GE Open Space


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DECISIONS WHERE COUNCIL REFUSED PERMIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Clarinda Street = lucy Bond (council)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

DECISIONS WHERE COUNCIL GRANTED A PERMIT

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two decisions from last night’s council meeting, should provide some hope that perhaps, just perhaps, things might be changing at council.

Decision 1 – abandoning Amendment C184. This was an unanimous decision from all 8 councillors present (Cade being absent). Esakoff very ‘reluctantly’ voted for the motion, declaring that her wish would have been to send the amendment to a panel and have council adopt an advocacy position! There were some mea culpas, especially from Athanasopolous, who declared that he should have insisted on a housing strategy years before! Szmood pointed out that the need for a housing strategy should have been known since at least 2015 and together with other councillors hoped that the resulting strategy would be strategically and soundly based and looked at the entire municipality and not just the major activity centres.

Decision 2 – concerned the consultation approach to the Council Plan and the Health & Wellbeing strategy. The officer’s recommendation stated that the latter would undergo far more comprehensive consultation compared to the Council Plan. Szmood moved an alternate motion (seconded by Zhang) that the Council Plan be subject to a 500 phone survey, plus wider public consultation that was not limited to the Community Voice or the deliberative panel membership alone.

Both of these resolutions represent a positive change. What remains to be seen of course is whether the proposals are carried out in the spirit of the resolution. All will depend on:

  • The questions that are asked. For example: will any of the questions ask residents for feedback on specific heights, setbacks, permeability requirements, rezonings? Or will we be presented with another set of predetermined ‘options’ that ignore these fundamental concerns?
  • Will residents (ie the community consultation committee) have any say in the drafting of questions, or the analysis of feedback?
  • Will the housing strategy provide sufficient data to be justified or will we again have a 60 or 70 page document of which half is filled with pretty pictures and the rest is full of generalities, and clichés?

These are the issues and questions which remain to be resolved. If there is to be light at the end of the tunnel, then it is incumbent on these councillors to ensure that the agendas and mistakes of the past are not repeated!

PS: There’s one other item deserving of comment – agenda item 11.1. This was considered in camera and the subject was ‘Aged Care. Council’s are required to provide some detail as to why an item should be considered as confidential. In this case, the council blurb stated:

Aged Care
This agenda item is confidential information for the purposes of section 3(1)
of the Local Government Act 2020:
– because it is Council business information, being information that would prejudice the Council’s position in commercial negotiations if prematurely released (section 3(1)(a)); and

The information contained in this paper is confidential under the definition of confidential information as defined in section 3(1) of the Local Government Act 2020 (the Act) being Council business information that would prejudice the Council’s position in commercial negotiations if prematurely released and information concerned with land use that if prematurely released is likely to encourage speculation in land values.

Several questions spring to mind, especially since this was NOT specified as a normal tender. Hence:
  • are we back to square one with the possibility of the sale of our aged care once again?
  • is council possibly considering sale of some of the land?

The fact that 2 sections of the Local Government Act are cited, (ie commercial and land use) does not fill us with confidence that this administration is not having second thoughts regarding the future of aged care.

Item 8.9 in the current agenda papers, recommends that seven trees be included in the Significant Tree Register. Whilst this is admittedly only the start, we have to wonder why after 6 months, we only get seven nominated trees – of which only two are listed as being on private property.

The report states that between 4th September 2020 and 18th February 2021, 105 nominations were received. There is no information as to:

  • How many of these 105 were on private property as opposed to council land?
  • How many of these 105 have potentially been rejected?
  • How many assessments have actually been carried out or do we assume that in the space of nearly 6 months council has managed to assess a paltry 7 trees?

At this rate we will still be assessing these 105 trees in 2050!

Could we just once, please, have an officer’s report that provides all the relevant information.

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

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

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

THE ROLE OF A HOUSING STRATEGY & GLEN EIRA COUNCIL

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

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

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

The zones were implemented in Glen Eira without public consultation, and without an independent review process. The Reasons for Decision to Exercise Power of Intervention deemed that further consultation through the formal statutory process unnecessary, stating: Consultation has been conducted during the development of the Housing and Residential Development Strategy and in relation to Amendment C25.
The Committee notes the Council’s Housing and Residential Strategy was adopted in 2002, 11 years before the gazettal of Amendment C110. The Committee questions the currency of the policy itself as well as the currency of the community consultation in relation to this policy.
(page 176 of Advisory committee Report: Managing Residential Development Advisory Committee Residential Zone Review).

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

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

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

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

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

Bayside 2012 and 2019

Hobson’s Bay – 2017

Maribyrnong – 2011 and updated 2018

Darebin – 2012 and is currently out for consultation review

Stonnington – 2020 revision of existing housing strategy

Boroondara – 2015

Casey – 2019

Banyule – 2009 and currently being updated

Bendigo – 2018 updated strategy

Frankston – 2018

Mornington 2020 is updated strategy

Darebin – 2013 and being updated

Brimbank – 2012 updated 2020

Yarra Ranges – 2009

Wodonga – 2018

Yarra – 2018

Latrobe – 2019

Knox 2015

Whitehorse 2014 and being reviewed in part

Surf Coast 2006

Nillumbik – 2020 and ongoing

Maroondah – 2016

Port Phillip – 2007 and updated for specific precincts regularly

Moorabool – 2016

Warnambool – 2013

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

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

Here’s what is missing:

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

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

We keep asking the same questions with no satisfactory responses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The current officer report now recommends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Readers will remember this application and the massive effort by residents to fight the proposed 10 and 14 storey towers Woolies wanted in round one. It is now round two – plus an upcoming VCAT hearing regarding 7 Selwyn Street and plans for a 9 storey building that in reality reaches the height of a 14 storey development. This latter application received a permit from council last year.

In terms of transparency and making things clearer for residents impacted by such applications, we can see no reason why the planning register and its category of ‘proposal’ is often so uninformative. Is it too much to ask that instead of the phrase ‘residential towers’, residents are provided with some specific details such as proposed height or number of storeys for these towers?

Plans, when they do finally make an appearance, all too quickly disappear into the ether. If all residents have in terms of the historical record, then we maintain that the planning register should provide sufficient detail so that the community knows exactly how many apartments, height, etc. were granted or refused a permit. Residents should also be told whether these decisions were made under delegation, by council, or by VCAT. Only then will we have full transparency and accountability.

On transparency, we still do not know how much council is spending in defending its decision to grant a permit for 7 Selwyn Street. Whilst we have no problem with council supporting residents at VCAT, we find it particularly galling when a permit has been granted and council still insists on calling up fancy lawyers and expert witnesses that could ultimately cost in the region of $100,000. Surely it is the role of the developer to argue his case rather than council – especially since council use  of ‘experts’ to defend a permit has only occurred on one previous occasion in the past 5 years that we know of and that was the Horne Street development where the VCAT member absolutely blasted council for its shoddy planning.

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

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

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

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

THE PROCESS

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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