GE Service Performance


Here are some crucial questions that all residents should be demanding answers to:

  • Why is it in Glen Eira that the most important survey responses are not published and available for full scrutiny by residents?  All that is put into the public domain are inadequate ‘summaries’?
  • Why is it in Glen Eira that every major strategy is consigned to the ‘never-never land’ where both councillors and the community are told that the essential ‘planning controls’ will only be done sometime in the future? Yet countless policies and strategies are asked to be endorsed prior to the specifics being known – ie the Housing Strategy of late.
  • Why are survey questions so continually and abysmally poor and undoubtedly designed to elicit the required responses?
  • Why are public questions so frequently provided with responses rather than fulsome answers?
  • Why can other councils run engagement processes that are far superior to what occurs in Glen Eira? See some of our previous posts on this issue?

With the proposed zoning changes depicted in the draft Housing Strategy, Council has shown itself  incapable of remedying  all the mistakes of the past. Over the past few years, we have had admission after admission that council got it wrong when it introduced (in secret) the residential zones in 2013. Since then, there has not been a review of the zoning. The only changes proposed to rectify the stupidity of the past is to rezone heritage areas from RGZ (4 storeys) to NRZ (two storeys). A little too late we say, when some streets have already had 4 storey developments erected!

As for the other ‘mistakes’, we quote directly from council documents which state categorically that ‘radial’ zoning is inappropriate given that this creates multiple zonings in single streets. Council has claimed that this is what they wish to correct and avoid with the Housing Strategy and the Framework Plan. Here’s what was stated:

While the radial zoning makes sense at plan view, the result creates inconsistency and conflict in local streets. Areas within some streets, have all three residential zones represented. In some instances, this means that four storey apartment buildings and low-scale detached housing are supported by the zones in close proximity. …….Where practical the plan uses the road network as a border to best manage transition between different zones. (Appendix C – Page 4: Background document to the Bentleigh Structure Plan – 2017)

the transition of zones in the middle of residential streets has been an issue of community concern. The Bentleigh Structure Plan seeks to significantly re-address the configuration of zoning in Bentleigh to remove, where possible, apartment development proposals in long residential streets ….(Agenda: 27th February, 2018 – page 2 of item 9.2)

These issues are consistent with the community concerns raised when apartment buildings are proposed in low scale residential streets. The Quality Design Guidelines look to address these issues by focusing apartment buildings on main roads and encouraging medium density garden townhouses, rather than apartment buildings, on local residential streets. (agenda: 27th February 2018 – page 4 of item 9.5)

In certain areas such as the residential land south of Centre Road (ie. Mavho, Loranne, Mitchell and Robert streets) transitional issues are caused by irregular ‘radial’ zone boundaries and multiple zones within a single streetscape. This creates inconsistency with four storey apartment buildings and low-scale detached housing in the same street (November 7th 2019)

All of the above are admissions of what is wrong with the 2013 residential zones. One should reasonably expect that with the current Housing Strategy and ‘new’ structure plans for Carnegie, Elsternwick & Bentleigh, that such errors will be corrected. But no, not in Glen Eira. History is allowed to repeat itself – this time as pure farce!

Here are some screen dumps from council’s current proposals. Please look carefully at the number of streets that retain their ‘radial’ zoning with the result that scores will have multiple zones and/or schedules within the one street – something that we’re told is to be avoided! Adding further to such inept planning is the fact that council has no control over what will be built. Apartment blocks can be created in any street – they do NOT have to be townhouses as ‘required’ by council.

Worse still is the latest DDO’s for our major activity centres. Instead of including residential areas in the new DDO’s, they now only cover the commercial and mixed use sites. What this means is that the previous DDO is now defunct and hence residential areas such as Mimosa Road in Carnegie revert back to its earlier zoning of RGZ (four storeys). Both the 2017 and the 2018 DDO’s had earmarked this as 3 storeys.

Council has been absolutely silent on this aspect of the latest DDO’s apart from saying that the Housing Strategy will deal with the residential areas. Yet the above screen dump clearly shows that Mimosa is zoned as RGZ and by the time that council gets around to even considering zoning for the residential areas we could be looking at another few years. Plenty of time for developers to make hay!

More disconcerting is the question of why council went along with this latest DDO. Did they protest? Did they ask for this? What discussions took place between the department and council officers? Is the rationale again to simply allow more and more development in our residential streets – regardless of whether Glen Eira is meeting its housing projection figures? And the ensuing silence and lack of real explanation is unacceptable. We can only conclude that council by its failure to fully inform residents is simply part of a strategy to keep the public as ill-informed and silent as possible!

Thus countless streets throughout Glen Eira will continue to have multiple zones. Others will have multiple schedules. And there is not one single word of justification for why this should remain so given council’s previously quoted statements.

This is a very long post, so apologies. The length is due to the gravity of the issues – namely, the lack of transparency and consistency in anything council does or states. Even worse, is the fact that councillors seem incapable/unwilling to even comment, much less challenge the obvious spin and distortions that are emblematic of council’s approach to public questions on strategic planning.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting several public questions focused on the Housing Strategy consultation and the recently adopted Carnegie Structure Plan. Please consider the following carefully.

Carnegie Structure Plan

When the structure plan came up for decision at the 9th August council meeting, both Zyngier and Penicuik in particular commented that they had been concerned about the overshadowing potential with the proposed increased heights in Koornang Road. However, they had seen the relevant documents and were satisfied that this would not be a ‘problem’. Pennicuik even stated that after talking with officers she was ‘assured’ that there would be ‘enough sun’ in winter for Koornang Road. As with Pennicuik, Zyngier also confirmed that he had ‘seen the simulation’ for the shadow diagrams. Zmood brought up the point about the Built Form Frameworks. Neither of these vital documents were available to the public. Hence the following public question –

Question:  Several comments at the last council meeting in relation to the Carnegie structure plan, were that the overshadowing and built form frameworks reports would be made available to the public. It is nearly three weeks later, and the documents are yet to appear on council’s website. Why and when will these important reports be published?

Response: They haven’t been put on the website because the amendment is yet to be authorised by the Minister for Planning. Once Ministerial authorisation is received, the full suite of reports and information will be made available as part of the formal amendment exhibition.

COMMENT

The implication of the above response is that background documentation can only be available once the amendment has been authorised for public advertising. There is nothing in any legislation that we can find which supports this interpretation.  Councils can decide what they wish to put into the public domain!

Even here, Glen Eira is staggeringly inconsistent. For example: the recently adopted Glen Huntly structure plan DID INCLUDE shadow diagrams – PRIOR TO MINISTERIAL APPROVAL! Like Carnegie, Glen Huntly is also a major activity centre. So, the question must be asked, why the far more fulsome publication of documents in one instance and the with-holding of important documents in another? Admittedly, what was published for Glen Huntly was not the entire report, and the diagrams were practically impossible to decipher (deliberate?) – but at least they were public and before any vote was taken! Here are some screen dumps illustrating this:

The result of all this (apart from lack of consistency and transparency) is that when Carnegie is finally advertised, residents will undoubtedly have to plough through hundreds upon hundreds of pages, analyse them, write their submissions, and then be prepared to front up again at a planning panel which invariably supports council in their recommendations.

When such vital issues are up for decision, then why isn’t the public privy to the full background documents which are fundamental to such decision making? Is it that council fears that if residents could see the ‘simulations’ prior to the decision, then some might actually proffer their views as to the accuracy and efficacy of the reports – and hence potentially place some doubt in councillors’ minds? Are we still in the universe of residents should be kept in the dark and only allowed a say once decisions are made?

Housing Strategy Consultation

Over the past 18 months or so, community consultation reports on various important issues have had one common characteristic – summaries instead of full disclosure of all comments, emails, questions asked and answered.  Even with the appalling and biased survey questions, residents have been denied access to the complete range of responses. The result is that when these feedback reports are presented to councillors they are forced to rely on the summaries alone, rather than having the opportunity to read the entire gamut of responses. In other words, their decision making is compromised since it is not based on complete and unedited information.

The Housing Strategy consultation and its feedback has been tainted by these processes – ie no mention of the feedback from the town hall forum; no mention of the questions residents asked and the responses they got in the face-to-face sessions with officers; no mention of how any of this fits in with the IAPP2 principles of ‘consult’ and ‘involve’. The following public question sought to address such issues –

Question:  At the last Council meeting, a resident stated that residents’ concerns at the Town Hall meeting on May 5th were verging on white-hot anger and that these concerns have not been clearly articulated or addressed in Council’s Draft Housing Strategy consultation report. This is a common theme around the inadequacy of the Draft Housing Strategy consultation and as examples, 1) Residents were on mute at the Webinar and could only ask written questions. 2) Despite over 100 attendees, the Town Hall meeting was used by Council as a question and answer session only. 3) Recent face to face meetings were conducted after the completion of consultation. Why didn’t Council use the Town Hall meeting, the webinar and the recent face to face meetings to genuinely listen to the community concern raised and document key findings as part of the Draft Housing Strategy consultation?

Response: Council is yet to decide on the final form of the Housing Strategy. Consultation on the strategy ran for over 11 weeks and there were a variety of methods used to both inform, and gather feedback and input from, the community.

All feedback received will be taken into consideration when a decision is made later this year.

COMMENT

Readers will note that the question asking for complete ‘documentation’ on the consultation was not answered. It was simply ignored with the perennial vague ‘promise’ of being ‘taken into consideration’.

The Housing Strategy itself is replete with vague promises and generalisations, especially about improving landscaping, and the importance of tree retention, the urban forest strategy, etc. Yet, there is nothing within the strategy, or the accompanying officer reports, that tell residents how this will be achieved. Numerous questions on the proposed removal of the mandatory garden requirement in areas zoned GRZ, and how this will achieve better landscaping outcomes remains unanswered. Council’s consistent response has been that all of this will be revealed down the track with future amendments! In the meantime councillors are faced with the dilemma of endorsing a housing strategy that lacks detail!

Thankfully, not all councils operate in the same manner that Glen Eira does. Bayside for example has recently completed its community consultation on the preferred character statements for areas zoned GRZ. The questions asked on this alone put Glen Eira to shame! But more significantly, they also produced the intended zone schedules that could be used to accompany the schedule changes. In other words, they did not have to wait for ministerial approval in order to advertise. They allowed residents to see their full proposals well before it got to that stage and to proffer their views on the proposals. In Glen Eira it’s all kept secret!

Here are some examples of the schedule changes as published by Bayside in its agenda.

CONCLUSION

The onus is clearly on councillors to put a halt on an administration that repeatedly fails to inform its residents; that repeatedly fails to answer (rather than respond) to public questions; that repeatedly seeks endorsement for major policies and strategic planning documents without providing the necessary information to residents or councillors that ensures informed decision making.

The onus is also on councillors to ensure that processes for every single operation is consistent – ie Glen Huntly events compared to what has happened with Carnegie! Finally, sitting there like stoned mullets in absolute silence does not get the job done. In fact, silence signifies ‘consent’.

Last week’s council meeting raises countless questions about governance in Glen Eira and the role of councillors and the community. What is becoming increasingly obvious is that it is unelected and unaccountable officers who are running the show, rather than councillors.  The data on the Carnegie structure plan decision making is irrefutable evidence of this administration’s continued side-lining of both councillors and the community.

The most striking example of how this is happening is when we compare the resolutions passed for the Carnegie structure plan last week, and the resolution passed for the previous versions of this structure plan.

The minutes of the 18th December 2018, show this ‘recommendation’ which was passed. We highlight the section regarding the seeking of Ministerial approval to advertise –

authorises the Manager City Futures to undertake minor changes to the Amendment, including changes requested by the Minister for Planning or the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in order to receive authorisation, where the changes do not affect the purpose or intent of the Amendment;

For last week’s council meeting, this became –

authorises the Manager City Futures to undertake all changes to the amendment documentation in accordance with Council’s resolution (or as required by the Minister for Planning) and to make any administrative changes required where changes do not affect the purpose or intent of the adopted amendment

The omission of ‘minor changes’ in this second recommendation is significant – as is the phrasing of ‘as required by the Minister for Planning’. What this in effect means is that once this has landed on the Minister’s desk, he has been granted council’s sign off to introduce any changes he likes – and without recourse back to councillors and the community apart from the formal submission process.

Questions abound!

Why has the recommendation changed? Why up until now, have all other major amendments seeking ministerial approval to advertise contained the phrasing of ‘minor changes’ and the Carnegie structure plan excludes this important phrase?

Did any councillor ask why this change? Were they alerted to this sleight of hand before the vote?

What discussions have already been held between officers and DWELP? Why aren’t councillors attending such meetings? Have they been provided with all documentation that has passed between the department and officers? If not, why not?

What happens if the Minister decides that 12 storeys is ‘insufficient’ and Carnegie is suddenly advertised as 15 storeys preferred? According to the above resolution, this is a possibility!

Last night’s zoom meeting on the Housing Strategy feedback was a marked improvement on the previous council effort. This time participants could see who was present (49 individuals at one point) and the chat function was also available so questions could be posted to all. Unfortunately, the responses to questions remained vague, jargon ridden, and merely repeated the practised council rhetoric. As for councillor attendance, there was Magee, Esakoff, Zyngier and Zhang.

Below we feature one question in particular given that it is acknowledged as encompassing the most contentious issue – ie the proposed removal of the GRZ mandatory garden requirement. The response is provided in the uploaded audio. It’s worth pointing out that council stated the recording of the evening will only be used for ‘internal’ purposes!

Question

How will removal of the minimum garden size result in better open space and tree canopy outcomes? Given that trees and landscaping was of most concern to your feedback responses, as new dwelling types do not guarantee improvement.

Response

COMMENT

Torres does not answer the crucial question of how things might be improved. Instead we are again privy to the nonsense about the legislated function of the mandatory garden requirement. The current legislation provides for the following according to land size –

If we assume an average 500 square metre property, this would then require 125 square metres of ‘garden area’.

Torres notes the ‘exclusions’ from this requirement such as land under ‘eaves’. We would posit that most GRZ 3 storey developments do not have eaves – instead they are predominantly flat roofed – whether this be in GRZ or even in NRZ sites.

As for pergolas, barbecues, etc. yes they are excluded from the garden area requirement. But these must have a roof in order to be excluded, and many do not. Furthermore, the following cannot be included in the calculation – driveways, car parking spots, sheds that are more than 10 square metres in size. Whilst tennis courts and swimming pools are exempt from the garden area calculation, we very much doubt that any new dwellings in GRZ zoned areas will have the space to include swimming pools or tennis courts!

Thus, even if we add up the areas for roofed barbecues, eaves, pergolas, etc. there is no way that these would amount to even half of the required mandatory open space in the GRZ. Inevitably, the proposed removal of this requirement will mean LESS open space, less area for canopy trees, and other vegetation. The only objective is to provide the capacity to ensure more development!

Finally, it is beyond belief that we are in the process of creating a housing strategy without first of all reviewing the current residential zoning. These have been in place since 2013. Given the rate of development in Glen Eira and its ‘capacity’ council should be asking – do we need 13% of the municipality to be zoned GRZ? Do we need to revert back to the conditions PRE 2004 for NRZ areas? None of this has been done!

We’ve uploaded the full audio of the meeting plus the submitted questions –

These are the submitted questions –

My interpretation of the feedback presented in these slides is that residents are worried about the future liveability of Glen Eira. While more people will likely move into Glen Eira whether or not the housing zoning laws are changed, how does the current housing strategy aim to improve the liveability of Glen Eira? Or is it more a question of managing an inevitable reduction in liveability as the city grows to house more people than infrastructure was ever intended to?

How will removal of the minimum garden size result in better open space and tree canopy outcomes? Given that trees and landscaping was of most concern to your feedback responses, as new dwelling types do not guarantee improvement

A 4-storey above ground, with 2 floors below ground apartment building has been approved on the corner of Wanda and Hawthorn roads. This is clearly higher than the mooted 3 storey limit for this area. Can approval for  this development be reversed?

Is there capacity for the Housing Strategy to include specific actions to support the around 500 people experiencing homelessness in Glen Eira?

Thank you for your time tonight. I see some areas in Bentleigh near the station have both a heritage overlay and also a residential overlay and a design and development overlay. Which of these for example will take precedence?

Can planning notes be updated in a future amendment to the planning scheme clauses about respecting land with SBO’s in minimal change areas of GRZ zones where inappropriate development proposals are lodged with council?

I see no justication for some of the areas identified for more medium density housing. I specifically questioned the selection of Redan Road and have yet to hear a response. Has anyone looked at this area? It already contains mainly small houses on small blocks plus a couple of houses that should be heritage. Please explain

Council’s stated objective is more ‘diverse housing’ – especially in the proposed new NRZ2 zones. Given that council has no control over what developers desire to build, there is  potential for simply more dwellings of 1 or 2 bedrooms instead of the anticipated smaller townhouses? Please comment.

Thanks for the answer. Just another question: both the Draft Housing Strategy and the Social and Affordable Housing Strategy don’t mention the issue of housing insecurity. Is there any capacity for the Housing Strategy to address this issue, particularly for groups that are most vulnerable (such as single older women, LGBTIQA+ people, etc)?

What about drain along Rothschild street Glen Huntly???We have no drain , but council continue to release permits to developers, despite that council aware , that we have flooding . How leak of infrastructure  will address and how council going to act , taki g into consideration, that nothing done regarding absent drain on a street till now?

Sorry but this is no closer to an activity centre than many others not included – and it’s just not a good candidate!!

One of the slides showed a timeline for various structure plan reviews. I think Carnegie was among those listed. I did not notice any timing indicated for a Murrumbeena sturcture plan. Is there no plan in the medium term to consider Murrumbeena, that could result in a review of the Zone interfaces? Council is aware of the difficulty at the interface of GRZ & NRZ near the Murrumbeena Primary School which involved Council ntat two VCAT hearings concerning a proposed develepment.

And what role does VCAT have, when it overturns what residents and council want?

Last night’s council meeting illustrated once again how this council is very good at attempting to  justify the unjustifiable. This was especially evident on the ‘discussion’ for the Carnegie Structure Plan. It was voted through 7 to 2 with the only objectors being Esakoff and Cade.

What was most disheartening was that both Greens (Zyngier and Pennicuik) who have repeatedly commented on the importance of ‘sustainability’, trees, climate change, the urban forest strategy and in this case overshadowing, could claim that they have seen the report and are ‘satisfied’ that both sides of Koornang Road will not be impacted by the increase of height from 4 to 5 storeys. They maintained that sunlight to these streets are assured. This most important report was not included in the agenda, so we cannot comment on its validity. The Built Form Frameworks, were also unavailable. So all we have to go on is what the actual Design and Development Overlay (DDO) states in terms of protecting sunlight to Koornang Road. This is presented below:

CLICK TO ENLARGE

To be clear as to what is proposed in the above DDO, one needs to understand the difference between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The winter solstice is ‘measured’ at June 22 and the equinox at September 22nd. The DDO makes it clear that ensuring sunlight reaches the footpaths along Koornang Road will only be assessed according to the spring data AND NOT THE WINTER data. Furthermore, the fact that the word ‘at’ is used is completely contrary to what most planning schemes state. Usually there is a time span included –ie from 10am to 3pm. In this instance, are we to assume that if there is a fraction of sunlight AT 10am, then all is well for the Western side of Koornang Road, and if it happens to be 2pm then the eastern side this is also okay? What about the intervening time spread? How much sunlight is hitting the western side at say 12pm? Or the eastern side at 1pm? How much of the entire street remains in shadow for times other than 10am or 12pm? The very fact that the DDO has been written in this fashion is cause for concern. No councillor of course even mentioned this – nor the impacts on other increased height limits throughout the centre.

The only councillor willing to speak fully about her reservations was Esakoff and to a lesser extent Cade. We present her comments in full below:

The ongoing UNCRITICAL acceptance by most councillors of vital strategic planning documents is unacceptable. They are charged with oversight. They are supposed to represent their constituents and not some allegiance to political parties. It is councillors who are charged with making decisions in the best interests of the community.Thus far this election term, they have been dismal failures for the most part. Instead they are mere rubber stamps for a bureaucracy that is not held to account and is not elected by residents. When will we have councillors with the balls to challenge incompetent reports, biased analyses, and anti-community decision making?

If anyone thought that things couldn’t get any worse as far as planning goes in Glen Eira, then a perusal of the Carnegie Structure Plan proposals put pay to this delusion.  Once again there has not been any community consultation on the latest draft. Instead councillors are being asked to pass this item and send off to the minister for advertising approval. Then it will come back for formal amendment submissions. This does not constitute ‘consultation’ given that planning panels are generally in favour of whatever councils propose. Furthermore, writing submissions and then attending hearings takes time, energy and total commitment by residents. Even worse, is that in order to fully comprehend what is being proposed, residents will have to wade through hundreds upon hundreds of pages. Hardly conducive to good ‘consultation’ and full transparency.

What is clear however, is that this latest version is even worse than the abandoned C184.  A quick summary follows:

  • Heritage along Koornang Road has gone from 4 storey mandatory to 5 storey mandatory
  • The discretionary heights of 12 storeys and 43 metres has now gone up to 46 metres
  • Onsite car parking provision will be reduced
  • Other sites have also gone from 5 to 6 storeys to the south of Neerim Road

There is not a single word that we could find which explains/justifies why there has been this increase in heights – apart from stating that the consultant urban designer thought it was okay. Interestingly, this ‘conclusion’ is proffered but without the publication of any overshadowing documentation, and the admission that in certain areas only the September solstice was considered.

Also gone from the current proposal are such decision guidelines which featured in 2017 and 2018 as –

To preserve and enhance the low scale character of the Koornang Road shopping strip.

Whether proposed buildings on sites that are in the vicinity of a heritage place are respectful of that heritage place.

To ensure an appropriate design response to sensitive interfaces, such as heritage or low-scale residential sites and open space

They are replaced with this hogwash –

responds to the existing heritage fabric in Koornang Road and the heritage significance of the Rosstown Hotel.

We are also concerned that the current DDO which only applies to the commercial and mixed use areas in Carnegie, means that the surrounding residential streets (ie Mimosa) reverts back to its current zoning of 4 storeys, instead of what in 2018 was rezoned as 3 storeys. This applies to other residential areas too. Council is claiming that the zoning will be part of the Housing Strategy, but even this document does not make this clear. Plus, by the time anything is gazetted we could still be looking at another 2 years!

To highlight the newest proposals we have provided screen dumps of what came before and what council now wants for Carnegie and what currently exists.

  1. The current height proposals –

2. The 2018 version

3. And the latest ddo which only concentrated on the commercial and mixed use zones. This proposed amendment even outdoes the following –

It must be remembered that Amendment C184 was abandoned and that 4 councillors voted again the Housing Strategy. In our view nothing has changed except that the latest proposals represent a further deterioration in all aspects of town planning and concern about over-development and the destruction of this municipality.

The current 911 page agenda features a 117 page item that purports to be the ‘feedback’ on the Housing Strategy consultation. If only it were so! Once again this council is incapable of providing a valid, comprehensive, and convincing report on what was said, what occurred and how the responses influenced or did not influence any suggested changes. What we instead get is endless repetition, selective publication of material, and vague promises. The failures of this report can be summarised as follows:

  • All responses are not published so residents have no idea as to what was said by all respondents. The council ‘summaries’ as meant to be taken as gospel instead.
  • Pie charts are provided with percentages and not numbers of responses – making them pretty meaningless, especially when some questions had very few responses. Also no attempt to explain/analyse why certain questions received few reactions/responses.
  • As for the Town Hall Forum, all that is mentioned of this event was that 111 residents participated. What they said, and what occurred is totally ignored.
  • A handful of changes are proposed, but with no real rationale as to why they were included for increased heights in the first place, and why some of these changes have now been reversed (ie Wright Street in Bentleigh)
  • Mention is made twice that officers presented to the Youth Advisory Committee. All well and good – but why was no such process undertaken for the committee directly charged with advising on consultation – ie the Engagement committee?
  • No commentary whatsoever on the questions themselves or their efficacy
  • No ‘evidence’ provided as to the questions asked at the ‘drop-in-sessions’ and yet council concludes that all questioners were ‘generally satisfied’.

For the rest of this post we will go through some of the issues and expand on our criticisms.

Role of a Housing Strategy

As has been stated previously, what is remarkable here is that on the same agenda, council is recommending that the draft Carnegie Structure Plan and its DDO be endorsed by councillors and sent off to the Minister for approval to advertise. In other words, a decision on structure planning will come BEFORE the adoption of the Housing Strategy. Yet the following quotes taken directly from this item state:

The adoption of the Housing Strategy is fundamental to the strategic underpinning of the structure plans for the Major Activity Centres, and subsequent planning scheme amendments to introduce permanent controls into the planning scheme. It is a pre-condition. Without a Housing Strategy, the other strategic work will be extremely difficult to justify through the amendment process. (page 526)

The structure plans for the Major Activity Centres and subsequent planning scheme amendments to introduce permanent controls into the planning scheme rely on the adoption of the Housing Strategy as a key component of their strategic underpinning. Without a Housing Strategy, the other strategic work will be extremely difficult to justify through the amendment process. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is expecting an adopted Housing Strategy in considering authorisation to implement our structure plans. (page 529)

Appendix 1 of the report

Statement after statement in this report is not averse to bending the truth and camouflaging what is really proposed. For example:

Zone change: ­ The Housing Strategy only suggests changes to zoning (and building height) in a small number of areas. (page 2)

In response to a public question submitted on the 15 February 2022 which asked for the numbers of sites in both the NRZ and GRZ zones affected by the proposed changes the specific answer given was:

  • The draft Housing Strategy proposes that for sites in the General Residential Zone (GRZ), the “Garden Area requirement” is switched off. The General Residential Zone represents 11 per cent of all land in Glen Eira (and 13 per cent of all land that allows for residential use in Glen Eira). The overall number of sites in Substantial Change Area 1 (translating to GRZ) as shown in the proposed housing framework plan and therefore proposed to have the garden area requirement switched off is 7,624.
  • • The draft Housing Strategy aims to identify locations where we can have multi-unit / townhouse developments (up to two storeys), that are genuine medium density (units and smaller townhouses). The draft Housing Strategy includes an action to develop specifics requirements to give effect to these aims. 7 per cent of the existing NRZ is proposed to have controls that will allow for multi-dwelling development and better support front landscaping outcomes. This translates to 5 per cent of Glen Eira or 3,075 sites. (page 28 of the minutes)

How on earth we can then get the above statement that only a ‘small number of areas’ are impacted is both untrue and deliberately obtuse. Whilst it is true that ‘zoning’ will not change (ie the sites will still remain NRZ, but the schedules WILL CHANGE so that these proposed 3000+ sites will now have increased site coverage, reduced permeability requirements, and reduced rear setbacks). When the 7,624 sites currently zoned GRZ are taken into account, we are looking at a housing strategy that will affect over 10,000 properties – that is nearly a fifth of all Glen Eira sites!!!!!!!

Garden Area Requirement

Repeated ad nauseam throughout the report and the appendices is the following:

Garden Area Requirement: The Housing Strategy proposes the removal of the Garden Area Requirement so it can be replaced with measures that generate better landscape outcomes. The minimum garden area requirement simply requires a ‘space’ to be set aside on a lot. It has to have a minimum width of one metre, but it can be in permanent darkness or have an impractical or unusable shape. It could have a shed, a patio, or a basement completely underneath it. Essentially, there’s no guidance around what this space can or should be, and therefore does not guarantee good landscaping and permeability outcomes.(page 4)

How removing the requirement for anything from 25% to 35% of a site set aside for ‘garden area’ (depending on size) can assist in generating ‘better landscape outcomes’ is anyone’s guess. This is especially true when all that council is proposing at this stage is landscape ‘guidelines’ – meaning these are non-mandatory and practically useless. What will appear in the actual schedules remains a mystery.

There is much much more that could be said about this bogus ‘feedback’ report. Perhaps the best example of how deficient and totally misleading it is, comes from the following two screen dumps.

We ask that readers pay particular attention to the actual data in the pie charts and then council’s ‘interpretation’ of what these are supposed to represent.

Finally and by way of contrast, it is really illuminating to see how Bayside for example approached its consultation for preferred character statements. In Glen Eira, residents had to plough through reams and reams of pages in order to understand anything that was proposed. Furthermore, in Glen Eira the entire municipality was included and reduced to under 20 distinct areas. In Bayside, they divided the GRZ zones only into 29 different areas and their processes for gleaning what the community thought and wanted was explained, analysed and basically acted upon. See these links for further information on Bayside’s approach –

https://www.bayside.vic.gov.au/news/defining-character-growth-areas

https://yoursay.bayside.vic.gov.au/GRZcharacter

The only conclusion we can draw from all of the above is that the culture in Glen Eira remains pro-development at any cost and that resident views are merely impediments to this agenda. Until we have massive cultural change and major change in personnel, we hold out very little hope that things will improve. It is therefore incumbent on our councillors to ensure that the community voice is not only engaged, but listened to, acted upon, and given the full respect it deserves. If this report goes unchallenged then councillors should resign in shame!

The following email was sent out to residents a few days ago:

We are writing to you because you provided feedback during the first or second phase of our engagement on the Draft Housing Strategy. 

We’d now like to invite you to attend an online presentation to find out more about what we heard during the second phase of community engagement. 

Draft Housing Strategy feedback – What we heard event

Thursday 11 August, 7pm to 7.45pm

Location: Online via Zoom 

To join the session, please register your interest here and we will emailyou the meeting link two days before the event.  

The session has been planned as an online event to help keep our broader community safe in response to the rising rate of COVID-19 infections in the community at this time. 

For those that can’t make the online session, a drop-in session will be held at Town Hall on Monday 15 August, between 4pm and 7pm, at Town Hall (corner Glen Eira and Hawthorn roads, entry via clocktower entrance). Please register your interest here

If you have any questions, please contact the City Futures team via 9524 3333 or email cityfutures@gleneira.vic.gov.au.

Given that very little detail has been provided as to the planned processes, we can only speculate as to the purpose and value of this evening. Our concerns are listed below –

  • With the stated time duration of only 45 minutes, we assume that there will be no opportunity for participants to comment or ask questions.
  • Will this simply be a repetition of previous council ‘forums’ where participants had no idea who else, nor how many people had logged on? Will the chat function again be disabled?
  • Will the report itemise all aspects of the feedback – including the 100+ attendees at the town hall forum?
  • Will the various comments made by ALL respondents be published, or will we simply get another vague ‘summary’?
  • Will residents be told how their input influenced any potential changes to the housing strategy and if not – why no changes have been made?
  • Will this be another evening of double-speak and weasel words, or will residents be privy to a warts and all presentation that is not presented through rose coloured glasses (ie in contrast to the ‘summaries’ provided at the town hall forum)
  • Will any analyses be provided as to the quality of the consultation – in particular the survey questions and what lessons may have been learnt from the exercise?

Whilst it can be argued that council is commended in providing residents with ‘feedback’ – it is the quality of this feedback that remains questionable. Unless there is a full and comprehensive report, then council will again be guilty of fudging the data and being as non-transparent as they possibly can. What concerns us most however is the deliberate timing of council’s strategic planning. We have been told that both the Carnegie and Caulfield Station structure plans will be presented to council for decision in August 2022 – well before the final decision on the Housing Strategy. (See: https://www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/services/planning-and-building/planning-scheme-and-amendments/glen-eira-planning-scheme-review-2018).  Housing Strategies are meant to be the cornerstone of structure planning. That is, they come before structure plans, NOT AFTER. So once again we face the prospect of putting the cart before the horse and council continuing along its merry way ignoring all the principles of sound strategic planning. This can only be to the detriment of the community – and of course, full transparency and accountability.

Readers would remember that at the last council meeting, the MRC landscaping plan for the Caulfield Racecourse was voted down by councillors – only 7 were present and the vote was 4 to 3 to reject the application. It has not taken the MRC long to come back with their revised plans.

All we can glean in terms of proposed changes from the officer’s report is contained in the following quotes –

Replacing 6 Magnolia Grandiflora with 6 Tristaniopsis Laurina (Water Gums).

It is noted that the majority of the Southern Magnolias and Water Gums will be planted in above ground planter boxes, rather than in deep soil. There is sufficient soil depth to enable growth. (page 27)

Interestingly, the submitted plans refer to the magnolia variety as a ‘large tree’ with a mature height of 8 metres. We freely admit that our botanical knowledge is very limited. However a quick Google search tells us that this variety of tree can grow to well above the 8 metres. More significant is the Moreland City council information (presented below) which clearly states that planters should not be used for this type of tree. The link is available at: https://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/living-in-moreland/environment/trees/tree-finder/magnolia-grandiflora/

The second variety listed is water gums. Again we get quoted growth sizes of 5 to 15 metres in well drained soil. See: https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp10/tristaniopsis-laurina.html as one example.

All of the above raises these questions:

  1. Why the substitution?
  2. Why planters instead of in ground? Will these trees survive and flourish in planters?
  3. Why are the associated plans not clearly listing trees to be removed? All we can spot are 5 trees labelled as to be ‘reused’ – whatever that means?
  4. Hundreds of plantings will be nothing more than tiny shrubs at best

It will be interesting to observe what happens Tuesday night. If council is serious about tree preservation, the urban forest strategy then these plans do not add anything to the existing policies.

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