GE Planning


Elsternwick is quickly emerging as Glen Eira’s high rise capital with another 14 storey application for the former Daily Planet site. Adding salt to the wounds of residents, this application:

  • Abuts the 4 storey mandatory height limit of Ross Street – where many dwellings are single storey
  • The discretionary height limit is 12 storeys but developers regard this as nothing more than a ‘minimum’.

Possibly the biggest joke in this application is the developer’s claims to ‘community benefit’. Readers should remember that council decided that development could go from 8 to 12 storeys if there was ‘community benefit’. Of course there is very little definition of what this term actually means and certainly nothing worth a cracker in the eventual interim amendment. For those applications wishing to exceed the preferred height, all they have to show is (quote) – that the development includes the provision of significant community benefit. Not a single of word of definition exists; no decision criteria exist. Council should congratulate itself on producing the perfect example of waffle par excellence!

How does the developer respond to this clause then? Here’s what is claimed as ‘community benefit’ –

We get a paragraph on office space and ’employment’, then more of the same. Please note the reference to the former brothel!

And the result will look like this:

There’s another aspect to this application worth considering. As recently as the last council meeting a resolution was passed to grant this site a permit for a drug rehabilitation unit. It had apparently been operating for some time without a permit. The current application allegedly arrived at council on the 2nd November.  Discussions prior to this date would undoubtedly have taken place with council planners. Thus, given that developers operated without a permit, did council issue any fines, or merely turn a blind eye knowing this was in the works?

Many other aspects of the application are contentious – ie overshadowing; traffic, open space. What is becoming clearer and clearer is that Elsternwick has always been seen as Glen Eira’s high rise capital and every effort has been made to further this agenda by a council that steadfastly refuses to listen to its residents!

Developers continue to have a field day in Glen Eira. Council can spruik its planning prowess all it likes, but its performance has been abysmal in protecting suburbs, residential amenity and heritage. Elsternwick is Glen Eira’s current sacrificial lamb, following on from Carnegie.

We now have another application alongside the Coles development for an 8 storey, shops, offices and 23 apartments – the majority being 2 bedroom with 8 being three bedroom apartments. Of greater significance is that the site is located in a heritage overlay and the existing buildings are deemed as ‘contributory’ in the planning scheme. Furthermore, according to the current structure plan, there is a preferred height limit of 4 storeys. But of course, since the height limits are only ‘preferred’ there is nothing to stop any developer applying for 8 or 10 or even more! We have to wonder how hard Council fought for mandatory controls in Elsternwick overall, and specifically in these heritage overlay areas. If Bentleigh & Carnegie achieved mandatory heights, then the question needs to be asked as to why Elsternwick is the odd man out. Plus why wasn’t Elsternwick included in the first set of structure planning undertaken by council?

What is remarkable with this application is that the developer has been ‘advised’ by a heritage ‘expert’ that –

Perhaps this expert should explain what ‘modest level of heritage value’ means – especially since the buildings are designated as ‘contributory’.  Surely, either something is of heritage value or it isn’t! But it’s not only these dwellings. This ‘expert’ sees the entire heritage overlay as being of ‘modest’ value. Of course, there is nothing stated to ‘quantify’ or even justify such perverse adjudication!

We must also wonder how an 8 storey building plopped on top of a 2 storey building can be ‘consistent’ with any heritage overlay as well as creating a ‘responsive heritage outcome’.  Here’s what is proposed and readers be the judge as to whether this is a desirable outcome –

There is plenty of other things to be concerned about with this application. Set backs for the storeys above the podium will only be 3.5 metres along Orrong Road. What does this do to overshadowing, etc? And given that in February 2018 council proclaimed –

The Elsternwick shopping precinct is truly unique in wider Melbourne. The shopping strip has
an existing heritage overlay, which seeks to preserve the unique and intact heritage
streetscape. Despite this heritage protection, recent VCAT approvals have seen a number of
taller buildings of up to 8 storeys being constructed in the shopping strip.

When justifying taller buildings in the heritage overlay, VCAT has pointed to the lack of
alternative priority development areas in Elsternwick to accommodate the centre’s future
growth. If this current development trend continues, the heritage precinct is in danger of
being significantly eroded by, or lost to, major development.

Thus the existence of heritage overlays which supposedly curtail development became the argument for 12 storeys along Nepean Highway. Since Glen Huntly Road is now a developers’ paradise, one could very well question why we still need 12 storeys along Nepean Highway? Or an even better question – given current high rise activity along Glen Huntly Road, and if the heritage shopping strip is so ‘truly unique’, then why has the major Heritage Review been put off until years down the track? If heritage is truly a priority then nothing can excuse this inaction. But then again, we remind readers of councillors’ dismal record on heritage when they recently voted to grant a permit for a 12 storey building in the Derby Road heritage area. We anticipate more of the same here with the argument being that there already are plenty of high rises along Glen Huntly road and its surrounds, so one more won’t matter! This of course makes an utter mockery of their structure planning! The only ‘certainty’ has been provided to developers. The message is clear – go for it and the higher the better!

Whilst there is cause for ‘congratulations’ that council is now responding to resident requests regarding the zoning of various areas within Glen Eira, we also find that the actions proposed fall far short of what is required.

At last council meeting the application for Weeroona Road was refused by councillors. Much was made of the fact that there existed a Neighbourhood Character Overlay on the other side of the street and not on the side that included the application site. Hence we now get the following Request for a Report –

Instead of a total review of all NCO’s, the report only wishes to look at those areas on opposite sides of the street. It is also possible to see this as an explicit admission of how woeful Glen Eira’s planning has been. If planning was done properly to begin with we would now not be in the situation where it takes a huge resident outcry to get some responses underway. The incompetence of council’s planning is fully illustrated in the following screen dumps. Please note that these Neighbourhood Character Overlays also incorporate areas zoned as GRZ and RGZ. If the objective is to protect streets via the NCO, then it is really incomprehensible how these places could have been assigned the GRZ and RGZ zoning – which still stand. Thus, the issue isn’t simply about NCOs on the opposite side of the street, but the overall zoning embedded within existing NCOs – plus how many more streets and properties deserve to be granted an NCO. Thus we now have had 5 years of zoning and any amendment will likely take another 18 to 24 months – making this a 7 year issue where nothing has been done to correct previous glaring errors!

Woolworths Elsternwick: Supermarket giant resubmits plans for high rise tower

Emma-Jayne Schenk, Caulfield Glen Eira Leader

November 21, 2018 12:00am

The battle between Woolies and Elsternwick neighbours is back on, with Woolworths pinning its hopes on a new public facility in their planned Selwyn St complex, to help quell backlash against its plan for a towering high-rise.

The supermarket giant has finalised plans for the 13-storey complex, following more than 115 objections about height and scale, traffic congestion, parking, loss of heritage, and overshadowing on nearby houses.

The former ABC building on Selwyn St, which Woolies bought for $45 million in March 2017, is currently only two storeys high.

Woolworths resubmitted plans to Glen Eira Council for the mammoth building earlier this month, which will be released to the public for feedback next week. If approved by Glen Eira councillors next year, the 80-unit complex would include a two-storey, 1000 sq m community facility on the corner of Sinclair and Selwyn streets with a small cafe, meeting and discussion spaces, and a multimedia space available for hire. The Kadimah Jewish Cultural Centre will also be relocated within the centre.

Other changes include increased setbacks and the glass exterior being replaced with brick.

But a Woolworths spokesman said the height and the scale — which is what most residents objected to — remained “very similar”.

Elsternwick resident Rosemary Scott-Thompson, who owns an apartment on Selwyn St, said while the community centre was a “nice idea”, the changes did not ease her concerns.Woolworths is hoping its new design, shown here, will quell community concern.

She said the “monstrosity” would block any direct sunlight she gets in her home, and the only opening window would be facing the underground carpark, which would “stick fumes into her apartment”.

“Unless they step the building back on Selwyn St … it’s not something I’ll ever be happy about,” Ms Scott-Thompson said.

“They stepped the building back on the other side but (because we’re in a commercial zone), it’s like they don’t care.

“From my own personal point of view, it’s just not a good idea.”The old plans, seen here, for 10-16 Selwyn St have been scrapped by Woolies.

Woolworths senior development manager Don Foulds said the revised plans came in response to community needs. “We’re confident we can deliver a development that becomes a vibrant cultural and entertainment hub for local residents and look forward to discussing our revised proposal with the council and community members,” he said.

Source: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/inner-south/woolworths-elsternwick-supermarket-giant-resubmits-plans-for-high-rise-tower/news-story/089d1b38e00c44720eda19f883684576?utm_source=HeraldSun&utm_content=SocialFlow&utm_campaign=EditorialSF&utm_medium=Twitter

For all the spin that the Urban Design Guidelines will ensure the right buildings in the right places, recent events reveal how ineffectual such ‘guidelines’ really are. Here’s why:

  • They are ‘discretionary’ and NOT mandatory
  • They are Reference documents only and NOT part of any specific clause of the planning scheme
  • There is nothing in the recently gazetted structure plans which mandate developers to abide by the aspirations of this ‘reference’ document

Best illustrating how council’s spin does not equate with reality, we have the example of 100-104 Mimosa Road, Carnegie. Originally an application came in for a 4 storey apartment block of 49 apartments. With the introduction of the structure plans we now have a ‘revised’ application for 3 storeys and 41 apartments. Height is the only aspect of the structure plans which are mandatory (only for Bentleigh & Carnegie), hence the removal of one storey. All well and good people might say. Except that Mimosa Road is, according to the structure plan, located in Precinct 2. And Precinct 2 is supposedly designated as ‘Garden Townhouse’ of up to 3 storeys, 11 metres. In other words, NOT an apartment block.  Yet this is what is now proposed – definitely NOT ‘townhouses’!

On the 28th February 2018, council minutes contained the following in regard to the Urban Design Guidelines –

The Quality Design Guidelines were produced to:

Respond to the aspirations of the Glen Eira community regarding neighbourhood character and to deliver on the vision for our neighbourhoods.

Encourage a high level of architectural design in new developments.

Provide clarity and certainty about Council’s expectations for new developments.

Support and supplement existing design guidance provided by the Glen Eira Planning Scheme and relevant State Government initiatives.

AND

Beyond ensuring better design outcomes are achieved across Glen Eira, implementation of the Quality Design Guidelines will deliver four significant benefits:

  1. Clarity and certainty for everyone
  2. Garden townhouses in residential streets
  3. Protection of character and human scale of shopping streets
  4. Maximising community benefit on strategic and urban renewal sites

Another ‘advantage’ of the Garden Townhouse aspiration was that –

  • Ground floor living reduces the impact of overlooking onto neighbouring backyards
  • Less dwelling density in residential streets address concerns of parking and traffic

The developer’s ‘revised’ application puts pay to all of this spin. We quote directly from the Urbis report:

…it is noted that the setback, landscaping, building design, landscaping and all other objectives are considered to be discretionary, whilst the specified height is considered to be mandatory. 

The built form currently proposed is an ‘apartment’ style building. It is considered that although a ‘town house character’ is encouraged by Amendment C157, it is noted that an apartment style character is a common characteristic within this neighbourhood setting 

It is noted that the proposed development does not provide the number of canopy trees required to be planted on the entire site and deep soil planting is restricted along the rear of the boundary and partly along the side boundaries. However, the street trees are proposed to be retained as part of this proposal and additional planting can be provided within the front setback of the development 

There are plenty of other problems with this application. For example:

Site coverage is 68%. Supposed to be 60%

Permeability is cited as 20% the required amount, but one has to query the following phrase attached to this number – ie deep soil area is 13% remains unchanged. What does this say about permeability per se, or the extent of the basement car park? Please remember that council’s ‘promise’ was to ensure that basement car parks did not cover practically the entire site!

What happens with this application will be instructive to say the least. More than anything it highlights once again the failure of this council to produce results that have real effect.

Finally a comment on governance and the continued monkey business that occurs with council’s online register. The application for 4 storeys came in months and months ago. It then disappeared entirely from the online register. Nothing such as ‘withdrawn’ was noted. It then made a reappearance as an entirely new application but still contained the SAME DATE as the original application for 4 storeys.

Online registers are required to contain information about every single application – their amendments, dates, decisions, etc. Far too often in Glen Eira inaccuracy and obfuscation replaces legal requirements!

Here are the two different applications and please note the dates:

 

Two successive items from Wednesday night’s council meeting produced 2 staggering decisions. We can speculate as to the reasons why these councillors decided as they did however, one thing is clear. When it comes to that holy of holies (ie planning law) this council and its crop of councilors have basically no interest in applying the law as it is written. So please, no more chest thumping and statements such as ‘we have to apply planning law’ when we make decisions!

The two items were:

7 apartments at 31 Weeroona Road, and

12 storeys in a heritage precinct at Derby Crescent, Caulfield East.

Councillors voted unanimously to REFUSE the Weeroona Road application and to grant a permit for the Derby Crescent application. Only Delahunty and Davey voted against this second application. In both instances planning law was totally ignored in our view. Could it possibly be that the reason the Weeroona road was refused was that there were 14 objections versus only 3 objections for the Derby Crescent application – this latter fact neatly pointed out by Magee and Strajt!

Please note that we are not discussing the merits of either application or whether they add to the overall housing ‘improvement’ in Glen Eira. What we are suggesting is that when time and time again councilors get up  on their hind legs and argue that their hands are tied by what the planning scheme says and therefore permits are granted, that the same should have happened with these two applications. Namely, that Weeroona should have got its permit and Derby Crescent should have been refused if there was to be consistency (and may we say integrity) in this councillor group. Sadly, these two cases are just another example of behind the scenes manipulation, vested interests, and a pro-development agenda that does not give a stuff about heritage in this municipality.

Here are some facts (as outlined by the officer report and Hyams for the Weeroona application –

  • It is zoned GRZ1 – ie an allowed height limit of 3 storeys (10.5 metres). The building is 9.4 metres.
  • Site coverage is 41%. The schedule allows up to 60%
  • Garden area is 37.61%. Requirement is 35%
  • Site area is 1024 square metres – council has granted other land subdivisions of barely 100 square metres!
  • Car parking requirements are met
  • Permeability is 42.371%. The requirement is 20%
  • Overshadowing meets the standards
  • Dwellings are 3 and 4 bedroom – meeting needs of ‘family’ living.

Thus on every major criterion upon which decisions should be based these councilors decided to REFUSE the application. Their reasons? – didn’t fit ‘neighbourhood character’ and there is a Neighbourhood Character Overlay on the other side of the street – in the NRZ zoned area. If council was so concerned about ‘neighbourhood character’ then why was this street zoned as GRZ in the first place?  Why hasn’t council got off its backside and rezoned these areas or at least provided a ‘preferred character statement’ that would have some bite at VCAT? Of course, nothing has been done! We would like to be as assured of winning lotto as this application will meet with success when it goes to VCAT. Council’s planning scheme is all the developer has to point to in order to win his case! More of our money down the drain ‘defending’ the indefensible!

Next there was the Derby Crescent application for a monstrous development of 12 storeys (outlined in one of our earlier posts) plus the total demolition of one of the two ‘contributory’ heritage listed buildings.  Although part of the Phoenix Precinct, and yes there are tall and taller buildings in the vicinity, this should not be seen as over-riding heritage constraints in this area. The arguments of Magee, Silver, Strajt, Taylor, Hyams and Esakoff, were lamentable and had nothing whatsoever to do with planning law as it applied to this specific site. Which makes us wonder what decisions have already been cooked up between council and the VPA for this entire area?

To her credit, and also Davey, Delahunty launched what must be the first ‘analysis’ of what the planning scheme actually has to say about heritage and the demolition of contributory buildings. Torres finally had to admit (through clenched teeth we assume) that ‘on balance’ heritage comes a poor second to development and that the planning report could have been better and more expansive in its commentary.

This is the first time in ages that any councillor has come close to challenging an officer’s report. She established that:

  • Council’s ‘expert’ heritage advisor’s recommendations were ignored
  • That demolition of a contributory building should only happen when it is not fit to be lived in – according to the planning scheme

Disappointingly, no one seemed to have too many qualms about sticking a straight up 10 storeys onto the top of a heritage 2 storey building so that it will literally protrude like a sore thumb – despite the fact that the planning scheme for this area is replete with statement after statement about preserving the height and ‘ambience’ of this area.

We ask that readers listen carefully to the audio on this item and to ask themselves the most crucial question – why has planning law been so flagrantly ignored in these two instances?

Finally, another reminder of what the majority of councillors believe is acceptable in a heritage precinct!

 

We’ve received an email requesting that we publicise the following YouTube videos. The link to them is:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCygK9eItmUBU2aoDhnB7gGg

More videos will be posted soon we are assured.

Glen Eira features in 3 for Bentleigh, Carnegie & McKinnon. Here’s the Carnegie one.

 

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