepared, shopfronts along the Central Retail Precinct were treated as “character” areas. As such, no changes are proposed to the height limits or setbacks of the Central Retail Precinct as a result of the heritage assessment.

So we have the ludicrous situation where various sites in the Eastern Retail section designated as heritage – commercial/Mixed Use precinct – will be allowed to have 5 storeys (discretionary) and those in Bentleigh and Carnegie were seen as suitable for only 4 storeys.

Even worse, is that we again have council policy such as the City Plan, and which is referred to in the draft structure plan, that is totally ignored. The City Plan speaks of ‘shop top (heritage) as being suitable for 4 storeys. But this goes out the window with this plan for Glen Huntly!

HOUSING NEED

Council keeps repeating its mantra of the need for 18000 net new dwellings by 2036 throughout Glen Eira. When the population stats for Glen Huntly itself are produced we find:

Even if we accept these projections (which of course take no account of COVID), we find that in a 20 year period, the population growth in Glen Huntly will increase by a mere 1000. Plus in the period from 2021 to 2036 the increase will be 500 over a 15 year duration. Thus, if these projections are correct and only another 500 people will come to Glen Huntly, why do we need 8 storey and 6 storey buildings, that together are suggested by consultants to result in the addition of 410 net new dwellings. That is on a 50% uptake, so feasibly, the uptake could be even more if the housing market improves. Over various census results, the number of people per dwelling has averaged at 2 and a bit. This is forecast to continue by the ABS. So, 2 people per dwelling with a 500 increase in population should only require at best 250 net new dwellings!!!

Finally a comment or two on the ‘aesthetics’ of the document itself, and these comments pertain to much of what is produced by council.

  • The actual size of the full structure plan is 73 pages. Of these 73 pages we have 39% that are nothing more than either full page pretty pictures, or sketches that reveal absolutely nothing. For example: not one of these sketches present realistic images of an 8 storey building!
  • Jargon, generalisations, vague assertions, and platitudes reign supreme. Perhaps someone can inform us what this actually means? – Encourage pedestrian permeability (page 18). Will we now be aiming for ‘porous people’?!!!!!

Much of what is in this draft document is evasive and scant explanation and justification is provided to residents. In a democracy, where transparency and accountability are crucial, Glen Eira Council continues to fail dismally.

We urge all readers to write and ring councillors and inform them why the process, the lack of further consultation, and the outcomes if approved are not in the community’s best interest and as happened in September 2020, this draft plan should again be relegated to the dust bin of history!

Year after year after year, the results of the Community Satisfaction Surveys repeat the same results. Each year for over a decade now the areas that are causing greatest concern for residents are:

  • Planning
  • Population growth
  • Traffic/parking
  • Consultation
  • Informing the community

But nothing seems to change when council knows only too well that these are the areas that need to be focused on. Even more disconcerting are the results as presented in the following table. They reveal the importance that people place on these various areas, plus how they evaluate overall council ‘performance’ for those categories. When there is a discrepancy of over 20 points, then remediation is well overdue.

Council can pat itself on the back all it likes, but the main areas of discontent remain and even grow.

At last night’s council meeting there was a motion put up by Esakoff and seconded by Magee under the category of Urgent Business. The motion was that council undertake certain actions in regard to Minister Wynne’s introduction of planning legislation without first consulting residents and councils. The motion was passed unanimously.

Whilst we applaud council for this first step in finally registering some public discontent with the processes of planning in the State, we also have to wonder why the final motion departed in some major elements from what Port Phillip will move tonight. Here is the proposed motion from Port Phillip –

Readers should now listen to the motion that was passed by Glen Eira – (available via http://webcast.gleneira.vic.gov.au/archive/video21-0831.php#placeholder)

Whilst much of this motion is practically a verbatim repetition of the Port Phillip one, there are some major and disconcerting changes. Given that we are told that ten councils are now supposedly working in unison, surely a joint motion/statement signed by all, would have far greater impact than a single council presenting its own version and working alone?

Here are some of the differences between the Port Phillip version and Glen Eira’s resolution –

  • No demand for a report back to council. Thus the matter is left in abeyance and in the domain of officers alone. Transparency is again lost.
  • Port Phillip requests a ‘collective’ letter. Glen Eira insists on an individual letter.
  • Glen Eira can only bring itself to ‘strongly voices its concern’ about consultation, whilst Port Phillip ’strongly supports the community having a central role’ in planning.
  • Glen Eira sees the community voice only as an ‘integral consideration’ rather than Port Phillip’s view that it is ‘central’

These changes and others, in our view, go way beyond an argument about semantics and linguistic nuance. They should be read as sign posts to how Glen Eira views its residents, how it views collaborating fully with other councils, and how the planning in Glen Eira remains destined to be out of kilter with other municipalities. When we have a council that refuses to see its residents as ‘central’ to planning decisions; when it refuses to align itself with the values of other councils and instead basically opts to work alone, then we are in deep trouble. There is absolutely nothing in the Port Phillip motion that shouldn’t be endorsed fully. Ask yourselves, why our council was unable to do this?

In the regular VCAT Watch there is one report on the decision for 219-229 Balaclava Road, Caulfield North.  Readers will remember that this was originally an application for 9 storeys and then amended to 7 storeys. Councillors voted for a permit for 5 storeys and the developer appealed this condition. A permit was granted for 7 storeys. (See: https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2021/867.html for the full decision).

Not only does this decision have major ramifications for all of our neighbourhood centres, it also raises questions about:

  • The level of ‘representation’ that council produces before VCAT
  • The ‘cherry picking’ aspects of the VCAT Watch reports
  • The failure to provide detailed ‘refusal’ grounds that will stand up – which of course raises the question of who writes these ‘refusals’ and are they deliberately destined for ‘failure’?
  • The uselessness of council’s much vaunted City Plan
  • The continued inability to get anything of value into the Planning Scheme after nearly 6 years!
  • Raises questions about when anything is likely to be done about the rest of our neighbourhood centres such as Ormond, McKinnon, Patterson, Gardenvale, etc.

Whilst some of the following comments from the VCAT member who made the decision are laughable, this still does not excuse council’s lack of timely strategic planning and the performance of its VCAT representative. As it currently stands, our Planning Scheme has enough holes for developers to drive a truck through. This has been the case for the past decade at least.

Please read the following carefully:

In the absence of specific height controls that have been adopted into the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, or which can otherwise be said to be seriously entertained, an attempt to apply a uniform height limit to a number of neighbourhood centres based purely on their position in a hierarchy, is not the appropriate approach.

The final key component of the relevant strategic context is the recent strategic work being undertaken by the Glen EiraCity Council to introduce built form controls, that will provide greater guidance for decision makers, such as myself. This strategic work includes the Glen EiraCity Plan, February 2020 and a Built Form Framework for the Caulfield Park Neighbourhood Activity Centre, both of which I am told identify the review site as being suitable for a five storey development. However, the Council also submits, at paragraphs 83 and 85 of its written submissions, that it does not place any weight on either of these documents, for the purposes of informing my decision making regarding an appropriate building height for the review site in this proceeding. That is due to the very early stages of the creation of both documents and their potential future insertion into the Glen EiraPlanning Scheme, as well as the absence of a built form analysis from the Glen Eira City Plan. I have no reason to depart from the Council’s submissions in this proceeding, that no weight should be placed on either of these documents.

The removal of the very top level (level 6) will have a very negligible impact on views from the surrounding context, and indeed will have no impact on the extent of scale that will be visible from many parts of the surrounding public realm, due to the extent to which the top level is recessed from the level below, and thus obscured from view. The removal of level 5 will produce a slightly lower setback tower form, but will not significantly change the extent of scale or prominence of the overall building. The Council has failed to persuade me that the slightly reduced scale achieved by deleting levels 5 and 6 will produce any appreciable or necessary relief from building scale, in this activity centre context.

That this proposed building on the review site will be taller than other buildings that can currently be viewed from Caulfield Park does not make the proposed height inappropriate. Rather, it simply reinforces the proximity that this component of Caulfield Park has to an activity centre. Any user of Caulfield Park that wishes to experience a more pleasant environment has many options to move away from this direct interface with the activity centre, to locations where views to the proposed building on the review site will be difficult owing to the intervention of canopy trees. On this basis I consider that the proposed development will not have an unreasonable built form impact or presence on the adjacent Caulfield Park.

While the Council has a section in their written submissions headed ‘off-site amenity impacts’ the written submissions fail to identify any potential impacts, nor any surrounding land that might be impacted. Further, in response to my questions, Mr Berzins failed to identify any potential amenity impact on any adjacent property.

In respect of each of these matters, I accept and adopt the evidence of Mr Bastone and Mr Blades, that the proposed levels five and six do not result in any unreasonable off-site amenity impacts, and provide an appropriate level of internal amenity for future residents. In respect of the relevant internal amenity considerations, the apartments on levels 5 and 6 would provide similar, if not higher, internal amenity outcomes for future residents, as compared to the apartments approved on the lower levels of the proposed building. That is, there is nothing in the design of the apartments on levels 5 & 6 that cause them to be singled out for criticism, on the basis of the relevant internal amenity considerations. On this basis I must conclude that an internal amenity assessment cannot be a reason for the contested permit condition.

Over the next 6 months or so, council officers will be creating what is arguably the most important planning document of the past two decades – the Housing Strategy. Readers may be surprised to learn that Glen Eira City Council does have such a document – it is dated 2002 and is based on 1999 stats. That’s how out of date this council is.

What has been stated several times is that this upcoming Housing Strategy will form the foundation for council’s land use planning. It will set the parameters for our structure plans, and other policies.  Community consultation therefore becomes an essential component for the strategy. Thus far, we have certainly been underwhelmed with what council has produced on this front – one forum that featured Bernard Salt, et.al – and which had very little relevance to Glen Eira itself. (See: https://gleneira.blog/2021/07/15/the-symposium/)

Council’s latest effort consists of a ‘mini-survey’ for those residents who are members of Community Voice. As an adjunct to the larger questionnaire on the Have Your Say site, one would have hoped that the questions are meaningful, valid, and relevant. They are anything but. Here is the most important section:

COMMENTS

The first question asks for a simple ‘yes’/’no’ response as to whether residents can ‘identify’ any apartments that have been ‘well done’. There is no opportunity for an in-depth response; no opportunity to define/elaborate on what ‘well done’ might mean- and whether individuals interpret this phrase the same; no opportunity to identify location. Thus if readers tick the ‘yes’ option, does this mean that they are happy with what is being built overall? Or does it mean that maybe a minority of apartments fit the bill of ‘well done’?  The same kind of questions would apply to those who selected ‘no’. Nor do we know what either response tells us about housing in Glen Eira and how any result will be interpreted. Secondly, how are people meant to judge what is ‘well done’? Have they been inside the apartment blocks? Are they aware of how much open space is provided? Do they know how many car parking spots are onsite? What do they know about overshadowing, or the thermal efficiency and sustainability of any of the apartments? Simply asking for a ‘yes’/’no’ answer is to put it bluntly a joke!

The second question on ‘suitability’ for more or less development repeats the shortcomings of the previous question. It becomes impossible to understand any of the responses,  given that they are not broken down into specific criteria. Some people might feel that heritage is an important constraint on increased development. Others might believe that the lack of open space is crucial. Then again, others might be convinced that Glen Eira already has enough development and that no single area should be burdened with more.

Even if responses choose the option for more development in certain areas, we are still left without reasons for this selection or potential  locations. It’s all very well to push the mantra that activity centres require increased development, but unless residents are provided with the necessary data on the availability of open space, the proposed increase for individual centres, etc. any response is again totally meaningless.

CONCLUSION

All of the above, then raises the question of why is council doing this? Why do we get presented with survey after survey that is at best skewed, and at worst, totally meaningless?  We firmly believe that what passes for consultation in Glen Eira is nothing more than a ‘tick the box’ exercise so that council can claim to have met its legal obligations. If it were otherwise, we would surely have better surveys and processes.

This leads to even more fundamental questions of governance and transparency. For example:

  • How many more times will councillors allow this administration to get away with sheer incompetence when it comes to community consultation/surveys?
  • How many more times will money and time be expended to produce, analyse and report on meaningless questionnaires that lead nowhere and certainly don’t provide any insight into what the community feels
  • Who produces these surveys so they can be held to account?
  • Who authorises their publication so they can be held to account?
  • What ‘testing’ (if any) have they undergone?
  • What is their purpose?
  • How valid are any of the results produced?
  • How much does each cost in terms of officer time?
  • What say do councillors have in their creation?

Until we have councillors willing to put a stop to this constant charade and sham, poor governance and certainly the lack of transparency in Glen Eira will continue!

Council has produced what it calls an ‘issues and opportunities’ paper on its upcoming housing strategy. One should therefore reasonably expect that residents be provided with:

  • An overview of the current situation,the various ‘issues’ confronting the municipality, and
  • How these ‘issues’ might be addressed via planning controls

In order to achieve the above, any decent discussion paper should provide readers with a detailed explanation of the issues, the problems, the potential solutions, and then insert specific questions that seek responses. Sadly, in the 13 page document, we find that only one single question has been included. It reads: How will we provide for the housing needs of an evolving community while continuing to support the sustainability, attractiveness and liveability of our City?

We are told nothing about our ‘evolving community’ (whatever that means!), nor anything about the controls that council has at its disposal in order to ensure ‘sustainability’ and ‘liveability’. Unless readers are aware of what is possible, their ability to respond meaningfully to such a question remains limited. For example: council introduced its residential zones in 2013 (without consultation). Nothing in the accompanying schedules to these zones has been reviewed, amended, or questioned. Whilst other councils have up to 40% permeability requirements even in their General Residential Zones, Glen Eira is content with maintaining its 20% requirement. This also applies to size of underground basements, open space requirements, etc. If sustainability is the objective, then residents need to know that council can and should be amending its schedules, and even reviewing the placement of the various zones. None of this has been communicated.

As for our ‘evolving community’, nothing in the issues paper identifies what this actually means or what the implications are and how they relate to a housing strategy. We are provided with a breakdown of detached housing figures, percentages of lone person households, and families with children (page 9). All we get are generalised comments such as ‘Housing diversity is important. There is support for housing diversity’. None of this has been explained, examined, and defined.

We also find statement after statement that deserves to be challenged. For example: ‘There is a need for student accommodation close to Monash University……’ We are not told how many student accommodation places currently exist and given COVID, how many might be required over the next 15 years. And if over a third of our current households are families with children, then surely, ‘housing diversity’ should pertain to the size of apartments built, the number of 3 and 4 bedroom homes, or the size of available open space? We are not provided with any data that reveals what is currently being built in Glen Eira or how council can introduce policies and standards that impact what is being built.

Page 12 of the paper exemplifies everything that is amiss with council’s consultation methodology. Under the banner of ‘Sustainability’, we are informed about 867km of footpaths (!), and the number of solar households in Glen Eira. Surely there is more to ‘sustainability’ than the length of our footpaths and even the number of homes with solar energy? We then also find the sneaky inclusion of this sentence: Higher densities in established areas can help contain urban sprawl on the edges of Melbourne. Is this simply setting the scene for more and more development and what does it have to do with ‘sustainability’ in Glen Eira itself? Not a single word is included on exactly what ‘higher density’ might entail and most significantly, what tools council has available to ensure that our streets, our open spaces, and our amenity is protected.

We started off this post by noting council’s refusal to provide questions that address and seek informed feedback on the central issues that any housing strategy should encompass. By way of comparison, here are some questions that other councils thought necessary to include in their respective discussion papers on their housing strategies – BUT ONLY AFTER SOME POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS WERE LISTED! –

KINGSTON

Thinking about new housing which has been built in Kingston over the last 10 years: a) Which specific developments or which types of development do you think have been successful? Which have been less successful?

BENDIGO

How important is the issue of housing affordability and to what extent should the Council and the private sector be involved?

Is this assessment accurate and is there additional land within the UGB (Urban Growth Boundary) that should be made available for housing or are there sites where development is not feasible or appropriate?

Council has identified a major future long term growth front to the north west of Maiden Gully –how appropriate is this area to accommodate residential growth in the future?

DANDENONG

What considerations should be taken into account when identifying locations for medium to higher density development?

How can Council improve the quality and location of medium and higher density housing?

There are several other councils which are currently reviewing and updating their housing strategies. We urge readers to have a look at what Bayside and Stonnington are doing in terms of their consultation methodologies.

Last night’s symposium on the upcoming Housing Strategy went as expected – lots on the ‘big picture’ but very little that pertained to the current housing situation in Glen Eira. What data was presented fell far short of providing residents with the full picture.

If last night was meant to be the first stage of community consultation, then it even failed to achieve the ‘inform’ basis that the IAPP (International Association of Public Participation) sets out in its ladder of guidelines – ie inform, consult, collaborate, empower.  We also remind readers that council’s recently adopted Engagement Strategy places important strategic planning issues at the ‘consult to collaborate’ level. So much for council policies and acting in accordance with these policies!

What irked us most were several claims made by Bernard Salt.  He claimed that Glen Eira is a ‘microcosm’ of what is happening across municipalities and the state. To convince us of this he cited state wide population figures and compared this with population growth to 2016 in Glen Eira and the fact that projections out to 2036 were on par with previous growth. He also pointed out that in Glen Eira (according to the 2016 census) we had a total of 50.6% of detached housing.  What he did not reveal was that this figure represents a decline of 6% from the 2011 census. In other words, thousands of detached houses in Glen Eira have gone the way of apartments or townhouses. If he is correct and more residents will wish to work from home, then the issue of space becomes even more important. No details of course as to how many apartments were single or double bedrooms, or their cost. No commentary of density, especially for a municipality that is only 38.9 square km. Nor did he bother to mention the following facts and why these are important for any housing strategy that is meant to plan for the unique circumstances of individual municipalities. It is surely not enough to simply say that having 50.6% of detached housing is enough, or too much, when the municipality has:

  • The least amount of public open space per capita in the state
  • A development rate that is well and truly exceeding prognostications
  • A declining tree canopy coverage with no real controls to stop moonscaping
  • No structure plans
  • No constraints on development for our neighbourhood centres
  • No parking precinct plans
  • No WSUD or ESD policies in our planning scheme
  • No developer contributions in our planning scheme
  • No review of the zones and its schedules since 2013

Which brings us to question why our neighbouring  councils can maintain a much healthier proportion of detached dwellings for their residents. The following figures all come from the 2016 census.

COUNCIL2016 census
Glen Eira50.6%
Bayside63%
Boroondara56.1%
Kingston59.9%
Monash71.7%

In the current climate of COVID and the increased pressures on our open space, backyards become even more essential. Salt also pointed out that our population age group of 35-43 was significant. These are the ‘family with kids’ cohort where the Australian tradition of having back yards is still high on the wish list – if it can be afforded! If we keep losing such properties then the only alternative is an apartment or a townhouse with a modicum of private open space. And council’s willingness to permit balconies that are that in name only – ie 8 square metres or as with the recently abandoned Amendment C184, council’s creation of the new GRZ5 which saw fit to remove the mandatory requirement for a certain percentage of open space depending on the size of the block.

One question directed to Salt was on this very issue. His response was incredible. We provide the question and the answer below:

All in all, last night’s symposium was another example of how little this administration desires full and informed feedback from its residents. If it were otherwise we would have a decent discussion paper, a decent set of survey questions and speakers who were not selected to forward council’s secret agendas!

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Tomorrow night, council is holding a ‘symposium’ on the proposed housing strategy. The speakers are:

Bernard Salt (demographer)

Lester Townsend (Planning Panels Victoria)

Kate Breen (Affordable Development Outcomes)

Maria Yanez (Nightingale Housing)

Whilst these four individuals are undoubtedly ‘experts’ in their respective fields, we need to consider why these people have been chosen by council and exactly how much they know about Glen Eira and its current housing needs, its zones, its development rate, its lack of strategic vision! It’s all very well to look at the ‘big picture’ across the state, but housing strategies are meant to be ‘individualised’ and pertain to unique municipalities.  We are therefore very sceptical as to the value of tomorrow night’s symposium and how well it will address the fundamental issues facing Glen Eira. Yes, what is happening statewide and nationally is important, but even more important is what is and what has been happening in Glen Eira.

Even more disconcerting are the following statements (cited verbatim) all taken from this link – (https://www.haveyoursaygleneira.com.au/our-housing-our-future/widgets/344509/faqs#80192)

The event is the opener for our early community engagement phase which will continue to the end of August.  A second phase of consultation will take place in early 2022 on the content of a draft housing strategy.

Council has stated that the Housing Strategy will be completed in April 2022. Does the above paragraph then imply that the ‘second phase of consultation’ will simply be on what council produces as its one and only draft strategy? Why the huge gap of 6 months before any further ‘consultation’ takes place?

This might have been kosher if the survey and the issues paper were up to scratch. They are not. Once again we find that detail is lacking, pertinent questions and options are lacking, and residents are asked nothing more than irrelevant Dorothy Dix Questions, that add nothing to a full understanding of Glen Eira’s future and the role council needs to play.

Finally, we have this other quote:

As the purpose of the event is to explore information about demographics and housing rather than specifically about the current housing strategy project, Councillors and Council officers will not be answering questions on the night.  Drop-in sessions on 22 and 26 July are planned and will be an opportunity for the community to discuss the themes of the housing strategy discussion paper and the housing stragegy (sic) project with Council officers.

 Why then hold such a forum if it does not relate specifically to our local housing strategy? Why deny residents the opportunity to ask questions of officers and councillors? How much has this public relations exercise cost?

In the coming days we will analyse the survey and reveal why it is nothing more than another bogus exercise in so-called ‘ consultation!

PS: In 2019 Stonnington Council also held a symposium for its revamped housing strategy. They did include speakers from Planning Panels and Nightingale just like Glen Eira is doing. However, they also had someone from Profile.id – a company that Glen Eira and most other councils in the state rely on for their ‘individualised’ information. This presentation focused exclusively on Stonnington – its population growth, its development rate, its age structure, etc. See the presentation via this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1odRg-PHd-pmfAGCJ_oN44sI5rJkJR5oN/view. In Glen Eira such information is deemed unnecessary it would appear!

Council will be voting on the draft budget this Tuesday night. The differences between the May version of the budget and what is now presented is remarkable. Whilst some areas have received increased funding, the issues that were highlighted in the submissions have been totally ignored. This once again raises the question of why bother to ask for community input, when the recommendations are so flagrantly ignored year after year? Residents are never given the opportunity to specify what their priorities are. Instead we continue with the top-down approach and the minimalist adherence to the legislation. God forbid that residents be given the opportunity to answer such questions as: where do you want your money to be spent and how much?

The submissions made it very clear that what was needed was:

  • Increased funding for the urban forest strategy. This still remains at the May version of $200,000!
  • More funding for the acquisition of new open space. Nothing has changed from the $7M proposed in May.
  • Residents wanted the bicycle strategy to receive a minimum of $500,000. We are still stuck on $250,000.

At this rate, we can be waiting well into the 22nd century before our tree canopy reaches any reasonable target, or there is sufficient open space to accommodate the increasing population.

Yet council has still managed to find and allocate huge increases to various projects that are not only questionable, but where we believe most residents would argue aren’t necessary and certainly not on the top of the priority list. Please note, we are not arguing that these things shouldn’t be done. What we are suggesting is that given all the other major issues that are currently confronting Glen Eira, that much of this money should have been directed into those areas that demand immediate action – such as open space, the urban forest strategy, structure planning, amendments for development contribution levies, etc.etc. Five years on from the ordered Planning Scheme Review, we have practically nothing in concrete outcomes.

Below is a table which depicts the monies allocated for the various projects according to the May and then the June draft budgets – and all with hardly any detail.

PROJECTMAY DRAFT BUDGETJUNE DRAFT BUDGET
Caulfield Park Masterplan$600,000$710,000
Duncan Mackinnon Netball$200,000$250,000
Pedestrian Safety$205,000$355,000
GREAT WALKS STREETNot listed$700,000
Outer Circle$40,000$700,000
Lord Reserve/Koornang Park master plan implementation$500,000$680,000
Hopetoun Gardens$40,000$220,000
Tennis Strategy$75,000$275,000
Caulfield Park master plan implementation$40,000$790,000
Princes Park Playground upgradeNot listed$1,250,000

Surely some of these projects, and their massive increases in funding, could be deferred until this council sorted out its other major concerns as we’ve listed above.

Finally, it is also remarkable that in the space of one month, we have gone from an estimated deficit of $45,000 to a suggested surplus of over $11M where the announced government grants somehow don’t add up to this amount!

Our final comment is that until this council is prepared to provide full and comprehensive explanations for its decision making and budget allocations, residents are once again left in the dark with no real say as to how their money is and should be spent.

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