GE Governance


Council has released the proposed structure plan for Virginia Estate. The above map indicates the (indicative/preferred) height limits for the various precincts.

There is much in this set of documents that require comment. However, due to the paucity of detail, we can only surmise what will eventuate. One thing however is abundantly clear – once this structure plan and its accompanying Comprehensive Development Plan is passed by council, sent off to a Planning Panel, and it enters the Planning Scheme via its associated Amendment then community involvement and input will NOT EXIST. There will not be any objector review rights in exactly the same way that occurred with the Caulfield Village projects. Council is not even bound, according to the Schedule for this Comprehensive Development zone, to notify any resident. Hence, there are no guarantees that what is presented in these documents will be the final outcome.

Below we feature some points from the various documents which reveal the ‘wriggle room’ allowed to the developer.

COMPREHENSIVE DEVELOPMENT PLAN

  • Building heights are NOT MANDATORY! They are ‘preferred maximum heights’.
  • ‘SHOULD’ instead of ‘MUST’ dominates throughout all of the built form specifications. And we all know what ‘should’ means!!!!!!
  • For all the talk about rehashing the Open Space Strategy and considering overshadowing at the winter solstice, we still get the following – – Development must not cast any shadow on more than 75% of the area of any public open space described in Plan 2 of the incorporated CDP between 11am and 2pm on 21 June the winter solstice.
  • What is totally and deliberately misleading is the following breakdown of residential versus commercial/retail components of the site. The only areas specified as NON residential are the buildings to go along North Road, and East Boundary Road. All the rest will have residential dwellings built above the shops/offices located on the ground or several floors above. To therefore claim that only 4.92 hectares of the entire site is set aside for ‘residential’ is inaccurate and unacceptable.

THE SCHEDULE 

  • Exemption from notice and review

An application for the use of land is exempt from the notice requirements of Section 52(1)(a), (b) and (d), the decision requirements of Section 64(1), (2) and (3) and the review rights of Section 82(1) of the Act if it is generally consistent with the incorporated CDP. 

  • An assessment of the likely traffic impacts associated with the proposed development, including the ability of the Cobar Street / North Road / Crosbie Road to function effectively without signalisation. This is to include an assessment of the precinct’s existing and the proposed development traffic generation during peak AM and PM period. Where the traffic generation is expected to exceed 2,000 vehicles accessing the site in the PM peak, the Cobar Street site access intersection should be implemented. What this means is that the developer does not have to do anything UNTIL they determine that Cobar Street has 2000 cars travelling along it each day. Thus first get the permit, build and then worry about traffic and safety!

DEVELOPMENT CONTRIBUTIONS PLAN 

According to the figures provided in this document we are supposed to accept that the developer will fork out $60 million in infrastructure improvements to the site of which $16m will be for community improvements. What we query is given the flooding and drainage issues, plus contamination, that $1,199,835 comes anywhere near what the cost will be to ameliorate the potential for flooding and ensure contamination is eliminated.

On the positive side, council will get a ‘community hub’, a sports pavilion, and some open space. These will only come into operation however when ‘population growth is deemed to require the infrastructure’. So once again it is build first and then worry about the necessary infrastructure after the fact.

Even more concerning is the community infrastructure levy assigned to each dwelling of $831.65. Legislation allows a maximum of $1,150. Thus Gillon is getting a discount of $318.35 per dwelling. In total that amounts to just under a million dollars. Other councils have successfully exacted this full cost for major developments. Not so in Glen Eira!

SOME GENERAL COMMENTS 

  • Residents are presented with a 58 page Structure Plan that is so bereft of detail that it beggars belief. Of these 58 pages there are 22 that are frontispieces or pages with pretty pictures. The rest is primarily nothing more than vague motherhood statements such as this nonsense for ‘Transport’ – Explore innovative approaches to car parking and traffic management
  • No indication is provided as to how traffic and parking will be handled. Will we have subterranean car parks 3 levels down in a flooding area? Or will we have high rise car parks? Why is current traffic analysis focusing almost exclusively on PM peak periods?
  • If the proposed school is next door to 3 storey building then how high will this school be? – 3 storeys, 4 storeys, 5 storeys? And will the 1.2 hectares be sufficient to provide open space for up to 1150 students – or will they be expected to utilise fully existing open space next door?
  • The Section 173 agreement between developers and council will remain ‘secret’ according to the officer report recommendation – ie Direct officers to not commence exhibition unless the appropriate Section 173 Agreements are signed and executed by all parties and a summary of the purpose of the document is exhibited along with the planning controls. In other words, residents will not get to see the nitty gritty of this agreement we presume!
  • Affordable housing is another questionable aspect when so much of the officer’s report contains the following caveats:

One of the main difficulties with seeking an agreement at this stage, is that it needs to be ‘clear of outcome’ to enable the detail to be resolved later, while also being ‘tight enough’ to ensure it can be suitably enforced 

Past experience has demonstrated that the more restrictions placed by Council, the more difficult it is to make a project feasible. 

However, it is understood that this is an ambitious outcome to achieve, with many factors that are outside the landowners’ control. It is important that the agreement is written in a way that gives the landowners flexibility and the greatest chance to achieve this outcome.

As such it is recommended that the agreement is primarily focused on this outcome, with appropriate detailing of the mechanism only where required.

Finally, the VPA has today released another 10 updated ‘background’ documents from its 2017 versions. We will comment on these once we have had time to digest them fully. In total these documents amount to well over a 1000 pages. Yet councillors are expected to vote on these matters next Tuesday night. How many of them we wonder will have read even some of the documentation? What questions, if any, will this documentation bring to the fore from councillors?

 

 

 

 

Last night’s discussion on the Planning Scheme Review and the rehashed work plan 2018, illustrates once more how the tail continues to wag the dog in Glen Eira. Everything was passed unanimously with barely a whimper.

In theory, councillors are supposed to set priorities. They are supposed to determine policy, budgets, and overall direction for councils based on community expectations. What we find in Glen Eira is total subservience to unelected officialdom.

The discussion last night featured:

  • Some totally inane comments by Magee – ie ‘multi-racial development’ that has got nothing to do with planning per se. We do love the statement that planning policy should not be allowed to ‘stagnate’ – this coming from a councillor who has been there since 2008 and has condoned, aided and abetted the ‘stagnation’ time and time again!
  • Hyams’ deferring to the ‘experts’ that have to be trusted despite the Major Heritage review being 5 or 6 years away until full completion.
  • Delahunty’s desire to learn ‘the annoying lesson of having patience’ and it is ‘a little gut wrenching’ that heritage will be ‘drawn out over that period of time’. These words from another councillor who was quite happy that she ‘lost the debate’ in 2013 about refusing to go to community consultation for the introduction of the disastrous zones – which readers should note have now been acknowledged as failing to adequately protect residential amenity.
  • Taylor wishes to ‘surge’ ahead on ‘environmentallysustainable design’ yet votes for another ‘do nothing’ – it’s a State Government responsibility. Totally ignoring the fact that countless other councils have had such policies enshrined in their planning schemes for years and years. Nor does she mention one single word about earlier promises for increased permeability standards, etc.
  • Athanasopolous’ claim that Glen Eira is ‘leading many other municipalities’ because of its work on 3 structure plans simultaneously, in contrast to other councils who only work on one at a time! Wrong, wrong, wrong! Bayside managed to create draft structure plans for all its neighbourhood centres in one go, as did Boroondara. Further, are residents happy with the ‘outcomes’ of these structure plans – especially the 12 storey height limits in Elsternwick & Carnegie? To what extent do these structure plans reflect what the community said they wanted?

It’s also worth noting that not one councillor bothered to explain why they considered the proposed Quality Design Guidelines as a superior option to creating what was promised – ie a Neighbourhood Character Policy!

Here is the ‘discussion’, for it surely can’t be called a ‘debate’!!!!

 

 

Apologies for this long post but it highlights once again how residents have been lead down the garden path in so many ways by our representatives.

The current agenda includes an item on the 2018 Planning Scheme Review – done without consultation. There is an updated Work Plan that stretches out for years and years, or simply does not provide any time schedules. The promises of 2016 are in tatters. Instead we get a euphemistically labelled Planning Scheme Review, that is anything but a comprehensive ‘review’. The objective of any Planning Scheme Review, according to Practice Note 32 is to:

….assess whether the scheme provisions, such as local planning policies, zones, overlays and schedules have been effective and efficient in achieving the objectives and strategies of the planning scheme.

What has been dished up now does not contain one single word of analysis for any of the above. Even the purported VCAT decisions are nothing more than summaries. No recommendations have been made on how to tighten the scheme, what to scrub, or what needs including.

Of far greater importance however is the newly proposed Work Plan. We have created a table below which features the promises from 2016 and put them alongside what is the plan today. One major difference between 2016 and 2018 that should be highlighted is the disappearance of any intention to introduce a Neighbourhood Character Policy. In 2016 we got these statements:

A Neighbourhood Character Policy is recommended to clarify when protection of existing character is required, and clarity on neighbourhood character design outcomes for ‘change areas’

AND

The work plan also recommends that the residential zones support the neighbourhood character policy by including additional neighbourhood character objectives and increased schedule standards to protect and enhance character.

In 2018, this has gone and with no explanation, justification, or further reference, is replaced with this single sentence – The implementation of the Quality Design Guidelines addresses the Planning Scheme Review 2016 Work Plan action to implement a Neighbourhood Character Policy. 

There are several things to note about these proposed changes:

  • The Quality Design Guidelines only apply to the existing structure plans of Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie. They are not mandatory.
  • Its status in the Planning Scheme is nothing more than a ‘reference document’ and hence is basically useless. At least a full blown POLICY, whilst also not mandatory, would at least have more weight at VCAT than an appended ‘reference’ document.
  • The 2016 statements applied to ALL housing diversity, not just the 3 Activity Centres of Bentleigh, Carnegie & Elsternwick.  Yet even in these latter activity centres nothing has changed in terms of the schedules for permeability, site coverage, open space, etc.

There is much, much more which has been tossed out in the 2018 version -ie

  • The major heritage ‘review’ is now set down for the Major Activity Centres with no time line as to when the entire municipality review will be completed.
  • Tree registers and open space amendments are years down the track
  • And poor old neighbourhood/localcentres such as Ormond, McKinnon, East Bentleigh, etc.will not have any protection for years and years. Council is only committing to ‘one or two’ urban design frameworks starting in 2021/22!!!! PLUS no longer any talk of ‘structure plans’ for these centres just Urban Design Frameworks!!!!.
  • Limiting the impact of car parking basements is also watered down so instead of definitive standards such as Bayside implemented years ago in its schedules to the zones (ie max of 75% site coverage) our council is happy with statements such as this in its so called QUALITY Design Guidelines – Buildings should minimise basement footprints within the front and rear setbacks to provide for deep planting. No ‘musts’, no numbers, no changes to the schedules throughout the municipality.

Here is the table which quotes verbatim the August 2016 report and the current 2018 report. We have only highlighted some of the most important issues. The dates in parenthesis for 2018 merely indicate the STARTING TIME AND NOT COMPLETION TIME.

Please read carefully and consider the consequences.­­­

This is anything BUT a Planning Scheme Review. Yes we acknowledge that after 15 years of doing nothing Glen Eira Council is certainly behind the eight ball. But this should not be the excuse for watering down what was promised in 2016 without consultation and most importantly, without any strategic justification. It is merely another example of why this council cannot be trusted!

PS: Announcement today of a second campus for McKinnon High at Virginia Estate. A $70m, multi level school catering for 650 students. Whilst this is definitely needed we have to ask: is the site 1.2 hectares only? how high is multi level? will these 650 students be using the adjoining open space of the reserve and hence letting Gillon et al off the hook from providing sufficient open space for the proposed burgeoning population at the site? Plenty of other questions too regarding traffic, drainage, etc.

Another month and another set of figures that show no sign of a development downturn in Glen Eira. If anything, the number of building permits granted is increasing rather than decreasing. Thus even if we accept the figures that council relies upon so heavily to push their pro-development agenda, Glen Eira is maintaining its record of being far ahead of all required net new dwellings to cater for population growth.

Council keeps spouting the Victoria In Future (VIF) 2016 projections that an additional 9000 dwellings are necessary by 2031. Inexplicably, the government or the DWELP has failed to come up with Victoria in Future 2017 and neither have they produced Victoria in Future 2018. Promises to provide new Planning Practice Notes following VC110 on how to apply zoning, have yet to materialize – 18 months later! An abysmal record of planning all round!

Even if we accept that between 2016 and 2031, Glen Eira should produce an additional 9000 net new dwellings that means a lowly average of 600 net new dwellings per year. Glen Eira is currently TRIPLING THIS NUMBER and then some.

The tables below reveal the latest ABS stats published today. We have combined the totals from the year 2011 onwards, for our surrounding municipalities, as well as indicating the numbers of single houses. If we subtract the house numbers from the overall totals for the 2016/17 period up to the present, then we find that in Glen Eira, there have been 4,365 building permits granted for net new dwellings – in the space of 26 months! That’s an average of 2014 net new dwellings per annum! More than triple what VIF 2016 projected and more than double what Plan Melbourne Refresh indicates! Yet council still seems hell bent on more and more development according to its doubling of activity centre areas and believing that 12 storeys in Elsternwick and Carnegie are required.  Isn’t it time that council stopped with its propaganda and finally admitted that they see more and more development as their goal and raison d’etre!!!!

Please peruse the following tables carefully. We’ve uploaded the ABS stats HERE

To their credit, councillors last night voted to refuse (unanimously with Esakoff absent) the two controversial planning applications – ie 300 Glen Eira Road, and Wattle Grove McKinnon. Much was made of site coverage and permeability and the fact that the McKinnon application would directly overshadow a memorial park.

Yet, there was not one single word from any councillor regarding the ‘quality’ of the officer’s report. The most fascinating aspect involved several councillors claiming that the McKinnon plans did not meet the ‘standards’/’guidelines’ set down in the Open Space Strategy for developments abutting open space. The officer’s report on this component stated –

In relation to the assessment criteria in this strategy, the proposal:

Σ Fosters good access to the open space

Σ Provides passive surveillance over the open space

Σ Presents an appropriate residential interface envisaged under the strategy

Σ Maintains an appropriate level of direct sunlight during the winter solstice and equinox

Overall, it is considered that the proposal is consistent with the guidelines for development nearby open space

How the planning department can see something as ‘consistent’ and ‘appropriate’ with the ‘standards’/’guidelines’ and councillors the opposite needs investigation. Either the guidelines are so vague that they are useless, or there are plenty of hidden agendas.

One further question requires consideration. When council officers produce sub-standard reports who should be held accountable?  Who signs off on the report? Torres? McKenzie?

TREE PROTECTION (MAYBE?)

Following last night’s discussion on the consultation feedback on the significant tree register, we have major doubts as to whether this will eventually get up, or if it does, whether it will be so emasculated as to be practically worthless.  Magee, Strajt, and based on historical record, Esakoff, are firmly opposed to protecting trees on private land. This was made abundantly clear last night.

ABC STUDIOS

Another extraordinary motion put up by Delahunty and voted in unanimously regarding the ABC studios and council’s desire that the land not be sold and instead utilised for ‘community benefit’ – ie open space, affordable housing, heritage protection, etc.

Part of the motion included council’s possibility of employing the ‘compulsory acquisition’ component of legislation. Bluff and bluster in spades here and it certainly does not excuse years and years of inaction.

Council knew in 2013 and maybe earlier, that the site was up for sale. Where were Delahunty, Magee, Hyams and Esakoff then? Why has it taken 5 years for council to suddenly decide there is heritage value in the property? How on earth would council even dream of compulsory acquisition when it is forecast that the land will sell for $40 million?  The Commonwealth provided the ABC with $90 million for their relocation. The sale will recoup some of this money. If council proceeds with the threat of acquisition, then council is liable to pay the land value to the owners. Currently council is in hock up to its ears. The prospect of paying the land valuation price, plus legal fees is a pipe dream. So is, we suspect, the hope that either the federal or state government will forgo millions in handing over the land.

Bluff and bluster indeed. The tragedy is that for years and years this council sat on its backside and did nothing – as is so often their want!

The latest ABS building approvals show Glen Eira still well ahead of all dwelling projections. These figures simply make a mockery of council’s claims that there is the need for doubling the size of activity centres and the newly introduced height limits of 12 storeys in Carnegie and preferred 12 storey height limits in Elsternwick.

We remind readers that Plan Melbourne Refresh includes projections from 2015 to 2051.

Council insists on using figures that ignore the 2015 projections and start from 2016. Even granted this sleight of hand, Glen Eira is well and truly meeting its obligations . Plan Melbourne Refresh sets an aspirational figure of 125,000 net new dwellings in the 4 municipalities (Bayside, Boroondara, Stonnington & Glen Eira). Even if Glen Eira is supposed to accommodate 30% (rather than 25%) of these new dwellings, that means 37,500 dwellings by 2051. Thus 2015 to 2051 equals 36 years and produces a requirement of 1041 net new dwellings per year.

The ABS building approvals reveal that Glen Eira is tracking on average at close to double those figures. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of these permits will have been enacted well before 2051!

For the last 3 years alone (ie 2015-July 2018) Glen Eira has had 6424 building permits issued. When we remove the ‘houses’ numbers (ie no net increase) then the figure for this period is 5430. That’s an average of roughly 1750 for this entire period and Plan Melbourne Refresh data requires only a tad over 1000 net new dwellings per year.

We’ve uploaded the ABS data HERE and ask that residents pay careful attention to the following tables that capture the long-term dwelling increases.

The figures that council produces simply don’t add up. And, as we have repeatedly stated, if the figures are awry, then all that follows is also awry. Council is yet to produce one single scrap of hard evidence that supports 12 storeys nor the doubling of activity centre sizes.

We’ve received the following email from a resident –

There is very little transparency or accountability in Glen Eira. Most decisions are made by Council officers, possibly under delegated authority, but with little public evidence about who made what decision, why they made it, or what relevant considerations were actually considered.

14-22 Woorayl St is a case in point. I was an objector to a permit amendment request. There was no record in the Planning Application Register of a permit extension, so I went along to the Planning Conference to find out why the original permit hadn’t elapsed after some years. It was only at the conference that I was told, verbally, that an extension had been granted.

I asked whether the extension request had been assessed against the Kantor principles. Council claimed it had. That was extremely unlikely given the circumstances so I asked for a copy of the report that should have been written documenting the assessment. The council officer refused, but the Mayor in his role as chair said it would be made available to me.

Also at the meeting a lady asked why it was acceptable for her elderly parents to be in permanent shade on an abutting property. Council couldn’t explain why but the applicant expressed the pious hope that “it would have been carefully considered at VCAT”. The published VCAT decision makes it clear it wasn’t carefully considered.

Eight minutes before the Council meeting to consider the amendment request I received an email from the Mayor making a half-hearted attempt to explain the decision to grant an extension. There was an attached document, written only a few hours earlier. No officer was identified as making the decision, there was no date on the document, but there was metadata in the PDF identifying the author and creation date.

Critically the document didn’t mention Kantor principles, nor the “seriously entertained planning proposal” principle. It argued that policy hadn’t changed and therefore the outcome was likely be the same if a fresh application was lodged. That was far from truthful. Council had resolved to request Amendment C148 5 months earlier. It was a seriously entertained planning proposal, it was public knowledge, it changed planning policy, and as we now know, it did become part of the planning scheme. It introduced height controls to the Scheme that 14-22 Woorayl didn’t comply with.

I don’t support the officer recommendation to give officers unlimited freedom to undermine Council policy. There’s a lot of things that need to change about the culture first. The Planning Application Register should contain details of all decisions, including permit extensions. It should contain the date when each Permit expires, and be updated when extensions are granted. There should be a publicly accessible record of reasons for decisions made under delegated authority. There should be checklists of all matters that must and should be considered when making planning decisions, and those checklists used to verify compliance. Delegated authority should be constrained or limited to implementing Council policy. If there are inconsistent policies, get Council to resolve them.

For more information about Kantor principles and the role of seriously entertained planning proposals:
http://blog.vgso.vic.gov.au/2015/01/running-short-on-time-seven-key.html
http://clause1.com.au/seriously-entertained/
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VicSC/1997/167.pdf
http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2003/448.html
http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2014/993.html

+++++++++++++++

Council’s planning register is the perfect example of the lack of transparency. It fails to:

  • pinpoint who made any decision (ie delegate, council or VCAT)
  • provide details of amendments
  • collate all information pertaining to the site in one record
  • and certainly no indication as to any payments made

By way of contrast and what can and should go into a planning register, we present one example from Bayside. Readers should note the final permit is available; reasons for refusal are available; dates and times for every single action are provided.

Even more interesting is the following example from Stonnington where the amount paid in the Open Space Levy is there for all to see. Given that Glen Eira council has admitted that not all levies are paid (as they should be) such information becomes essential –

In Glen Eira the philosophy is to make it as difficult as possible for residents to have any idea as to what is going on – particularly when it comes to planning and finances!

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