GE Open Space


The following email was sent out to residents a few days ago:

We are writing to you because you provided feedback during the first or second phase of our engagement on the Draft Housing Strategy. 

We’d now like to invite you to attend an online presentation to find out more about what we heard during the second phase of community engagement. 

Draft Housing Strategy feedback – What we heard event

Thursday 11 August, 7pm to 7.45pm

Location: Online via Zoom 

To join the session, please register your interest here and we will emailyou the meeting link two days before the event.  

The session has been planned as an online event to help keep our broader community safe in response to the rising rate of COVID-19 infections in the community at this time. 

For those that can’t make the online session, a drop-in session will be held at Town Hall on Monday 15 August, between 4pm and 7pm, at Town Hall (corner Glen Eira and Hawthorn roads, entry via clocktower entrance). Please register your interest here

If you have any questions, please contact the City Futures team via 9524 3333 or email cityfutures@gleneira.vic.gov.au.

Given that very little detail has been provided as to the planned processes, we can only speculate as to the purpose and value of this evening. Our concerns are listed below –

  • With the stated time duration of only 45 minutes, we assume that there will be no opportunity for participants to comment or ask questions.
  • Will this simply be a repetition of previous council ‘forums’ where participants had no idea who else, nor how many people had logged on? Will the chat function again be disabled?
  • Will the report itemise all aspects of the feedback – including the 100+ attendees at the town hall forum?
  • Will the various comments made by ALL respondents be published, or will we simply get another vague ‘summary’?
  • Will residents be told how their input influenced any potential changes to the housing strategy and if not – why no changes have been made?
  • Will this be another evening of double-speak and weasel words, or will residents be privy to a warts and all presentation that is not presented through rose coloured glasses (ie in contrast to the ‘summaries’ provided at the town hall forum)
  • Will any analyses be provided as to the quality of the consultation – in particular the survey questions and what lessons may have been learnt from the exercise?

Whilst it can be argued that council is commended in providing residents with ‘feedback’ – it is the quality of this feedback that remains questionable. Unless there is a full and comprehensive report, then council will again be guilty of fudging the data and being as non-transparent as they possibly can. What concerns us most however is the deliberate timing of council’s strategic planning. We have been told that both the Carnegie and Caulfield Station structure plans will be presented to council for decision in August 2022 – well before the final decision on the Housing Strategy. (See: https://www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/services/planning-and-building/planning-scheme-and-amendments/glen-eira-planning-scheme-review-2018).  Housing Strategies are meant to be the cornerstone of structure planning. That is, they come before structure plans, NOT AFTER. So once again we face the prospect of putting the cart before the horse and council continuing along its merry way ignoring all the principles of sound strategic planning. This can only be to the detriment of the community – and of course, full transparency and accountability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of the above raises these questions:

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

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

Only 3 councillors (Zyngier, Szmood, & Pennicuik), refused the MRC application for work on the Caulfield Racecourse. This continues the sad history of this council in repeatedly caving in to whatever the Melbourne Racing Club and its political backers want. Whilst the vote last night would in all probability not have changed anything, except as public ‘protest’ vote, at the very least it would send a message to Wynne and the racing industry that councils and the community must be considered first and foremost. Sadly, the majority of councillors decided to grant a permit.

As some of the above councillors stated, this whole issue was gazetted and hence made public, on Christmas Eve 2021. There had been no warning, no consultation with the community or council, and most of the relevant documents still remain hidden from public view. In the meantime, bulldozers and chain saws have been very active in destroying countless trees. This has only been temporarily halted via the imposed interim Heritage Council’s order. There is no guarantee that this order will remain and prevent further destruction. In the meantime we are seeing planning applications like last night’s one basically continuing along its merry way of turning the racecourse into the MRC vision that will include:

  • Night racing
  • Another inside track
  • Massive light towers to accommodate night racing
  • The removal of the second lake
  • Synthetic grass surfaces over much of the inside tracks
  • Plus the recent announcement that the racecourse will be closed for ONE YEAR to allow these works to be carried out.

There are quite a few governance and transparency issues at play here that say a lot about the MRC, Wynne, and also council. Whilst the MRC is legally entitled to approach the Minister directly, and the Minister also has the legal power to ‘adjudicate’ on such applications, we have to condemn the timing, and the secrecy that has taken place. As far as council goes, we believe they also have to be held to account in this whole dismal affair. Here is why –

  • Why did it take residents to initiate the heritage order instead of council?
  • Has council even written to the Minister outlining their concerns? If so, why isn’t this missive public?
  • Why, when council voted to pay over $200,000 to sit in on the trustees for the Land Management Plan, did we get the plan we did? What was council’s contribution? Where was there any specific report back to the community on council’s involvement?
  • Why, when Cr Zyngier last night asked how the application was in accord with Council’s various environmental policies, he was told that the report did exist but wasn’t included in the agenda papers. So once again we are in the situation where councillors are supposed to vote on an important issue, but the information facilitating informed decision making has been with-held. In a follow up question by Cr Zmood asking whether this report will be made public, Torres took the question on notice and said he would have to confirm this. Simply not good enough and not the first time this has happened. The current VCAT hearing on 10-16 Selwyn Street, also did not include council’s heritage advisors report. This was fundamental given that council had twice previously refused the Woolworth’s application and that the VCAT refusal was also largely based on heritage! Our conclusion is that decision making in Glen Eira remains a joke. When councillors, who are tasked with the role of representing the community, are not presented with vital and relevant information to inform their decision making, then any subsequent decision making can only be adjudged as totally suspect.
  • There is much, much more that could be said about this item. Magee has not covered himself in glory once again, by objecting to Zyngier’s comments that council has been treated as ‘children’ or that the current crop of trustees represent an improvement on the past.

What is at stake here is quite simple. When will council stop being the complicit, and cowering bunch of sycophants that fail to fight for their residents, or fail to proffer any public criticism of government. And when will councillors be provided with information that is fundamental to their decision making?

The current agenda includes an item that purports to be a response to resident views on the draft budget. Yet, readers would have no inkling whatsoever, whether their views have had any impact on the final version of the budget. This says heaps for transparency, accountability, and adhering to the adopted IAPP2 principles of reporting back to the community on how their views influenced the final decision.  Yes, council did go through the legislated requirements of ‘deliberative engagement’ but in this officer report very little detail is provided. Nor do we get the complete record of the various survey responses.

What we do have is short summaries that highlight some resident priorities such as:

Stage 1 consultation:  The overall allocation of spending by the participants was very similar to our 2021-22 Budget proportions. The main differences were to decrease spending on Capital Works and increase spending on Sustainability. (page 21)

Online survey: The survey group would like to see more spending on Sustainability and Climate Change, Parks and Recreation, and Economic recovery from the pandemic.

Have your say survey: ▪ This survey group would like to see more spending on Sustainability and Climate Change, Parks and Recreation, Open Space and Waste and Recycling.

Deliberative engagement: priority – Sustainability measures, including increasing open space and tree canopy, funding the Urban Forest Strategy and implementing energy efficiency measures. (page 22)

There is no definitive response to the above views. What we do get is:

or

Does this mean that council has acted on these concerns and increased its spending on the Urban Forest Strategy, climate, sustainability? We simply do not know given that the final budget that councillors are expected to vote on is NOT INCLUDED in the report. The result? – your guess is as good as ours!

What we do however know, if that what is included in the above screen dump is identical to what was contained in the first draft of the budget – meaning that nothing has changed.

Conclusion? For all the talk about listening to the community, being transparent, and keeping residents informed, we are still looking at a council that simply goes through the required legal motions and resident views continue to be ignored.  

Well over 120 residents came out last night to partake in the Housing Strategy forum at the town hall. Our over-riding impressions of the evening are:

  • Spin remains the modus operandi of officers
  • Resident dissatisfaction and anger was palpable

On the first bullet point above, the audience was again assailed with the sheer nonsense of some of the statements made by the planners – the same individuals who featured in the previous disastrous zoom session.  We were, for example, told that the aim of the housing strategy was NOT to encourage more development! How such a statement tallies with the fact that the proposals include new zoning for street after street to go from 2 storeys, to three or four storeys is laughable. And how more development won’t be the outcome of aiming for 3 or more dwellings on sites currently carrying  2 dwellings is even more laughable.

Slides were shown, and once again the ‘explanation’ of what was being proposed was through a very selective rose coloured glasses view. For example: much was made of the fact that the sites selected for increased dwellings per site were primarily along main roads. No mention of all those areas that would now have to cope with 3 or 4 storeys instead of their current zoning allowing only 2 storey heights. Nor at any stage was there any precise detail provided as to what might change. We were told that there was consideration to revert to RESCODE standards, but explaining precisely what this would mean was not done.  

Arguably, the most revealing admission of the evening was the announcement that the officers’ presentations would be audio taped and presumably published on council’s website, but that the ‘audience participation’ would not be taped and made public. One resident responded to this by stating that such a decision goes against all tenets of transparency. We agree and as a result we  invite all residents to listen to what the community had to say via the audio presented below.

In the May edition of the Glen Eira News  we find the following announcement on page 4 –

CLICK TO ENLARGE

For the first time, there is a vague mention of proposed changes. Without real detail of course and still requiring residents to plough through voluminous amounts of verbage in order to have an idea as to the actual proposals and how these might impact on them individually. Simply not good enough. We have repeatedly stated that if council is genuine in its attempts to hear from residents then what is required is:

  • a short one page list of proposed changes
  • a survey that includes open ended questions and asks for direct feedback on these proposed changes

Nothing like this has been provided to residents. Even the letters sent out to allegedly impacted homes contained no specific information that residents could really understand and refer back to their individual situations.

We also take strong issue with the Magee comments.  He states in the above screen dump:

While most properties will retain their current zoning, for some, changes could include a change of zone, a change of controls, or replacement of garden area requirements to deliver improved tree planting and landscaping’.

COMMENTS

  • Most properties might retain their current zoning, but this doesn’t prevent council from actually reviewing what was introduced in 2013 and assessing whether these zones are still appropriate. Furthermore, council has admitted that 10,699 properties will be affected. That is 20% of current numbers.
  • The comments also assume that most residents actually know what zone they live in. Our guess would be that only a minority are familiar with council’s zoning and the accompanying schedules.
  • Nor would most residents know what the ‘controls’ currently state, or what the housing strategy intends to alter and what this means in reality.
  • Last, but certainly not least, there will NOT BE A REPLACEMENT of the garden area requirement. It will simply be REMOVED! How on earth this can then be equated with improved ‘tree planting and landscaping’ is beyond belief.

We maintain that it is unconscionable for this kind of spin to be put out to residents. It is surely time for some honest consultation processes in Glen Eira!

After a huge outcry from residents, and we presume from councillors as well, the following has been announced on the Housing Strategy consultation – time extension to 15 May and…..

We certainly welcome the extended time period. And given the webinar fiasco of last month, a face-to-face meeting in the auditorium is also most welcome. Whilst there is definitely ‘improvement’, much more could have been achieved we believe. For example:

  • There is no change proposed for the inadequate survey questions.
  • No short online summary of the proposed changes has been added to the website – and we don’t mean the waffle and verbage that the 9 page ‘information document’ currently contains. What is required is something along the lines of: GRZ will have mandatory garden area removed; new zone of NRZ2 will have increased site coverage, less permeability, etc. etc.
  • Do we really need another Q & A in the form of ‘one on one’ with officers? Fair enough that some residents may not be fully au fait with the detail, but surely the ‘presentation’ should precede any Q & A and not after?
  • Why has only 35 minutes been assigned for residents to state their views where everyone can listen?
  • And what do the final 10 minutes really mean? How is this different from the preceding 35 minutes?
  • If a Q and A, we wonder how much of the allotted time will be taken up by officers ostensibly responding to these questions?

Our concerns remain about consultation in Glen Eira and the willingness of this administration to fully engage with its residents – to provide them with relevant and accurate information at the outset, and to ensure that there is ample opportunity for residents to record their views and not merely ask questions. Thus far, the emphases has been on ‘asking questions’ and not ‘what do you think’ about our proposals’? In order to arrive at this second stage, residents need information and not weasel words and spin. That is the challenge for councillors. To mandate genuine, open consultation that is driven by the desire to listen to the community and incorporate their views as fully as possible into all strategic planning. If this cannot be totally achieved, then full explanations as to why not. That is what council has signed up for with its pledge to also ‘involve’ rather than merely ‘consult’. Thus far we have had nothing more than ‘consult’. This has to change.

The Melbourne Racing Club (and their development arm) are at it again with the latest development plan for Stage 9 of the Caulfield Village. As in all the previous applications, the Incorporated Plan of 2014 is a completely worthless piece of paper that should be shredded and assigned to the dust bin. At every step of this process, we have had council caving in time and again – on heights, on borders of precincts, on the need for social housing, on open space, on parking requirements. Now we have another application and have to wonder why for such a major development:

  • Why this wasn’t prominently displayed on council’s home page?
  • How many letters were sent out to nearby residents?
  • How long was the advertising period? (which has now closed).

In summary, this application is for:

  • 354 apartments – of which 245 are single bedroom making that 69.2% of proposed units. There will be only 3 three bedroom apartments and the rest are either 2 bedroom or miniscule ‘studio apartments’.
  • Parking spots total 250 and only 8 for ‘retail parking’ – hence a huge shortfall in what is required.
  • Heights will be 14 storeys over two towers
  • Trees will be removed along Station Street
  • Open Space will be in shadow most of the day as will the Boulevard.

THE IMPORTANT POINTS

  • The Incorporated Plan envisaged the maximum height for this precinct at 12 storeys. The recently released Caulfield Station Structure Plan, also had this site as 12 storeys. This increase in height is similar to what has happened with all the other precincts and allowed by this council without any fight whatsoever.
  • We still have Stage 9 and 10 to go – which will be a minimum of 20 storeys and likely much higher!

Of greatest significance to residents is council’s private dealings with the developer and their reactions to the initial plans. The developer’s responses to council’s ‘requests for further information’ luckily include council’s original views in the advertised documents.

When council has previously agreed to documents that establish a projected development of approximately 1100 dwellings, and clearly defined height limits (admittedly discretionary), why do we get double the number of apartments and heights well above what was agreed? Why doesn’t this council fight tooth and nail so that the developer has to comply with the original agreement?

Here is our planning department’s response to the issue of height and parking waivers –

….there are a number of variations sought to the indicative built form shown in the approved development plan and associated controls.

Whilst the Urban Planning Department has no issue in principle with a number of variations, such as the increased height and the reduction in car parking sought, additional justification and supporting documentation should be provided to support all other variations, such as podium setbacks, podium height, etc.

The above says it all we believe!

We’ve received an email from a resident containing the letter which council claims to have sent out to thousands of ratepayers about the Housing Strategy consultation. Incredibly, not one word in this ‘invitation’ provides a clue as to what is being proposed in the strategy, nor how the recipients of the letter may be impacted. In other words, a whole lot of verbage with no relevant or vital detail.

If council was really serious in eliciting feedback, then surely a summary of proposals was essential? Even if those receiving the letter followed up and investigated the Have Your Say webpage they would be confronted with the same waffle and the lack of pertinent information – unless of course, they were prepared to wade through 589 pages!

This is not consultation! It is a ‘tick the box’ exercise designed to comply with legal requirements rather then finding out exactly what residents think or want!

Council’s current agenda includes the Design & Development Overlay (DDO) for Caulfield North. This follows the previous ‘consultation’ on the Built Form Frameworks for Caulfield North, Caulfield South and Bentleigh East. We have previously commented on the value of the ‘consultation’ and its drawbacks.  (See: https://gleneira.blog/2021/05/12/is-this-fair-dinkum-consultation/)

There are very few changes from the originally advertised documents. So much for ‘listening’ to residents. Worth noting that the officer’s report, as is typical, fails to even make mention of the feedback, and how this has ‘influenced’ or not, council’s current version.

In summary, the DDO will:

  • NOT have mandatory height limits except for the sites in a heritage overlay. The majority of the precinct will have 6 storeys discretionary. The City Plan has 5 storeys. No explanation provided in anything we’ve seen as to why these Neighbourhood Centres should be 6 AND NOT THE 5 STOREYS recommended in the City Plan.
  • Overshadowing to the public domain relies only on the summer solstice – no consideration given for the winter solstice. Plus, overshadowing is said to be avoided for the most ‘active’ parts of the day. For one area this is equated to 10am to 12 pm!!!!!
  • Rear laneways of 3m are deemed appropriate for egress and ingress! This means that two cars travelling in opposite directions cannot pass each other.

We’ve highlighted some of the paragraphs from the officer’s report and ask readers to consider them carefully – as this, presumably, is supposed to be the rationale and justification for the proposed DDO.

Proposed DDO12 will apply to all commercially zoned land within the centre. The introduction of these planning controls will ensure Council can regulate growth and change at an appropriate rate and manage the competing priorities of the community, and the development industry. The proposed controls are not seeking to increase the rate of development within the centre, rather they introduce standards to manage development when it does occur.

COMMENT: What does ‘appropriate rate’ mean? 100 new apartments per annum? Or 200 per annum? The use of the word ‘rate’ is a neat sleight of hand designed to avoid the conclusion that once you raise the allowable height of a building, then it becomes more tempting and profitable for a developer. It has very little to do with the ‘rate’ or presumably ‘speed’ of development which council has no control over anyway.

Mandatory controls are not considered necessary for street walls along this section of Balaclava Road and may even be to the detriment of good development outcomes (for example, preventing on-site outdoor dining terrace areas at the front of cafés). No heritage or character overlay controls affect this section of Balaclava Road and the mandatory requirement has therefore been changed to a preferred setback requirement. This will make it consistent with the Caulfield South Activity Centre DDO.

COMMENT: Since when does a mandatory street wall height prevent ‘outdoor dining terrace areas’? and how will a discretionary height which could allow a four storey wall height contribute to ‘good development outcomes’? Here are some quotes from the original Urban Design doc:

A two to three storey building height at the street is recommended for the Caulfield Park NAC, which will maintain a scale that is both compatible with existing heritage and non heritage shopfronts, and does not overwhelm the streetscape. This has been evidenced with recent developments in the NAC that provide a three storey street wall.

As for the proposition that this is fine given it is ‘consistent’ with what has already been approved for Caulfield South is not a justification. Each Neighbourhood Centre is unique, as admitted even by council. There is no demand for ‘consistency’. Instead each area should be evaluated for what it is, rather than how it can fit into the ‘one size fits all’ model so preferred by this council.

The proposed planning controls only focus on the commercial zones within the centre, a key growth area which places less pressure on our residential areas where tree retention/planting and maintaining site permeability is important.

COMMENT:  if the objective is to protect the surrounding residential environment as claimed above, then perhaps council needs to explain why the Housing Strategy is advocating the removal of the mandatory garden requirement, reducing permeability, and doing nothing specific about tree retention.  The entire area surrounding the commercial land is zoned GRZ, where all of the above changes will impact directly on these properties. Coupled with the impacts of these changes, we will now have a minimum of 6 storeys abutting a mandatory 3 storey zone. And that’s okay for this council.

Here’s a map of the current zoning. Please note the extent of GRZ (3 storeys) and their connection to the commercial sites.

CONCLUSION

Once again we find that council has failed to live up to its so called ‘engagement strategy’. We do not know:

  • How and where community feedback influenced the final decision
  • Why the heights are increased despite the approved council City Plan
  • And finally, ‘consultation’ in name only given the pathetic survey questions

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