GE Service Performance

How much longer will council officers be allowed to fudge the facts and get away with it? Statement after statement made by these officers at Thursday night’s webinar was not only incorrect, but it was selective, misleading, and failed to provide participants with the full picture. Either these planners are not acquainted with the relevant legislation, or they are misrepresenting what is written in order to support the decisions they have already made. Either way, they need to be called out and held to account. This is the purpose of this post.

Two officers claimed that the Planning Practice Notes only require councils to ‘consider’ neighbourhood character in the General Residential Zone. The major quote was:

The General Residential Zone is a zone that allows up to three storey development and the Practice Note associated with the Residential zone says that the purpose of the zone is that it is to consider neighbourhood character as opposed to the Neighbourhood Residential Zone which is to respect existing neighbourhood character….


The Planning Practice Notes are basically there to ‘explain’ and expand on the Victorian Planning Provisions that are in every single planning scheme.

The word ‘consider’ does not feature anywhere in the Practice Notes in relation to the General Residential Zone. What is stated is this (from Planning Practice Note 91):

While the purpose of the GRZ includes ‘To encourage development that respects the neighbourhood character of the area’, it is unlikely that neighbourhood character can be respected if existing development is single and double storey. However, the GRZ may be the appropriate zone to apply to areas with existing three-storey development.

Council should then have to explain why they have ear marked countless streets that contain only single and double storey buildings to now become 3 and 4 storey given the above paragraph. Clearly, the intent is for increased density and nothing else as explained in another quote from this practice note:

…. it may be appropriate to exempt the minimum garden area requirement in the GRZ where a planning authority is seeking to recognise existing development conditions or to promote a denser urban form of housing than currently exists to achieve other housing objectives

From the following image taken from the Housing Strategy, it appears that Council would have us believe that removing the garden requirement is primarily so that the Urban Forest Strategy and sustainability can be ‘improved’.

The Housing Capacity document is far more forthcoming when it states: Garden area requirements appear to be a constraint on development take-up and density in both the GRZ and NRZ (page ix)

And then from the very same document we also find: The GRZ zones have relatively high average development densities, as most developments in this zone are three storey apartment buildings rather than townhouses or villa developments. (page 48)

And from page 68: With the proposed changes …..the current extent of the general residential zone limits the take-up rate, and so applying this zone to more land will provide a greater supply of potential sites to developers and increase the development rate.

Finally this statement from page 69 – A further increase in development rates in areas formerly zoned GRZ2 of 50% will occur reflecting the reduction or removal of rear setback requirements to facilitate development.

If the argument as presented by council is that what is required is townhouses and ‘medium density’, then the above quotes illustrate completely, that the real objective is to cram as many new apartment blocks as possible into our suburbs. How on earth this council even has the gall to argue that removing the garden requirement in the GRZ will facilitate better ‘sustainability’ and landscaping outcomes is simply mind boggling, or that what will eventuate are townhouses!

There is absolutely no way that last night’s webinar could be construed as ‘consultation’. It was nothing more than an officer talk fest, carefully designed to limit community participation and for this administration to fully control every aspect. We elaborate:

  1. The only voices (and faces) that were seen and heard, were those of the four officers in attendance and the facilitator
  2. The number of participants was not revealed and nor could they read out their questions.
  3. Questions contributed during the evening only went to the officers and were not revealed to participants. We have no idea how many questions were submitted.
  4. Many of the questions were paraphrased by Torres, rather than read out verbatim
  5. Responses were general and more than half did not specifically answer the question. For example, the rationale for height increases was simply put down to ‘urban design’ recommendations. Responses on ‘sustainability’ were frankly abysmal.
  6. Specifics were totally absent – ie no mention of the removal of the garden requirement; no mention of the proposed new nrz which would increase site coverage, reduce setbacks, etc.
  7. Responses to questions submitted prior to the evening lasted precisely 13 minutes. We then had another 13 minutes of ward ‘explanations’ that again refused to mention the most important aspects of the proposed changes.

More disappointing is that only four councillors were announced as being present – Esakoff, Magee, Szmood and Zyngier – although they could not be seen and nor were they given the opportunity to say anything.

What happened last night is nothing short of disgraceful. We would even go as far as stating that there has literally been NO CONSULTATION whatsoever on the housing strategy. When residents are denied the opportunity to speak, to hear/or read what other residents think, and to be continually fobbed off with double speak and weasel words, this is the opposite of ‘consultation’. At best, this was nothing more than another ‘information’ evening – and even that failed to reveal the full facts to participants. Providing skewed and misleading information is NOT consultation. At no point in anything that has happened thus far have residents been asked the most important question that genuinely seeks their views – namely:

  • What do you think of our proposed changes to zones, garden requirements, sustainability, etc?

For those readers who wish to hear what occurred last night we have uploaded the full audio. The audio starts after about 40 seconds. Apologies for the quality of the sound. Council couldn’t even get this right it seems!

Also worth mentioning that the evening finished 10 minutes early.  Does this mean that all questions were dealt with, or it was simply decided to cut the evening short?



Council has now provided the Zoom link for tomorrow nights Housing Strategy Webinar. They have also included an agenda, presented below.

Judging by the published agenda, ‘presentations’ by officers will dominate most of the 90 minute scheduled meeting. Unacceptable!!!!!!!

Furthermore, why is the program divided into wards? Does this mean that comments made by Tucker Ward residents will not be admissable if the program is at the Rosstown ward section? Again, unacceptable!!!!!!

Furthermore, a Housing Strategy, is NOT about wards. It is about the entire municipality, and the principles embedded in the strategy that will shape land use. For example: the general residential zoning exists in all wards. What if some residents wish to comment on the proposed removal of the mandatory garden requirement, as a concept, and not necessarily how it relates to either Rosstown, Tucker, or Camden? Will they be told ‘this isn’t a question’ as stated in the agenda?

All in all, the deliberate and calculated machinations of this council to avoid anything resembling genuine consultation is quite literally unbelievable. Either those in charge have no idea of what consultation means, or they are simply doing everything possible to negate and undermine the expected flood of negative responses. But, and a big but, the URL is now available. We again urge all residents to log on and to tell this council administration, planners, and some councillors, exactly what they think of their strategic planning and continued failure to represent community views.

Criticism after criticism has for ages now been directed at council’s ‘consultation’ methods. Countless comments have highlighted:

  • The failure to incorporate, or even acknowledge resident feedback in officer reports
  • The absence of Discussion Papers that provide a complete and accurate overview of what is proposed in an accessible, short summary format. Instead residents are expected to plough through hundreds upon hundreds of pages instead of simply being told: this is what we are planning to introduce.
  • Survey questions that are anything but open ended or are geared to gaining genuine and relevant feedback
  • Drop in sessions that are mostly set down for times that are unsuitable for many residents.
  • The failure to implement councillor resolutions – ie on the Housing Strategy both councillors and the Consultation Committee were to be part of vetting the survey questions. We have been informed that the Consultation committee received the draft questions late Friday afternoon and were told to provide feedback by the coming Sunday. In order to provide any decent feedback, this meant that the committee members had to have read 589 pages of associated documentation – all on a weekend! We doubt that any changes occurred as a result of any feedback that did come in.

Adding further insult to injury, this coming Thursday, (24th March @ 6.30-8pm) council has scheduled a ‘webinar’ on the Housing Strategy. Registration is essential. The blurb states: Our independently-facilitated webinar will include a presentation by our planning officers, followed by a Q&A session. What this actually means is:

  • Probably one third to half of the 90 minutes will be taken up by officers
  • A Q & A session is not designed to hear what residents really think. It would come under the rubric of an ‘information session’ and not a ‘feedback session’.
  • In the past very few councillors attended. Will this be the same on Thursday?
  • For the past few ‘webinars’ residents were unable to copy items from the chat feature. This must be changed so that all attendees can see and respond to what others have said.

If council is really serious in receiving feedback from its residents then the following should happen:

  • No officer introductions. Immediate hand over to residents to state their views on various aspects of the Housing Strategy.
  • No registration required. If someone wants to log in at any stage they should be able to do so.
  • The evening be recorded and uploaded on council’s website for all to see/listen
  • Full zoom features to be available to all participants.
  • Councillors free to comment without being gagged.

For too many years now, this council has been allowed to get away with a ‘tick the box’ consultation methodology, that is anything but genuine consultation.  If residents, and councillors, really care about what is happening to the municipality, then it is vital that resident voices are heard loudly and clearly. Please attend this Thursday evening.

PS: We’ve just received the following from Save Glen Eira which is being distributed to all streets impacted by the proposed changes in the Housing Strategy.

PPS: please have a read and listen to the following. Another example of the depths this council can stoop to. Remember that twice this application was unanimously rejected. Now decisions are made in secret by what constitutes a minority of councillors.

Council has decided to cave in on the 10-16 Selwyn Street application for two 10 storey towers, and a major supermarket. All done in secret at the last council meeting. The minutes did not record the vote. This decision flies in the face of what has been determined over the past few years. Please note:

  1. 2 unanimous councillor decisions to refuse the permit
  2. VCAT refusing the first permit
  3. Council’s refusal to employ anything ‘higher’ than a solicitor for this second VCAT hearing
  4. May street status still left uncertain and council unwilling to share their legal advice on this issue
  5. For all the talk about the Jewish Cultural Centre, and access to this ‘pedestrian’ mall, council has (deliberately?) dragged its feet in its stated objective of closing off part of the street. Two years down the track, we still have the same traffic conditions.

As far as we know, the only ‘concessions’ made by the applicant are to remove one storey from the proposed 10 storey tower, and to increase setbacks for this tower. At best this is likely to be nothing more than a 3 metre reduction. Nothing has been stated on traffic, the objective of pedestrianising Selwyn Street when there is an admitted potential for 5,000 additional cars in the street, the loading bay directly opposite a primary school level crossing, etc. etc. etc.

The end result is that objectors will be fighting both council and the applicant at the upcoming VCAT hearing. Why these new plans were agreed to by council remains secret. We can only conjecture what occurred last Tuesday night, but it is worth remembering that:

  • Only 7 councillors were in attendance – Zhang and Pilling were absent
  • We very much doubt that the decision was unanimous. Hence a minority of Glen Eira councillors decided council’s position on this application.
  • What arguments were used by the pro permit lobby – ie costs involved for council? Heritage can be ‘sacrificed’ as has happened plenty of times before? Some secret deals involving May Street – maybe a section 173 agreement where council is paid off?

Whatever the reasons and the arguments, we maintain that the lack of transparency and accountability by this council is unconscionable – as is their responsibility to ensure that ‘net community benefit’ is the result of all major planning decisions. This cave in benefits no-one except the developer and those parties who were provided with a so-called ‘discount’ of millions by supporting the application.

The following audio is from last night’s council meeting where one resident addressed council basically telling them how inadequate strategic planning has been and the consistent refusal to incorporate years of community feedback into the draft housing strategy. Please listen carefully:

Residents must really wonder what is the point of council creating and endorsing policy and strategy documents, when these are all ignored when it comes to development. Either we have policy or we don’t! The latest example of this is an application for 93-101 Poath Road, Murrumbeena. The applicant wants 8 storeys, 77 apartments, and a reduction in onsite car parking as well as some upper level setbacks of a miniscule 3 metres. There will be 6 shops, and the apartments are designated as: 29 one bedroom; 40 two bedroom and 8 three bedroom. That’s a ratio of 90% one and two bedroom apartments and the majority of these apartments will be less than 60 square metres in size.

More disturbing is the fact that in the past we have been told ad nauseum that if a policy is not enshrined in the planning scheme, then it bears little or no weight in the final recommendation. Whilst this officer report does repeat this mantra in reference to the proposed Planning Scheme Rewrite (C220) by stating: Council can have regard to the amendment as part of the assessment of this application but can only give it limited weight –   we then have a full 2 pages and a bit, itemising what this amendment proposes as justification for recommending a permit! We repeat: this proposed Amendment is yet to go through a planning panel. It is yet to be independently assessed and reported on. Yet, we have an officer’s report which bases much of the argument for a permit on something which does not as yet exist in the planning scheme.

There is much to challenge in this report. Some examples:

Neighbourhood centres are areas where substantial built form change is anticipated. Really? That’s not what the various versions of City Plan state, nor the Urban Design Guidelines!!!!

The subject site and broader commercial areas of the Hughesdale activity centre are not subject to specific building height controls within the Scheme, nor are there any proposed by way of overlay controls such as a Design and Development Overlay as can be seen in other centres across the municipality.

Thus the truth (inadvertently, we suspect) comes out. Council has absolutely no intention of ensuring that all commercial centres have appropriate height limits assigned to them. What does this augur for Ormond, McKinnon, Patterson, Gardenvale, etc. just to name a few neighbourhood centres currently without any controls in the commercial areas?

And since when does any report include such garbage as found in the Urban Design report:

Try to redesign the top edge of the building…….

Try to design the western side of the building…..

Try to prevent overlooking…..

Try to ensure that no additional service cabinets…..

Why ‘try’? Either the recommendation is that something doesn’t comply with current planning controls or it does, or whether these aspects of non-compliance may be addressed by conditions. Yet, none of this has occurred. Who is to ‘try’? and what if they don’t?

The bottom line, as we read things, is that council will bend over backwards, to ensure that developers get their permits – regardless of existing council policy, and what the current planning scheme states.

This is the latest permit application to come in for Caulfield North and underlines again how this council continues to fail its residents. We have a City Plan that nominates 5 storey height limits. We have Built Form Frameworks for Caulfield South, Caulfield North and Bentleigh East. None of these are anything but ‘guidelines’ and aren’t even part of the Planning Scheme, so therefore quite useless.

It’s not as if council didn’t know this was happening. The first permits for high rise along Hawthorn Road occurred about 6 years ago. The writing was on the wall. So what did council do? Bugger all, we say. No structure plan. No DDO. Nothing but sitting tight and giving developers a free hand. Even now, with the adopted Built Form Frameworks, council decided that they can’t do all three together. Caulfield South got in first. No time frame has been provided for anything on Caulfield North and East Bentleigh. All in the too hard basket.

It’s quite staggering to think that other councils such as Boroondara and Bayside are capable of producing amendments that cover multiple neighbourhood centres and activity centres in the one hit. In Boroondara they managed an amendment that covered 28 shopping precincts via the same amendment. Here in Glen Eira we are still waiting six and a half years later for a single permanent structure plan for Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick. The latter was not even included in the proposals for Bentleigh and Carnegie that constituted Amendment C184. Why? And what is the time line for when this area will be privy to its own structure plan.

This Council has an appalling track record on strategic planning. How one interprets this lack of progress is obviously in the eye of the beholder – either sheer incompetence or, an agenda that is geared towards facilitating as much development as possible. In the meantime it is residents who are paying the price with the destruction of their neighbourhoods, their environments, and residential amenity.

It is vitally important that residents have a clear understanding of the various ramifications of the proposed Housing Strategy and its associated documents. Council has acknowledged that approximately 11,000 current sites are in the firing line for various changes. Making matters worse is that areas currently zoned as General Residential Zone (3 storeys) or Residential Growth Zone (4 storeys) will basically remain unchanged – unless they include precincts with a heritage overlay. Only a handful of properties are mooted to have lower height requirements. The vast majority of these changes include:

  • Currently zoned properties in NRZ (2 storeys) will become available for 3 storeys and some 4 storeys
  • Currently zoned properties in GRZ (3 storeys) will have the mandatory garden requirement removed, setbacks removed, open space reduced
  • Currently zoned properties in NRZ (2 storeys) will have increased site coverage allowed; permeability requirements reduced, rear setbacks removed.

The stated justification for these changes are at best dubious, and at worst, statistically unjustified. We are told that the municipality has capacity for 50,000 new dwellings. All we ‘require’ according to population projections out to 2036 are 13,000. If this is indeed the case, then what is proposed is not only unnecessary, but will further destroy our suburbs and amenity.

The Council Argument

Despite our capacity for 50,000 new dwellings, council argues that what is missing are smaller ‘townhouses’ and ‘villa units’ (or medium density housing). This they believe will result in cheaper housing options, and hence all the proposed changes.

Here are some quotes taken directly from the last council agenda which state:

Under the existing policy settings, there will not be an adequate provision of medium density dwellings (small townhouses and villa units, whether attached or not) to meet the needs of the households anticipated to be seeking them. (page 173)

Current policy settings support the development of large side-by-side dual occupancy development across a large proportion of the municipality but does not support the development of more than two dwellings (units or townhouses) on a lot on the vast majority of sites. (page 177)

The research for the housing strategy indicated that policy should allow for more units and small townhouses to be constructed to meet the community’s needs for diverse housing and at a range of prices.(p.180)


Council’s planning scheme has always allowed more than two dwellings per lot in the NRZ zones – provided that site was greater than ‘conventionally sized lots’ and larger than its immediate neighbours. Wynne’s introduction of Amendment VC110 in 2017 simply reinforced this by removing the 2 dwellings per lot condition from all NRZ zoned sites in the state. Yes, it is true, that most NRZ developments are for side by side townhouses – but not exclusively. We have had apartment blocks built in NRZ in the past. This is continuing today and there is no guarantee that these will be cheaper or even smaller. Here is a list of some of the sites which have had more than 2 dwellings granted a permit. All are in the NRZ zone.

239 Kooyong road, Elsternwick – 3 double storeys (1013 square metres)

35 Brett Street, Murrumbeena – 3 double storeys (667 square metres)

19 Fosbery Avenue, Caulfield North – double storey building with 3 dwellings (897 square metres)

39 Amelia Street, McKinnon – 3 double storeys (699 square metres)

24 royal avenue, glen huntly – 3 double storeys (761 square metres)

456 Glen Eira road, Caulfield – 5 double storeys (1055 square metres)

5 Porter Road, Carnegie – 4 double storeys (permit issued by consent) – (880 square metres)

45 North Avenue, Bentleigh – 3 double storeys (556 square metres)

613 Warrigal Road, Bentleigh East – 3 double storeys (766 square metres)

7-9 St James Avenue BENTLEIGH – 7 double storeys (1876 square metres)

46 Orrong Road ELSTERNWICK – 4 dwellings (697 square metres)

50 railway Crescent, Bentleigh – 4 double storeys (313 square metres)

1 Riddell Parade ELSTERNWICK – 3 double storeys (

2 Shanahan Crescent, McKinnon – 3 double storeys  (791 square metres)

743-745 South Road Bentleigh East – 7 double storeys (1400 square metres)

11 Nina Court BENTLEIGH EAST – 4 double storeys (735 square metres)

304-306 Koornang Road CARNEGIE – 6 attached dwellings (742 square metres)

15 Leamington Crescent CAULFIELD EAST – 3 double storeys (846 square metres)

17 Leila Road ORMOND – 3 double storeys – (968 square metres)

16 McKittrick Road BENTLEIGH – 3 double storeys (700 square metres)

Council even acknowledges that they have absolutely no ability to determine what is built where. So how does all the above hype about ‘smaller townhouses’ hold up to reality? If a developer wants to, he can build whatever style of housing he/she wants. We quote from council agendas where this is clearly stated:

DELWP has advised that the residential zones cannot dictate what type / form of housing is acceptable in each location. A clear message from the State Government in releasing Planning Practice Note 90 and 91,is that Council’s housing strategy cannot be based on preferred building typologies (agenda 4th February 2020, page 234)

Councils cannot prescribe preferred housing typologies. All residential zones allow for any type of housing typology. Built form requirements within the zone schedules (e.g.: heights and setbacks), may result in some forms of housing typology being more likely in particular zones, however ALL residential zones are deemed to allow for any form of housing, including detached dwellings, medium density dwellings, townhouses and apartments. (agenda 4th February, 2020 – page 397)

DELWP has advised that some of the content in the existing Minimal Change Area Policy cannot be translated into the new scheme. This includes the policies for one or two dwellings only, and identifying preferred housing typologies of single dwellings or multi dwellings under specified circumstances. Both these policies do not align with State housing policy and will not be permitted in the new scheme. (agenda 19th December, 2019 (page 92)

More telling of course, is if council really wants ‘smaller townhouses’, then how does rezoning streets to 4 storeys achieve this? No developer is going to build 4 storey townhouses! What will happen is 4 storey apartment blocks of basically one and two bedroom developments – akin to what has happened in all RGZ zones thus far.


Council recently provided input on the State Government’s Land Framework Plans. Their submission included the following comments:

Direction 5 – Prioritise housing growth in areas with access to jobs, services and good public transport

This Direction refers to opportunities for new medium and higher density housing to be considered within an 800 metre walkable catchment of activity centres. This is not supported. Many of Glen Eira activity centres are linear and relate better to a 400 metre walkable distance at the most. A radial measurement is not appropriate and opportunities for new housing should be considered at the local level, through structure plans, where the community is involved. (Agenda: 3rd November, 2021 – Page 551)

The draft Housing Strategy has clearly forgotten this position in that plenty of streets are set to be rezoned or have the requirements reduced and are certainly 800 metres or more from the commercial areas of the activity centre. Some streets are not even in cooee of an activity centre!

Finally, what would seem to undermine completely everything that council has put into its Housing Strategy is the following sentence taken from the Capacity Analysis itself –

The GRZ zones have relatively high average development densities, as most developments in this zone are three storey apartment building rather than townhouse or villa developments. (Capacity Analysis – Attachment 4 – page 48 – agenda 22/2/2022)

So, on the one hand we are being told that we have enough high density development and require smaller townhouses of ‘medium density’. Council’s ‘solution’ is to rezone hundreds upon hundreds of streets to three storey where all we are likely is more of what we allegedly could do without!

This isn’t a housing strategy. It is a disaster that totally ignores residential amenity, environmental impacts, and overall density. Enough is enough. Make your voices heard, loudly and clearly!

If you happen to live in any of the sites highlighted in the light blue, then beware! Council has earmarked these sites as Substantial Change Area 1. This means:

  • You will go from a 2 storey mandatory height to 3 storeys
  • The mandatory garden requirement ranging from 25% to 35% of land size will be removed
  • Rear setbacks will in all likelihood also be removed.
  • Retention of trees will only be ‘encouraged’ where ‘practical’

As for the commercial sites themselves, these will also be changed to greater heights if the following, taken from the Housing Capacity Analysis (page 52) is any guide –

Bentleigh is thus in the firing line for major changes that in our view will do nothing except impact incredibly on residential amenity, on the environment, and on issues such as parking and traffic. We repeat ourselves, but given that we have capacity for 50,000 dwellings and only require 13,000 until 2036, it is simply unconscionable for this council to even contemplate further ruin of our suburbs.

Readers may also remember that over the past few years council conceded that the Residential Zones introduced in 2013 were inadequate on several levels – ie heritage properties were included in the Residential Growth Zone (4 storeys) and many streets had multiple zonings which simply didn’t make sense. Well, given the above mooted zonings, it doesn’t appear as if council has learnt from its past mistakes. Take Whitmuir Street for example. Only half of this street is to be rezoned. Why? Especially when this proposed rezoning includes about 24 houses on both sides of the street and all are either single or double storey. There are 2 blocks of flats (one of 9 apartments and two storey) and another contains villa units. The street itself is narrow making it impossible to pass if there are parked cars.

We have visited this street and taken the photographs at the end of this post. Many are beautiful Californian bungalows that if anything, should be under a heritage overlay, and not offered as fodder to developers. Even more disheartening is that we have not been provided with any valid justification as to why streets like Whitmuir are on the chopping block. Remember Bent Street that is now a canyon of apartment blocks? The same could happen to Whitmuir!

We urge all residents, and especially those who reside in these targeted sites, to write to councillors with their views as well as commenting on the so-called ‘consultation’ from the Have Your Say website. Things will only change with massive community opposition. Make your voices heard!

Here is what most of Whitmuir Street looks like!

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