GE Planning


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.

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s council meeting will feature an item that seeks an amendment for a permit that was granted in 2019 for a 5 storey development at 590-596 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick. The property was sold on in August 2020 and the new owner is now seeking an additional 2 storeys, plus 5 apartments. The officer’s recommendation is to grant a permit for a 7 storey building, and 25 apartments, plus a reduction in car parking requirements. The proposed height will now go from 17.2 metres to 23.6 metres.

Readers need to note the following:

  • The site is in a Local Centre and not a major activity centre or even a neighbourhood centre
  • Council’s City Plan posits 3 storey height limit in local centres
  • The abutting and surrounding buildings are all 2 storeys in height

Here’s what it will look like. Note the neighbours!

The question then becomes – how on earth could this application have received a permit for 5 storeys in the first place and now an officer recommendation for a seven storey permit?

The accompanying officer’s report literally beggars belief in some of the statements made. Here are some examples:

Council’s Urban Designer states: A five storey building would be more consistent with current Council policy. Yet the final officer report basically ignores this and instead we get: The scale of the building at seven storeys is considered to be appropriate given the site’s proximity to multi-storey buildings that are in neighbouring sections of the Glen Huntly Road streetscape to the west within the Elsternwick Urban Village and to the east within the Caulfield South Neighbourhood Centre. Accordingly, it is considered that the density embodied in the additional five dwellings (creating a total of 25) will complement the built form character and the role of this centre.

So here we have the ludicrous situation where an area is designated as a local centre, but is being compared to what is happening in our Major Activity Centres and our larger Neighbourhood Centres. Adding insult to injury we also have this comment: Whilst it is acknowledged that a lower height limit would be appropriate in some Local Centres that are located within a pure residential hinterland, this site has unique locational qualities and is suitable for a taller building that departs from this aspect of the Housing Diversity Area Policy. Council’s planning scheme and its policies make no differentiation between Local Centres as this statement implies. Thus again, we have an officer departing from what adopted council policy says!

And we continue to go from the sublime to the ridiculous with this sentence: The proposal to increase the height of the building from the approved five storeys to seven storeys will match the height of a seven storey building at 485 Glen Huntly Road, located 500 metres to the west of the site.  Are planning decisions therefore to be based on what is up to 500 metres away, rather than what council’s own policies state? If the answer is ‘yes’, then we do not need any structure plans, or zonings whatsoever, since these can be so easily rejected. All we have to do is say ‘Yes, there’s a 12 storey 500 metres down the road, so it is appropriate here too’!!!!!!

Finally, as to the competence of this planning department, we’ve uploaded a page from council’s City Plan, which is supposed to indicate ALL local centres in the municipality. This local centre is NOT included in the diagram, yet the City Plan is supposed to be the be all and end all for the MSS rewrite, and other strategic plans. It does appear on another page. The point however, is why aren’t such errors picked up? (The small circles are ‘local centres’)

In just over a week (February 3rd), council will be holding their Planning Conference via Zoom for the advertised Bentleigh & Carnegie amendment – C184. Readers will remember that this amendment flies in the face of repeated community feedback, and is even worse than the current interim amendment.

To jog people’s memory, here is a summary:

  • Mandatory heights for many sites will now be discretionary in both Bentleigh & Carnegie
  • Hundreds of properties are now ‘upgraded’ to allow higher built form when they are currently zoned Neighbourhood Residential (ie 2 storeys)
  • There is a new zone (GRZ5) which covers hundreds of new sites but has had the mandatory garden requirement removed.
  • Sites now re-zoned NRZ2 revert back to the 2004 C25 amendment so that permeability requirement is now 20% instead of 25%. This again equates to hundreds of properties.
  • Another newly created zone in Carnegie is to have 90% site coverage and a staggering 5% permeability.

Council will undoubtedly argue that:

  • It is not their fault but the Minister’s/Department’s insistence
  • They have protected heritage by rezoning sites/streets from 4 storeys to 2 storeys. This of course does not take into account how many permits have already been granted in these streets for 4 storeys! Now does the reduction of height for some streets, equal the number of sites that have been earmarked for higher development. The reduction of heights in heritage areas is simply an unapologetic admission as to how incompetent the 2013 secret introduction of the Residential Zones were!

Even more galling than any of the above is the refusal of this council to stand up for residents. There has been no public statement opposing these ‘mandated’ changes. No public criticism of government. No publication of documents to reveal the rationale behind these changes. No justification whatsoever based on projected population figures and associated housing needs – especially now in our COVID era. Basically, we’ve had a council that has simply kow-towed to whatever has been suggested that would allow more and more development.

So now we will be having a so called ‘planning conference’ when the horse has already bolted. Council’s options are severely limited. They can abandon the amendment, but the argument will be that the interim amendment will expire and there will be no protection. (Of course, we do not know whether council has even applied for an extension!) Given this won’t happen, they can send the proposals off to a planning panel and we all know how planning panels invariably assist developers. Since there were plenty of objections, the latter is the most likely and legally required result.

The entire process of structure planning in Glen Eira has been nothing short of farcical. So on February 3rd, we urge all objectors, and those interested to sign up for the Zoom meeting and tell our new council exactly why this state of affairs is unacceptable. It may not change much, but at least our new councillors, will get to hear what residents have to say, and maybe, just maybe, listen and act on our suggestions.

To sign up for the zoom meeting, simply email: CityFutures@gleneira.vic.gov.au

In a recent decision, VCAT has granted a permit for a 7 storey building at 388-94 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield South. This is a repeat appeal after it was again rejected by council. The new plans provided increased setbacks and a few other concessions.

In the past few years Caulfield South has been the recipient of plenty of high rise applications. The following sites have been granted permits:

  • Permit for 6 storeys at 679-683 Glen Huntly Road, Caulfield South.
  • Permit for 5 storeys at 380 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield South (abutting the review site and referred to above).
  • Permit for 8 storeys at 348-354 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield South.
  • Permit for 6 storeys at 371- 377 Hawthorn Road and 3 Olive Street, Caulfield South.

The original application for the 388-94 Hawthorn Road site occurred in February 2017. That is four years ago! This is significant given that VCAT applies council’s existing planning scheme and the context surrounding the sites to inform its decision making. Thus for the past four years council has not changed one single thing in its planning scheme relating to our Neighbourhood Centres to ensure that such applications have less chance of being successful at VCAT.

The same old arguments were trotted out by the VCAT member in this case. We quote from this source: https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT//2021/31.html

We were also referred to the Council’s City Plan which was adopted by the Council in February 2020. By virtue of having been adopted by the Council, this is a document to which we may have regard as appropriate, but it is not part of the planning scheme. City Plan continues to include the review site in the CSNC and a substantial change area in which development up to 5 storeys is contemplated. Structure plans for activity centres are to be prepared.

This document is intended to support the key strategic directions to form part of the new Municipal Planning Strategy in the Glen Eira Planning Scheme. The Council advised that the preparation of a structure plan for the CSNC is in its infancy. We have had regard to the provisions of City Plan while acknowledging that it is a document that sits outside the planning scheme and cannot be accorded the same weight as the policies and zone controls contained in the planning scheme.

The quotes above raise some important questions. Why is council stating that a structure plan will be implemented for Caulfield South, when they have categorically stated that no such thing will happen? All that Caulfield South has been ‘promised’ is an Urban Design Framework and maybe, just maybe, a Design and Development Overlay. Hence, is VCAT being told furphies by Council?

There is also the following comments from the member:

The Council’s submission that the proposal’s scale and height is excessive in a neighbourhood centre is not persuasive in the absence of specific planning scheme height controls. This was an issue addressed by the Tribunal in its decision on the previous application when it stated that:

While higher order centres have adopted council policies nominating particular heights, it does not necessarily follow that all development in other, lower order centres, must be lower. A more considered urban design assessment is required. Given there is no specific policy restricting this centre, analysis needs to address the specific opportunities and constraints of each site, based on first principles of planning and general policy in the planning scheme

In the Tribunal’s previous decision, it appropriately expressed some uncertainty about the future development of sites in the CSNC. Subsequently however permits have been issued for developments of up to eight storeys in the centre. The form and scale of future development is becoming clearer. A building of seven storeys is unlikely to be an anomaly in the CSNC.

So what is the end result of all this? How on earth can the so called City Plan be relevant now with its stated 5 storey height limit, when so many applications are already above this height? Sitting back and doing nothing for 4 years is the reason why such applications get through. It is definitely time that all of council’s priorities be re-assessed and changed. Halting overdevelopment must be at the top of the list.

The most oft used phrase by council when it comes to justifying its decisions is that the issue has undergone ‘extensive community consultation’. Yes, there is Community Voice, and yes, there is Have Your Say, and yes, notices are up on council’s website and at times letters are posted to residents. But is this enough, or is it merely fulfilling the legal obligations and/or setting the groundwork so that the claim that ‘extensive community consultation’ has occurred is more tenable?

All of the above sounds great. Council admittedly has no control on how many residents decide to respond to the surveys, questionnaires, or even read the associated information. Which begs the question of why residents are generally so reticent to become involved. Our response to this query is:

  • Residents do not believe that their views will carry much weight in the final decision
  • Residents are not provided with enough information to assist in forming a view
  • Questions asked are often nothing more than Dorothy Dixers, or simply ambiguous so that valid interpretations become impossible
  • Council’s reporting of their ‘consultations’ is skewed, methodologically unsound and far from objective

We will go through some of the above providing examples that clearly illustrate our concerns with the way in which this council conducts its ‘consultations’ and how poorly the results are reported.

A perfect example is the recent Community Voice survey on the planning department. Council states that its objective in running this survey was:

In November 2018, we asked Community Voice members these same questions to identify aspects of Urban Planning that could be improved for the residents of Glen Eira.  

We wanted to know how far we’d come since implementing some changes following the last survey and improve our services to the community by determining where we could offer additional information or clarify processes. We have included results from 2018 in our graphs for comparison.

So this is largely supposed to be a comparative analysis of ‘progress’ and improvement of process over the past two years by the Urban Planning Department. Yet of the stated 193 responses we have no idea how many of the respondents were the same ones who filled in the 2018 survey, or are these 193 responses from entirely different residents? If improvement is to be accurately gauged, then having a clear and statistical overview of this component is essential. It would also be necessary to provide data that compares the number of applicant versus objector responses in 2018 compared to 2020. None of this has been done yet council is quite willing to conclude:

More than 32% of participants who had engaged with the Urban Planning team as an objector or supporter of a planning application indicated:

– They were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied by the availability of information on the application they objected to or supported (58%, a jump of 12% from 2018).

– They were ‘very dissatisfied’ or ‘dissatisfied’ with the support provided by Council when submitting an objection or support (38%, down by 4% from 2018).

– They were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with the overall outcome of the application they objected to or supported (50%, down by 5% from 2018).

We’ve highlighted the above in order to point out how poorly questions and the definitions have been concocted, which must inevitably call into question the validity of the results.

Fair enough that the survey includes separate questions for applicants and objectors. Yet the full definition for the latter was:

if ‘yes, as an objector or supporter of a planning permit application’) Could you tell us how satisfied you were/are with the following elements of the objection process? If you have made a number of objections or supports, please consider your most recent objection/support when answering this question

Not only is this definition potentially contradictory, but ultimately very confusing. Yes, objectors can support a final decision on a planning application. But that’s only after the decision has been made – either by officers or councillors. They remain objectors to the application first off.  Yet the above phrasing does not make this clear and hence could also be answered by developers in favour of an application.

Other questions are equally ambiguous and hence their value needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt. For example here’s a screen dump of one question:

The question includes the word ‘expects’. How this was interpreted by respondents is anyone’s guess. Some objectors may ‘expect’ council to grant a permit given the rate of overdevelopment that has occurred in Glen Eira and council’s track record in recommending permits. But it may not be what they want! Furthermore, we have no idea as to the split of responses. How many were from objectors and how many from applicants?  In the end, does this question tell us anything useful about the Planning Department and how it might be improved?

Interestingly, the vast majority of responses to many of the questions simply clicked the ‘Don’t know’ box. What conclusions can and should be drawn from this? Considering that the stated results of ‘Don’t know’ were also very high in 2018, then how well has council addressed the issue with its purported but unnamed ‘changes’?

Finally, we note that publishing percentages alone as question responses is useless and misleading. 80% of 100 responses is certainly far more than 99% of 50 responses.

If council is sincere in wanting to improve its communication/consultation processes, especially in planning, then it needs to address the following:

  • Create questions that are clear and not open to various interpretations
  • Provide reports that include both percentages and numerics
  • Provide sufficient information so that respondents/residents have a clear idea of all pros and cons (including cost)
  • Call on community expertise to vet questions and to ensure their legitimacy

We’ve uploaded the full Community Voice report HERE. Council is currently also ‘consulting’ on its Community Engagement strategy. You may submit your thoughts via this link: https://www.haveyoursaygleneira.com.au/engaging-glen-eira

In recent times Glen Eira councillors rubber stamped the requisite ‘governance’ and ‘meeting procedure’ rules. The only change of note was that we now have a de facto ‘Notice of Motion’ which is anything but a real Notice of Motion since it only applies to the removal of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

Glen Eira has been stubbornly opposed to implementing anything which would provide councillors with the opportunity to have something go on the agenda for open, transparent discussion in a timely manner. The argument is that a Request for a Report is a satisfactory substitute and that without officer/expert input poor decisions can be made. This of course is pure rubbish given that officer feedback and responses to the proposed Notice of Motion are then included for the discussion – this happens in Bayside, Kingston and numerous other councils.

The other problem with this argument is that a Request for a Report can take anything up to 8 months in Glen Eira to be tabled at a council meeting. Hardly ‘timely’!!!

Notice’s of Motion we maintain are integral to good governance and to allow councillors to effectively do the job they were elected to do. As an example we have uploaded the current proposals from Bayside City Council. Readers should note the following:

  • An acknowledgement of the contentious nature of the pavilion/open space issue and community feedback
  • The implications for budgets and the desire to save money that can then be re-distributed elsewhere (all of course with the added pressure of COVID)
  • Concern about passive open space and footprints of proposed buildings

All of the above are relevant in Glen Eira when we have:

  • The Inkerman Road bike path issue
  • The massive proposed expenditure on multi level car parking in Bentleigh & Carnegie
  • The Carnegie Pool redevelopment that will cost a fortune

Naturally, this administration would never welcome a situation where councillors could and potentially would question budget decisions and policies in an open and transparent fashion where councillors would be given the opportunity to voice their concerns and potential opposition. That is anathema to a council determined to present the facade of a ‘unified front’ even when there is community opposition!

Please read carefully what Bayside councillors are allowed to propose and consider what such a ‘rule’ could achieve in Glen Eira!

Congratulations to Save Glen Eira for their terrific effort in collecting 1667 signatures in a very short time. We have also been told that there are even more with late signatures also coming in.

See: https://www.facebook.com/savegleneira/

Hopefully this kind of response will once and for all put a stop to the myths that residents are ‘satisfied’ with planning, open space, environmental sustainability, and consultation by this council. Residents have spoken and we can only assume that they desire major change and a council that does listen and act in accordance with residents’ wishes.

Over the past few years there have been numerous issues which have raised the ire of many residents, evincing passions that have hitherto been unknown in this community. We are referring to the various draft structure plans, the proposed Inkerman bike path, as well as the Carnegie Pool redevelopment for the current projected cost of $51 million. Why this has and is happening relates directly to council’s overall approach to ‘consultation’ and the methodology for disseminating vital information.

A few overarching comments and questions to begin with:

  • How reasonable is it to release hundreds upon hundreds of pages of documents and expect residents to fully understand, or have the time, to read, digest, analyse, and then comment on any proposal?
  • How reasonable is it to present ‘designs’ that provide no essential data such as cost, or vital information on current traffic data, the percentage of green open space, versus concrete; the potential for overshadowing of open space; the number of proposed tree plantings versus removal of existing trees, etc.?
  • Is the ‘top down’ approach really providing residents with clear options based on the above?
  • Is the timing of forums the best approach for those who work, or for families with children – ie during the day, or smack in the middle of dinner time or bed time for young kids?
  • Are the questions asked in surveys truly designed to elicit informed choices?
  • Are the resulting officer or consultant reports a true reflection of the feedback provided?
  • How can the goals of transparency and accountability be integrated fully into all consultation methods?

We believe that residents and councillors deserve a lot better if the goal is truly ‘evidence based’ decision making as has been stated again and again. What is asked, and how it is asked and analysed validly, remains the cornerstone of sound consultation. How this is then reported becomes crucial.

Below we highlight our reservations plus providing recommendations to improve the process and to address the above bullet points.

STRUCTURE PLANNING

Council’s first step in the process of developing structure plans came in 2017 with its surveys on ‘activity centres’.  Fair enough! But did the actual questions provide residents with a realistic insight into what they were actually commenting upon? When the phrase ‘shopping strip’ is used again and again, how many respondents had any inkling that this could, and did, lead to the rezoning of surrounding residential streets? How many respondents had any inkling that the size of their activity centre was to be expanded when the terminology used was consistently ‘study area’? And how on earth could the resulting reports be so out of kilter with the data actually provided? (See: https://gleneira.blog/2017/03/21/structure-planning-consultation-2/

Here is an image of what was asked. Please note the continued and slanted emphases on ‘shopping strip’. Not one single question was designed to elicit responses to the matters that had clearly concerned residents for eons – namely building heights, open space, and parking.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTIVITY CENTRE STRUCTURE PLANNING CONSULTATIONS

  • Provide residents with a short, informative Discussion Paper that emphasises in a succinct manner all the pros and cons of what is proposed.
  • Ensure that council resolutions are carried through. For example, it was resolved on the 23rd May 2017 that council: endorses the creation of the Activity Centre Community Advisory Committee and request the expression of interest for community members. This never eventuated!!!!!!
  • When the Glen Eira News provides articles on the issue, then it must include all the relevant details being considered.. This was not done in either the April, June, July, November, 2017 editions. Unless residents were prepared to plough through reams of documents, they would not have had any inkling that 12 storeys was being considered for Elsternwick and Carnegie. Even with the final announcement of April 2018 (see below) those residents who had not followed the issue closely would not know what had been passed. Instead we have the usual jargon of ‘right buildings’ in the ‘right locations’, or the import of the word ‘guidelines’ (ie prescriptive or discretionary) without any real information being communicated. All is made to sound wonderful in what can only be interpreted as nothing more than another public relations exercise rather than information provision!

  • Ensure that questions included in surveys are not nebulous and vague – that they direct residents to the crux of issues. For example, would it have been too hard to include questions along these lines –
  • What do you consider to be an appropriate height for Centre Road buildings?
  • Are you in favour of any council sell off of public land to consolidate car parking in one spot?
  • Where would you like to see extra open space created and why?
  • What parking restrictions should council consider for this activity centre?

Council did not come close to asking questions of this ilk!

Finally, why shouldn’t the Community Engagement Committee vet proposed questionnaires and surveys? Why must everything be a top-down approach? And why shouldn’t residents be directly involved in the analyses of any responses? Unless of course, council’s main objective has been to push through its agendas regardless of what residents say they want. And there is plenty of evidence to support this notion, sadly!!!

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