GE Planning


Whilst Glen Eira goes about doubling the size of its activity centres, Bayside does the reverse. The image below shows their draft structure plan for Highett where the borders are reduced from 2006 and where much Neighbourhood Residential zoned land is significantly removed from the current draft.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Apologies for this very, very long, but important post.

Yesterday (1st May) in Parliament, MP Hayes moved the following motion. What follows is extracts from his long speech, plus further extracts from the Labor member (Ms Shing) as well as from the Greens (Dr Ratnor). For those interested, we have uploaded the full Hansard transcript and readers will find the relevant sections under the ‘Planning Policy’. The uploaded document is available HERE.

Mr HAYES (Southern Metropolitan) (14:04): I move:

That this house calls on the government to give greater weight to the local planning policy framework by:

(1) amending section 84B of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 so that the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is required to give effect to local planning policies, rather than just take planning schemes into account;

(2) amending section 60 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 so that VCAT ‘must’ rather than ‘may’ consider ‘any strategic plan, policy statement, code or guideline which has been adopted by a minister, other government department, public authority or municipal council’; and

(3) requiring the Minister for Planning to implement mandatory height controls rather than discretionary height controls when mandatory controls are sought, at the height requested by municipal councils in planning scheme amendments, either on an interim or a permanent basis.

I am sure there are people in this Parliament who disagree with me when I put forward the virtues of a detached house with a front and a back yard. They prefer high-rise. They like urban consolidation. They are, of course, absolutely entitled to that view, and there is room for a balance between the two. But what I am saying is that we listen to planners who responded to the needs of the community back then, and where there is disagreement, the way you resolve it in a democracy is by giving people a voice, a say. Let the people decide. Then for planning matters, let the local residents decide. It is their neighbourhood, it is their community and it is their environment. They are the ones who have to live there and take care of it.

One of the most galling things about the push towards urban consolidation and the push towards rapid multi-unit and high-rise development—the move away from even flats, let alone houses with front yards and backyards—has been the way that local communities have been systematically robbed of any say in the decision-making on issues that affect them and their living environment very directly. In my view it is one of the drivers of the political alienation and unhappiness in the electorate that commentators constantly remark on these days. It is one of the drivers of the move away from the big parties, which ignore the concerns of local residents, which parties like Sustainable Australia are benefiting from.

Now, I accept at once that councils are not perfect, not by any means—in some cases far from it. I have been a councillor and a mayor myself and have worked with many councils. I am not starry-eyed or naive about them, but they are ultimately democratically accountable. Voters can get rid of councillors who are not reflecting their views or values. The same cannot be said for the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, known to all of us as VCAT, which the state government has given the authority to override councils. It does so constantly.

Let me give the house a few examples from the daily litany of a body that runs rampant over public opinion. In McKinnon, at 242–250 McKinnon Road, the Glen Eira council proposed a height limit of four storeys after consulting the community. VCAT allowed the property developers to have six storeys. In Dudley Street, West Melbourne, the City of Melbourne rejected a 25-storey mixed-use development, arguing that the building exceeded local height limits and was insufficiently set back from Dudley Street. VCAT granted the application. At 9 Royal Avenue, Glen Huntly, Glen Eira City Council allowed a developer to have a four-storey building. The developers were not happy with that and went to VCAT seeking five storeys. VCAT gave them the five storeys, saying that it would only be two storeys taller than the prevailing local context of robust two-storey buildings with hipped roofs and that a four-storey building would be an inefficient use of the site. Really?

We are often told that high-rise buildings are the way to give us housing affordability. If that is their purpose, they have failed miserably. Young people have never been further away from owning their own home.

So what needs to change? In our view, it is not complicated—two words: local democracy. Give the local residents the power in relation to planning. The Planning and Environment Act 1987 is supposed to establish a framework for planning the use, development and protection of land in Victoria in the present and long-term interests of all Victorians. The act enables our councils to develop planning policies—strategies—and to implement planning controls—zones and overlays. These policies are created through rigorous local community engagement and independent analysis to develop a framework which will protect the interests of our cities

But section 60(1) of the act, which sets out the matters that must be considered by the responsible authority, including VCAT, does not include the strategic planning policies developed by councils. Instead these important policies are relegated to the category of policies that may be considered by VCAT. We should amend section 60 so that VCAT must be required to take properly gazetted and adopted policies, including local council policies, into account. These policies are not just whims; these policies also, as I said, must be adopted. They must have passed the minister’s perusal at some stage, so they are approved council policies.

we are aiming here for a much more modest outcome, by trying to tilt the present imbalance in VCAT decisions towards local democracy. I call on this house to support giving people a say in something that has real impact on their lives: the character of the street, the suburb and the municipality in which they live. The progressive erosion of people’s rights in planning matters has been soul-destroying for those who get caught up in these unequal David and Goliath struggles. It is one of the things driving voter alienation, driving cynicism about politics and political leaders and driving voters away from the major parties. You might think you have got away with it, but it has not gone unnoticed. I urge you to support this motion, and I indicate that I am ready to sit down at any time with any interested member of this house to discuss planning reform—not more planning deregulation, not more power for property developers, but real planning reform, which is an idea whose time has well and truly come.

+++++++++

(MS SHING) One of the challenges that we have here is, firstly, in the preamble of the motion itself. Moving to the first point of the motion as drafted, there is a proposal to amend section 84B of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 so that the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal—VCAT—is required to give effect to local planning policies rather than just take local planning schemes into account. One of the other challenges that we have here, and that is also reflected in other parts of the motion itself, is the mandatory rather than discretionary application of policy to decision-making processes, which in and of themselves will vary depending on the individual circumstances, and which we have seen in various ways apply across the height control and other decision-making processes that have been undertaken by local councils, by government and by VCAT in previous decisions.

So rather than in fact providing the sort of certainty that local communities are wanting—which seems to underpin the drafting of the motion as put by Mr Hayes—we see that this will have, perhaps paradoxically, the consequence of creating less certainty for local communities on the basis that there will be more complexity and more uncertainty and indeed greater costs associated with people and bodies who apply for permits in certain circumstances

One of the challenges that we have here is that the complexity of these issues, the distinguishing features between mandatory controls and discretionary elements of decision-making, creates a further level of difficulty when we look at the way in which we interpret this particular motion moved by Mr Hayes today. In regard to the requirements set out as proposed in paragraph 1 we see that there is an endeavour to require VCAT to give effect to local planning policies rather than taking planning schemes into account. The very purpose of taking planning schemes into account is in fact linked back directly to meeting those obligations under the way in which we give effect to those local planning policies. This is in fact something which strikes me as an extraordinarily complex, confounding element of the motion, which I am not sure gives effect to perhaps what may have been intended here

In giving councils the opportunity to provide a level of flexibility and some discretion in their decision-making, we are assisting councils, and agencies indirectly, with complicated and evolving matters that need to be considered in their own circumstances—that cannot simply be resolved by a simple line or a desktop assessment or a measurement or a metric which may be undertaken through, for example, a pure desktop review.

It is about having decision-making which is more dexterous and more representative of what is occurring on the ground. This is something which I think the planning scheme nobly aspires to achieve in the context of decisions which are fit for the purpose of a range of different circumstances. So these sorts of land use and planning issues again need that slightly nuanced and different decision each time. It is in fact something which might otherwise give rise to grounds for appeal or legal proceeding, where certain matters in individual circumstances have not been taken appropriately into account or have not been given sufficient weight or, for example, using administrative legal principles, where irrelevant matters have been taken into account. So this is a theme which runs through the motion itself in the context of potentially vast unintended consequences in the event that the motion were to be agreed to and were to succeed.

If we look, for example, at the City of Moreland, it has adopted a local policy that bans minimum car parking amounts in Brunswick, Coburg and Glenroy. On the one hand we have a really significant benefit here that some may claim is actually delivering substantive gains from a sustainability perspective, but on the other when we look at the location of these areas they are in key shopping districts and retail strips. When we look at the practical application of these particular decisions and we think about the way in which that might impact upon car parking amounts for a parent who is collecting groceries on the way back from collecting the kids from school, or someone who is dropping off delivery goods to those retail and trade precincts and cannot park along local roads because there is not any space left, we then have a specific and very localised challenge. That is why in fact the imposition of a mandatory scheme fails to take account of those practical considerations that apply on an everyday basis.

requiring VCAT to take into consideration as a matter of compulsion every single strategic plan, document or component of a decision-making process would in fact perversely—and I think paradoxically, as I have outlined already—perhaps diminish our capacity to have a really good, clear, consistent application of the planning scheme by VCAT in those situations.

The government will not be supporting this motion. It will, as I said, create a planning system which is unfair, which is inconsistent, costly and uncertain. Also, it will decrease the level of transparency which we are working towards. I note Mr Hayes’s motivations in moving this particular motion. I note the themes which underpin it around greater levels of transparency and certainty. Again, it would be the government’s view that to introduce changes in the form proposed by the provisions of the motion would be something which would fail to achieve these ends and in fact would compound the challenges which Mr Hayes has already outlined in his contribution today. So the government will be opposing this motion.

++++++++++

Dr RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (15:06): I welcome the opportunity to debate Victoria’s planning system in this place and thank Mr Hayes for bringing this motion to the house. Victoria’s planning system is broken. It is producing poor development outcomes that are unaffordable and unsustainable despite the community desperately wanting better quality housing stock. I saw this firsthand as a councillor and chair of the urban planning committee in a city in Victoria that continues to receive some of the highest numbers of planning applications annually

What we have instead is a system that has been deregulated so much and weakened to the point that there is hardly any certainty at all. What this results in is rampant speculation that leads to unaffordable and poor-quality housing. For example, a plot of land that could hold a five-storey building with, say, 30 apartments is routinely sold across this state by speculative developers as sites that can hold 10 storeys or 60 apartments, because the rules are uncertain and big property developers know how to game the system. The land is sold at an inflated price, predicated on this speculation, and the next landowner then needs to make sure that they make enough money off a development to cover those costs. Even though the council in that area may say, ‘We prefer a five-storey building because of all the strategic work that we have done over years to justify the different heights in different areas’, the developer puts in an application for an eight-storey building and passes on the inflated land costs to the new home owners. Meanwhile, deliberative developers, for example, who cap their profits to make housing more affordable for people are completely shut out of the market because they just cannot afford these inflated land prices

So who wins in this system? Those speculating on the system win while homebuyers and the community lose. No-one is saying, ‘Lock down our suburbs from providing more housing stock’. What this motion and motions like this say is that we have to find a better way to get more affordable and sustainable development outcomes across the board, because the stock we are getting is dog-box apartments with no light, ventilation or space to live in, and poor-quality interiors that deteriorate fast. They are reliant on fossil fuel intensive energy, pushing up utility prices and cost of living, all because successive planning ministers in this state, including this one, refuse to take the development industry on

the system is so skewed in the direction of rampant ministerial power which invariably favours big developers that the community has been left far behind. No wonder there is so much frustration in our community.

The Greens want Victoria’s urban planning system to place affordability, sustainability, democracy and certainty back at the centre of every planning decision. We want to make sure that we provide certainty by ensuring consistent controls. We want to protect our green wedges and the urban growth boundary, and to ensure residential zones are delivering the type of housing our community needs and wants. We want things like inclusionary zoning so that we can have more affordable housing across this state, and we want to restore the rights of our community in local decision-making. One of those reforms, for example, is reforming the VCAT appeals process to stop developers gaming the system so that VCAT becomes an administrative appeals body only rather than a merits review that is skewing the outcomes

We need to investigate the very worst of what is happening in our current system through a royal commission, something that the Greens have called for, and we have introduced a motion in this house to that effect

MOTION AGREED TO

COMMENTS

Hayes motion certainly has merit. We would however quibble with his assertion that councils’ planning schemes and laws are a result of what local communities want. The perfect example here is Glen Eira. We remind readers that Glen Eira introduced the residential zones without warning, without community consultation and without justification. They were hell bent on being the first council in the state to do so. The result is abysmal planning that is now acknowledged by the structure planning for Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick, where heritage areas are proposed to be rezoned from 4 storeys height limits to 2 storeys. The horse has bolted in many instances of course since countless of these streets  already havE 4 storey apartment blocks.

Even with the current structure planning processes,  community feedback has shown that the overwhelming majority of residents do not want 12 storeys. Nor have we had any valid empirical justification for such heights. Council has had the time to change the schedules for these structure plans. Instead we get drafts that maintain the 20% permeability requirement in GRZ areas as well as 25% in the minimal change areas. This flies in the face of promises made at the time of the Planning Scheme Review where site coverage, permeability, sustainability options like Water Sensitive Urban design were to be introduced. These things aren’t even on the horizon. VCAT has got nothing to do with these betrayals. That should be sheeted home to a council determined to facilitate more and more development and councillors who are either incapable or complicit in this venture.

So, when Hay speaks about ‘democracy’ and listening to residents, this does not apply in Glen Eira.

Finally, the examples provided by Hay (McKinnon Road, and Royal Avenue) got up at VCAT precisely because council had been derelict in coming up with any height control, guideline, preferred neighbourhood character statements that would stymie such developments. Thus from the gazetting of Amendment C25 in 2004 (which created the housing diversity, minimal change areas) council has done nothing of import to halt inappropriate development. And we still have to wait another 4 or 5 years for anything to happen to our neighbourhood centres. This has got nothing to do with VCAT and everything to do with Glen Eira City Council.

For those who think that a tree register is now a done deal, then last night’s council meeting is a rude awakening. The sticking point, as it has always been, is the issue of whether or not there should be controls placed on private land.

In a series of claims intended to wrench at the heartstrings we had Magee, Sztrajt, Esakoff and Cade stating that they were against laws that applied to private land, or which enabled neighbours to nominate trees on another’s land. Other spurious arguments like emergency situations, costs for home owners, etc. were also brought up.

Interestingly, Hyams was silent. His eventual vote therefore becomes crucial. Four out of the nine councilors have now made it clear that they will not support a tree register which covers private land, or at best which permits anyone from nominating a tree not on their own land. All it will take for this latest attempt to enter the 21st century is one more councillor to vote it out!

Most of the above arguments revolved around ‘individual rights’ over properties. These councilors seem to have forgotten their previous mantras that council works for the best interests of the entire community! We had this with the Elsternwick structure plan, with the current fiasco of the Inkerman bike path, and many other issues.

The motion eventually passed unanimously with that old argument that more reports are still to be presented to council before a final decision is made. We will not be holding our breath that after at least 15 years of dithering there will be something to celebrate for residents who care about what is happening on private land.

The agenda for Tuesday night features the 2019/20 Budget and Strategic Resource Plan. The latter encompasses a ten year timeline.

Whilst most budgets are admittedly subject to change and at best are often educated ‘guesstimates’ the changes in council’s plans from 2018/19 to the 2019/20 financial year are quite staggering. Please note the following:

  • Further delays in the implementation of major strategic planning projects
  • The huge blowout of costs on some of these. Even where the costs have been cited as a reduction, given that they are delayed we wonder how accurate these projections are since prices are sure to rise with delays and not reduce!
  • With $11.8 million still owing by the end of the next financial year, council is gearing up to borrow another $30 million!
  • Costs for rubbish, child care have gone up marginally, ie about $3 to $5 per item/day.
  • Council’s subsidy for pensioner rebates continues to decline. In 2016/17 council provided $58; in 2017/18 it went down to $48; in 2018/19 it was $42 and now for 2019/20 it is at an all time low of $36!
  • Council’s projected rate revenue is again based on 800 to 1000 new rateable properties. This is a repeat of last year’s budget and raises the question again of why we need 12 storeys and massive overdevelopment when council’s own documentation states that in order to meet forecast housing demand 800 dwellings per annum will suffice.

For ease of comparison, we present below a table that outlines the stated expenditure for the Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick structure plans. Of concern is:

  • The massive increase in cost for some of the items
  • The massive delay for implementation of car parks (ie 3 years for Horsely)
  • Why Bentleigh appears to be favoured overall in time lines when compared to Carnegie and even Elsternwick

There are also changes to Council’s ‘commitments’ in the Community/Council Plan that should be noted. We now have new jargon such as ‘Hidden Gems’ to replace the Major Heritage Review. Again this is put back years as has the promised ‘safe pedestrian pilot’. Other changes also exist and we urge residents to peruse these items carefully.

What remains a constant in Glen Eira is increasing staff. We will now have 860.19 Equivalent Full Time (EFT) an increase of close to 40 EFT. Also worth asking is why we could not find any mention of the projected sale of our aged care facilities and what this means to the budget, loans, etc?

The Good

The significant tree register issue is on the move. Item 9.6 of the current agenda proposes to:

  • Implement a tree register for both public and private land
  • Residents will have the opportunity to nominate trees
  • Review or objection rights will be included
  • Specific criteria based on the National Trust’s ‘standards’ will be applied

And the ‘drawbacks’?

  • Potential fines are miniscule
  • Not part of the planning scheme but only constituted as a Local Law
  • No indication as to the potential number of trees making it onto the register?
  • No indication of appeal rights for those who nominated a tree and then refused by council
  • No indication as to whether an application to remove a tree on the register will be decided by a full council hearing or left in the hands of officers? (Note that Bayside, Stonnington, etc. require such applications to go to council)
  • No time lines for completion

Overall, this is something that residents have been advocating for since at least 2003. It does represent a positive move by council.

The Bad

Selwyn Street Closure

We now have another  version of the proposed Selwyn Street closure. Please note that Gordon street does not change.

Below is the latest tinkering. Clearly the overwhelming opposition to the previous drafts have caused council to rethink the issue.

Here are the officer’s recommendations.

Please note the following:

  • Part 1(a) of the motion recommends that councilors approve the closure as ‘generally in accordance’ with the new design
  • Part 1(b) presents the option of not “exercise(ing) the power”, meaning do nothing and a refusal of the design.
  • Part 2 of the motion is the most fascinating. Another more ‘detailed’ report is to be made some time in the future but prior to closure of the street. If councilors vote for Part 1(a) does this mean that ‘detailed’ analysis will be conducted post closure of Selwyn Street?

The argument for acting now and doing the research later is lamentable in our view.  We’re told that closing Selwyn Street first is

essential to be undertaken prior to a full and detailed design process commencing, and before significant time and resources are spent on developing a design of the cultural precinct. It is crucial that the process to effect traffic changes precedes any further design work to ensure that the precinct design is being developed to an operational and functional framework that is able to be implemented, where the key parameters are known and have been decided by Council 

This is nothing but hogwash. Surely it is incumbent on council to ensure that whatever it does is in the best interests of the community and that this be based on sound technical and detailed analysis. Instead council’s approach to everything it seems has been to produce half baked ideas based on substandard plans that lack empirical justification and achieve nothing except to alienate most in the community. We have seen this time and time again with the Inkerman Road bike paths, playground upgrades, and street closures for so called ‘open space’.

Perhaps residents should start querying the capability of our designers, planners, traffic management people and ask how much each design and accompanying reiterations have cost in terms of production, staff time, consultants, etc? We have no doubt that any changes council produces is NOT the result of their technical know how, but simply the outcry from residents. It is a sad state of affairs when rates pay so much for so called ‘expertise’ and all we continue to get is second rate planning with no thought to curbing expenditure.

And talking of expenditure, we urge all readers to have a look at the budget and the Strategic Resource Plan. Page 5 of this document tells us that council is looking to spend $90 million on Bentleigh, Carnegie & Elsternwick over the next 10 years. Not a word about neighbourhood centres or structure plans for these areas!

We will comment on the budget and the SRP in our next post.

 

Presented below is today’s council Media Release. Please note the following:

  • It’s all about money
  • Not a word about strategic planning and halting the overdevelopment in Glen Eira

Council has distinguished itself by failing to make any public comment on recent State Government changes to planning schemes and legislation. We can only suspect that any criticism of government will not be rewarded by millions as ‘pay off’. There have been innumerable instances where council should have stood up for its residents if ‘advocacy’ was genuine. What we had was absolute silence.

It’s also worth pondering whether these projects do in fact represent money well spent. We remind readers that the Bentleigh Library underwent a million dollar plus renovation in the past few years. Community views on the Carnegie market were never solicited appropriately and the comments that have been received remain highly dubious as to the potential ‘success’ of these grandiose plans.

More importantly however, please compare how other councils ‘advocate’ for their residents when they feel it is important to highlight state government actions that will have a negative impact on their municipalities. Here are two examples from the Mayor’s Blog from Boroondara. Again, no such public comment from Glen Eira and definitely not a word of criticism to be found. As we’ve stated: this isn’t ‘advocacy’ it is a sell out.

The reality of the Victorian Government’s Reformed Residential Zones

Boroondara Mayoral Blog

Thu 25 May 2017

Accommodating Melbourne’s unprecedented population growth is not an easy task. It requires all three levels of government to work together, respectfully.

Unfortunately, local councils and specifically the planning system are unjustly targeted to address a housing supply and affordability problem. The most recent example is through the Reformed Residential Zones.

When the Victorian Government announced the reforms, we sent a letter to inform you about the impact of the reforms to the zone that you live in and asked you to write to the Minister for Planning to express your concerns. Thank you to those who have taken the initiative. Your voice is important in this debate.

It is disappointing to learn that in responding to the community’s concerns, the Minister has attacked Council for representing the interests of our community, accusing us of making “petty political arguments” and calling us “mischievous” and “deliberately misleading”.

Let’s look at the facts.

In the Neighbourhood Residential Zones (NRZ), the limit of two dwellings to a lot has been removed. In the General Residential Zones (GRZ), irrespective of the established character of these areas, the new height limit is 11m with a
maximum of three storeys.* As we outlined in our letter to you, “… the removal of the dwelling density requirement will have a significant impact on potential development outcomes in the NRZ.

The fact that properties within the NRZ can now be developed for more than two dwellings means that the NRZ is going to experience more intensive in-fill development in areas that were previously identified for minimal change. Coupled with the increase in building height, multi-unit development and apartment style development proposals are likely to be the inevitable consequence of the reformed zone.”

Nothing in the above statement is incorrect. In his letter, the Minister doesn’t deny the above facts, but rather deflects from the reality created by the new zones. For the Minister to suggest that the changes to the zones won’t lead to more intensive in-fill development is simply untrue.

The new mandatory garden area requirement introduced by the Minister will have little positive impact on the design of development beyond what is already required under existing planning controls, and will not achieve the protection of neighbourhood character or amenity as stated by the Minister.

There was no opportunity for either Council or the community to comment on the new controls before they were introduced.

Council did provide a submission to the Minister’s Managing Residential Development Advisory Committee, which reported the outcome of the residential zones review to the Minister. However, the Minister’s reforms go much further than what
his own committee recommended.

We are deeply concerned for the future of our City. Victoria needs a responsible longterm strategy for the provision of housing to retain Melbourne’s mantle as one of the world’s most liveable cities, not short-term planning reform that will line the pockets of developers and inextricably change the character of our suburbs forever.

We will not stop voicing our concerns about the reforms. We urge you to do the same. You can write to the Minister for Planning by emailing Richard Wynne.

*This change doesn’t currently apply to our current GRZ1, GRZ2 and GRZ3 areas. However, these zones will inevitably lose their existing stricter height requirements after three years.

Cr Phillip Healey
Mayor

Source: https://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/about-council/news-and-media/boroondara-mayoral-blog/boroondara-mayoral-blog/reality-victorian-governments-reformed-residential-zones

Victorian Government weakens protection of Boroondara’s neighbourhood character

Boroondara Mayoral Blog

Tue 28 March 2017

The Minister for Planning’s decision to reform residential zones is unravelling the protection of Boroondara’s neighbourhood character.

About 80 percent of our residential area is classified as Neighbourhood Residential Zone where the maximum number of dwellings on a lot is two and the maximum building height limit is 8 metres.

Yesterday, the Minister removed the limit of two dwellings to a lot and increased the mandatory building height limit to 9 metres. The changes were made without consultation with local residents, communities and Council.

The Minister argued that the reformed residential zones “will be fair and provide certainty for all of our suburbs”, “provide for new housing opportunities” and “get the balance right”. We strongly disagree with his argument.

There is no transparency, accountability and justification to the proposed changes. The extensive process of planning work required to introduce the current residential zones by Boroondara and other municipalities has effectively been thrown out at the stroke of a pen. It is heavy handed and unfair.

Council’s planning policies have created capacity for an additional 62,546 dwellings which is more than four times the Victorian Government’s own forecast dwelling need for the area by 2031. These policies have clearly been working as Boroondara has the second highest spend on building projects in Victoria.

What will be certain is that the reformed residential zones will result in more intensive in-fill development in areas that our community has told us they want to preserve. The changes will have long lasting negative impacts on our highly valued streetscapes.

The Minister hasn’t got the balance right. He has tipped the balance in favour of increased density that will only benefit developers and destroy both Boroondara’s and Melbourne’s liveability.

We are deeply disappointed by the Minister’s decision. We urge community members to write to the Minister for Planning (richard.wynne@parliament.vic.gov.au) to voice their concerns.

Cr Phillip Healey
Mayor

Source: https://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/about-council/news-and-media/boroondara-mayoral-blog/boroondara-mayoral-blog/victorian-government-weakens-protection-boroondaras-neighbourhood-character

PS: Here’s another post that could be compared to Amendment C157 and Wynne’s refusal to grant Elsternwick mandatory height limits. In contrast, our council meekly accepts the outcome it would seem. Since this mayoral post Boroondara has achieved mandatory 3 storey height limits for 15 of its neighbourhood centres.

See: https://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/about-council/news-and-media/boroondara-mayoral-blog/boroondara-mayoral-blog/minister-plannings-discretionary-height-policy-lead-suboptimal-outcome-boroondara

Council has released a new set of documents that underpin the planning for the Elsternwick South ‘masterplan’. Accompanying these documents is the invitation to provide feedback via the Have Your Say web link.

All of this sounds marvelous! Except that we have to wonder whether:

  • This is the ‘best’ way to conduct ‘consultation’ and
  • What ‘value’ the Have Your Say survey really has

The Elsternwick South area is pivotal in that the current proposals, together with the overall Structure Plan for the northern areas will change the face of Elsternwick forever if implemented. The vast majority of residents have already made it clear that:

  • 12 storeys is unacceptable
  • Overshadowing is an issue
  • Traffic is an issue
  • Lack of open space is an issue

The newly published documents are supposed to address most of these concerns. But do they? And do the surveys come within cooeee of asking residents what they think about the proposals themselves? Or are they merely a set of feel good questions that everyone can agree with whilst parading as genuine ‘consultation’?

Here is what could and should have happened if council is genuine in wanting informed feedback from the community.

  • Given the significance of this area why has council not produced a simple, objective, ‘Discussion paper’ as the first step in the consultation process that outlines all the pros and cons of the various aspects and the recommendations? As it stands now, those residents interested in the issue will need to read, analyse and comment on well over 200 pages of new documentation. This is on top of what has already been published, making the grand total of recent documents dealing with this area to well over 486 pages. If we include the ‘past documents’, then we are approaching close to 1500 pages. https://www.haveyoursaygleneira.com.au/elsternwick-urban-renewal-south-masterplan/documents. How many residents will bother?
  • The Have Your Say and survey questions need to be directly addressing the efficacy of the proposals in these reports. They don’t! Instead we get the following which isn’t asking the vital question ‘Do you think these road closures will address the parking and traffic concerns? Please explain”.

  • The 4 proposals concerning road closures would now appear to be set in concrete  and residents are simply asked to ‘prioritise’ them. Yes, we do get the ‘other comments’ section but unless residents bother to read through the documentation carefully, and analyse what is proposed, then we suspect that most comments will be easily ignored. No choices are provided to residents regarding rat running in neighbouring streets. Nor is there any question relating to residents’ views on parking, safety, etc. In short, the focus is entirely on St James Parade.

  • The first part of the survey is basically nothing more than motherhood statements. Of course no one in their right mind would be in favour of creating rat runs, or endangering safety, or be indifferent to congestion, etc. Again these have to be ‘ranked’. Why? Surely it can be assumed that the entire list of ‘problems’ is something that needs fixing. The question is again, do the reports and recommendations actually ‘fix’ any of them? Does the ranking then mean that the end result of the strategic planning will only seek to address the top 5 priorities and ignore the rest? Or will we get the argument that a ‘balance’ has to be achieved and we can’t do everything? More importantly, how many of these ‘problems’ are remedied via the report recommendations? Couldn’t council have produced some neat little table that displayed such information in a clear and accessible manner?
  • The other survey option is titled ‘tell us your ideas for resolving these issues’. Please note that again there is no connection with the report recommendations. Simply pie in the sky questions that could apply to anywhere and not specifically the sites under investigation.

It is surely time that council got its act together and produced some consultation techniques that were genuine, meaningful, and truly intended to seek the best results. Time and again we have had councilors apologizing to the gallery for their poor consultation methods but nothing has been done to remedy the situation. We continue to get sham consultations, (or no consultation as with aged care) and processes that are simply there to endorse what has already been decided.

We have not commented on the documents themselves at this stage. All we will say at this stage is the irony that council’s consultants chose to use as part of their standard for traffic generation the Woolworth’s traffic assessment that accompanied the latter’s application! Then to top it all off, there is a further reduction in the standard because council aims for a 60% reduction in car use! Thus we get this gem:

Therefore, if this reduction rate is applied to the peak hour generation rate of 0.4 trips per dwelling, a generation rate of approximately 0.19 trips per dwelling could be adopted for the apartments within the proposed Elsternwick Urban Renewal Area South development. 

What this means of course is that every apartment will only produce 0.19 trips per peak hour instead of the 0.4 trips that date back to 2002 guidelines. Unbelievable hocus pocus!

Residents’ antennas should also be raised at the potential ramifications of this sentence:

……given the 60% public transport target, it could be realistically be proposed that 25% of apartments in the renewal area would have no parking spaces.

So with 1500 dwellings proposed (and no justification for this number) are residents to assume that developers will be given the gift of nearly 400 apartments with no parking spots?

We urge all readers to carefully consider these documents and to make your views on the consultation process itself known to this council.  It’s well and truly time that residents stopped accepting a process that is anything but adequate and appropriate.

« Previous PageNext Page »