GE Transport


Readers may remember the recent application for a 9 storey development at 217 Nepean Highway, Gardenvale. This was supported by officers, but rejected by councillors. The ensuing VCAT appeal by the applicant was refused. We now have the second attempt. This time for a six storey development and 18 apartments. The plans are not yet available.

Gardenvale presents a fascinating insight into the council agenda. According to the CURRENT planning scheme, Gardenvale is deemed a LOCAL centre. With the arrival of the City Plan, it has been upgraded to a Neighbourhood Centre and earmarked for “substantial’ development. The current Planning Scheme Rewrite seeks to enshrine this new designation. City Plan proposes that commercially zoned sites be set at the preferred height of 5 storeys. This application, whilst lower than its predecessor, is already seeking something higher. It will undoubtedly be recommended for a permit by officers, given that they were in favour of 9 storeys.

Yet, we cannot find one single word anywhere which justifies the re-classification of Gardenvale as a Neighbourhood Centre from a Local Centre. Nor can we find any logic behind the failure to treat each activity centre as an individual entity with its own height nominations. Time and again we are told that locations should be assessed on their unique characteristics, but what we have are strategic plans which treat all neighbourhood centres as mirror images of each other – ie 5 storeys for anything zoned as Commercial – regardless of their residential surrounds or various transport options.

More concerning is the failure of council to safeguard all of our neighbourhood and  local centres. Will all of these be candidates for structure plans, or will residents have to be satisfied with meaningless built form frameworks that are nothing more than ‘guidelines’? And what is the time frame for any other work? Another 5 years of nothing, 10 years?

This current application will probably be determined well and truly before anything is finalised in terms of the current planning scheme rewrite, and the adoption of the city plan. It will set a precedent and that means it will be too late to halt other, and probably higher applications.

Finally, we present below, the VCAT decision which rejected the original 9 storey application. The comments relating to the wisdom of designating Gardenvale as a neighbourhood centre instead of its current local centre status are worth reading. The comments are still very relevant. How does council answer these judgements? Where is the justification and the strategic work that should underpin such changes? It is non-existent, we assert!

·  The provisions relating to the scope for Patterson and Gardenvale local centres to have more intense development are however quite limited in scope because the policy encourages only gradual changes in building heights between existing buildings and new developments. Where building heights are above the prevailing height of existing development, policy encourages the building design to reduce the visibility of the additional storey(s) by either;

  • Incorporating the additional storey(s) into roof space (attic style).
  • Limiting the additional storey(s) to an envelope that is significantly less than the floor immediately below and is significantly set back from the front and rear of the site to limit visibility from the street in front or the properties to the rear.

·  I was referred to the Council’s City Plan[8] which was adopted by the Council in February 2020. By virtue of having been adopted by the Council, this is a document to which I may have regard as appropriate[9], but it is not part of the planning scheme. City Plan includes the review site in a Substantial Change Area 3 in which development up to 5 storeys is contemplated. Structure plans for activity centres are to be prepared.

·  With respect to the applicant submission that the proposal should be assessed on the basis that Gardenvale is akin to a neighbourhood centre or even an urban village, the submission ignores the fact that Council has had ample opportunity to change the local centre designation for Gardenvale but has not done so. I must apply the planning scheme’s provision as they exist, and it would be inappropriate to accord a different status to that which appears in the planning scheme.

·  I have also commented previously that Gardenvale is a small, confined centre surrounded by Commercial 2 zoned land that extends north and south along Nepean Highway and by residential areas predominantly zoned Neighbourhood Residential. I am not persuaded that Gardenvale is anything other than a local centre with very limited capacity to expand beyond that designation. This application must therefore be assessed having regard to the policy settings established for this local centre.

Source: https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2021/263.html

Council’s agenda is out and once again we despair at the predetermined outcomes that this administration enforces upon its residents. Included in the agenda are the Built Form Frameworks (BFFs) for Caulfield South, Caulfield North and Bentleigh East, as well as the Community Engagement Strategy.

Readers should note the following:

  • The Community Engagement Strategy promises that residents will be provided with feedback on how their views influenced the final council proposal/decision. In relation to the BFF’s this is entirely missing. So much for the ‘engagement strategy’ and its empty promises.
  • The report on the community consultation for the BFFs failed to include the actual comments. What we basically get are ‘summaries’. Given the importance of these strategic plans, and how many residents will be impacted, surely a comprehensive and detailed analysis of all responses is warranted? Of course, readers might like to think back to the actual questions that were asked as part of this ‘consultation’ and how sub-standard they were! (See: https://gleneira.blog/2021/05/12/is-this-fair-dinkum-consultation/ for our ‘review’ of the consultation)
  • The BFFs remain unchanged from the previous versions as far as we can tell. Interestingly, the accompanying draft Design & Development Overlay, is only for Caulfield South. Why? No explanation is given as to why Bentleigh East and Caulfield North are ignored. Is council simply testing the water at this stage? What is the expected time frame for the DDO’s for the remaining two centres?
  • Most importantly, any planning for activity centres has as its major objective to ensure that there is capacity to meet the forecast population growth. Not one single statistic on population and dwelling growth is provided in any of these frameworks!!!! Hence, we cannot find any strategic justification as to why 6 storeys is appropriate, compared to 10 storeys or even 15 storeys if this is the logic behind these plans!   In our view, the link between projected population growth and dwellings required has not been established. That is the role of a Housing Strategy. But of course, council is rushing everything through PRIOR to the creation of a Housing Strategy!!!!!
  • Even more damning is the fact that Council is still relying heavily on its City Plan. We remind readers that this document argues that 5 storeys is the optimum discretionary level for commercially zoned sites in these centres. Yet we are confronted with BFFs that totally ignore this and recommend higher levels. What’s the point of having a policy that is continually ignored?

There is much, much more that could be said in regards to these BFFs and the Engagement Strategy. We will provide a more detailed analysis in the next few days.

Some ex-councillors and even some current councillors appear incapable of admitting that this council can ever get anything wrong. So we have to be constantly beware of misleading and deliberate obfuscation of the facts. Surely it is time for a simple apology and the admission that ‘we stuffed up’. But no! Apologists continue to flood social media with their propaganda and refusal to show any contrition.

We thought that it is therefore time that readers had a clear idea of the history of planning in Glen Eira and to lay blame where it crucially belongs. Yes, the State Government has had a major role, but this cannot excuse the failures of our council – especially when their actions and results are compared to what other councils have achieved.

Please read the following carefully:

  • In 2004, Amendment C25 was introduced which created the minimal change/housing diversity split up of the municipality
  • The Planning Panel report that assessed this amendment used the term ‘interim’ in regards to the amendment 24 times, plus sentiments such as – The boundaries of the neighbourhood centres identified in the amendment are considered by the panel as interim at best.  The Panel also urged council as a case of urgency to undertake structure planning which Council promised to do. This was never done – no review, no structure planning, no parking precinct plans, etc. So 17 years later, we still do not have any permanent structure plans in place, no parking precinct plans, and certainly no review of the activity centre boundaries.
  • The then Planning Minister Guy announced the new zones on 5/8/2013. These were gazetted (ie legally approved) on 23/8/2013.
  • Councillors claim that ‘consultation’ occurred with the 2010 Planning Scheme Review and the zones were a ‘neutral’ translation and what people had told council they wanted. Neighbourhood Character Overlays were introduced via Amendment C87 in 2012 – BUT THEY ONLY COVERED APPROXIMATELY 600 SITES OUT OF 53,000 sites in Glen Eira. Secondly, the 2010 Planning Scheme Review report does NOT EVEN MENTION ‘mandatory heights’ which Hyams for example claims residents expressed a wish for. Nor has there ever been any discussion, much less consultation, on what residents consider an appropriate height for various sectors of the municipality.
  • Prior to the zones there was a ‘preferred’ height limit set of 9 metres in residential areas. With the zones, council had the option of less than 10.5 metres for General Residential Zone and less than 13.5 metres for Residential Growth zone. Council imposed the maximum.
  • Other councils (Bayside, Stonnington, Monash, etc)  had up to 13 GRZ zones where they had differing height limits for each of the 13 or so GRZ zones. In Glen Eira there were only 3 GRZ (and one created especially for Wilks St development) each of 10.5 metres. Thus, a ‘one size fits all’ approach and lack of real strategic work to look at the municipality and work out what’s best for each specific area. Needless to say, these other councils determined their zoning on the basis of their respective Housing Strategies. Glen Eira still does not have one.
  • This means that people woke up on the 23rd August and could legally have a 13.5m building next to them, when on the 22nd the chances of this happening were practically zilch. NO warning, no consultation, and apparently no intention of reviewing the zones themselves. And even with the introduction of the zones, the Glen Eira planning scheme still made it possible for large sites to contain more than 2 dwellings in the NRZ. This remains until this day and well before Wynne’s removal of the 2 dwelling limit.
  • As to the efficacy of these new zones, we have had plenty of recent officer reports that state the ‘radial’ application of the zones (ie drawing a circle on a map) was  ‘inappropriate’ at best, and wrong at worst, resulting in countless streets with at least 3 different zones.
  • In 2015 there was a state wide ‘review’ of the residential zones and committees were set up to make recommendations to the government. In its report on the Glen Eira introduction of the zones, the committee concluded:

The zones were implemented in Glen Eira without public consultation, and without an independent review process. The Reasons for Decision to Exercise Power of Intervention deemed that further consultation through the formal statutory process unnecessary, stating: Consultation has been conducted during the development of the Housing and Residential Development Strategy and in relation to Amendment C25.
The Committee notes the Council’s Housing and Residential Strategy was adopted in 2002, 11 years before the gazettal of Amendment C110. The Committee questions the currency of the policy itself as well as the currency of the community consultation in relation to this policy.
(page 176 of Advisory committee Report: Managing Residential Development Advisory Committee Residential Zone Review).

  • Amendment C25 back in 2004 introduced a 25% permeability requirement for NRZ only. This had nothing to do with the introduction of the zones in 2013. Furthermore, permeability, setbacks, have never been MANDATORY as one ex-councillor would like us to believe. The only thing that became ‘mandatory’ were the heights.
  • As an example of what countless other council currently have in their planning schemes we provide the following table. Glen Eira still maintains it 25% for the NRZ zone, and 20% for its GRZ and RGZ zoning. Readers should also remember that with the proposed amendment C184 for Carnegie, council was quite happy with a new RGZ zone that applied a 5% permeability rating and a 90% site coverage!!!!

Finally, all we seem to be getting with the current ‘consultation’ on the Planning Scheme rewrite is more of the same – empty promises that council will continue with its ‘further strategic work’. Here is what is promised according to the proposed draft amendment. Given this council’s history of doing bugger all if it can, we urge all residents to take these promises with a gigantic grain of salt! With the rate of development that has occurred in Glen Eira and is still occurring, we cannot have another set of empty promises that, at best, could take another decade or more to introduce if there is the will, or at worst, will never see the light of day.

Under council’s zoning and continued lack of action regarding the majority of our neighbourhood centres, these areas are challenging Bentleigh, Carnegie and even Elsternwick, for the ‘prize’ of high rise apartments. Murrumbeena continues to cop such applications. The most recent is below:

If this application is successful, it will feature an 8 storey building alongside a street zoned for 3 storeys and which still contains many dwellings of single and double storey. The longer council delays in implementing some decent controls for all of our neighbourhood centres, they are clear targets for over-development.

Recent council responses to a variety of public questions have made it clear that permanent planning controls for Bentleigh and Carnegie are expected (probably) in 2024. Elsternwick will be following these amendments – hence we could well be looking at 2025 and perhaps even 2026 for this area. That leaves Glen Huntly which will come after all of these. Is anyone prepared to hazard a guess as to when this Major Activity Centre will be finalised? How about 2026-2028?

Since the Glen Huntly amendment is years down the track, one might well ask why there was the rush to get the draft structure plan ratified now, instead of working all out on the Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie ones? Please remember that unless something is in the planning scheme, via a gazetted (approved) amendment, it has no power to influence council and VCAT decisions.

Even more important than all of the above, is that these structure plans and their respective amendments are being rushed through prior to the creation and finalisation of a Housing Strategy – the work which is meant to be the foundation for all planning and zoning in the municipality. Whilst other council have had housing strategies for well over a decade (and are continually reviewing them), all Glen Eira has is a document that dates back to 2002 and is based on data from 1999!

We’ve also got the additional problem of the Built Form Frameworks for Caulfield North & South and Bentleigh East – all well and truly ‘cemented’ before the housing strategy even sees the light of day. Council maintains that all of its previous work remains ‘relevant’. Not so! Documents created in 2017 are now well and truly outdated as well as being created pre-COVID.

Adding to the mess that is emblematic of council’s planning processes, on the 11th November, we will also have ‘consultation’ on the Planning Scheme rewrite, and the draft amendment for the Open Space levy contribution rate. Again, all before, the development and ratification of a housing strategy. Assessments of neighbourhood character are supposed to be included in such ‘rewrites’. Has, or will, this be done or will we again have areas lumped together without any real municipal wide investigation of current zonings and their schedules. In the age of a ‘climate emergency’ will we still have zones and schedules that only require 20% permeability in GRZ and RGZ zonings when some other councils have up to 40% for these zones? And the most crucial question of all is – given the rate of development in Glen Eira over the past decade, do we still need so many areas zoned for multi-unit development and/or high density development?

In December 2015, Wynne refused council’s request for another time extension on reviewing their planning scheme. They were also ordered to undertake structure planning. By the time we get any permanent controls into our municipality, it will be at least 8 to 9 years since this time. We find it staggering that any strategic planning should take this length of time. Council can keep blaming the State Government all it likes, but other councils have managed to implement their planning scheme rewrites, their structure plans, their increased open space levies, without the ‘problems’ that council claims.  Of course, one could be cynical and argue that the longer it takes to introduce anything, then more and more development can take place. Or being kind, we might simply argue, that what we have is the most incompetent, and out of touch, planning department in the state. The tragedy is that millions have literally been wasted and we are still reliant on policies that provide no real protection or community benefit when it comes to planning.

Council has produced a survey seeking community input on its proposed multi-storey car parks in Bentleigh & Elsternwick. Whilst this latest effort is a vast improvement on recent surveys, there remain a few glaring problems. (see: https://www.haveyoursaygleneira.com.au/glen-eira-multideck-car-parks)

There is now much background information on the entire process and council receiving a promise of $20M under the Commonwealth Government’s Urban Congestion Fund. The claim is that the car parks will therefore be fully funded by this grant. Readers will remember some councillors’ recent media comments regarding the ‘tainted’ nature of this funding given the alleged political rorts that accompanied the handing out of the grants. That aside, residents are now invited to proffer their views on whether or not these car parks should proceed.

In order to fully understand the issues, the problems, and the potential benefits, council has this time included a lengthy blurb as a ‘starter’. Unless residents bother to read the accompanying reports in full, we have to conclude that they will not have a clear idea of all the information required in order to come up with some reasoned decision.

For example, what residents are not told up front is that the consultant’s report noted:

  • For every 3 extra car parking spots created, there will only be one more use of public transport. We are told that for the Elsternwick site  (a)ll 78 car parking spaces at the site would be retained.  It is estimated that an increase of 82-122 spaces can be achieved, for a total of 160-200 car parking spaces at this site. With 82 extra car spots, this would then lead to an increase of 27 public transport trips. With 122 spots, there would be 41 extra trips. Applying the same formula to Bentleigh, would create either 52 or 69 trips. Hardly earth shattering for the expenditure of $20M!
  • Nor do the various blurbs mention the consultant’s findings that increased local road congestion is also a possibility, especially for Elsternwick.

THE SURVEY

Since the survey’s objective is to determine whether or not residents are in favour of proceeding with the building of these car parks, one would have thought that this aspect would have and should have been the focus. Council admits that its related ‘congestion busting’ ambitions are dependent on further and different grants from government and hence some way down the track. The $20M is ear marked for ‘commuter’ transport primarily and council’s own terminology repeatedly refers to ‘commuters’. Given this emphases, then surely some questions relating to current public transport and car use was essential.

What’s wrong with some simple questions along the lines of:

  • Do you drive to work outside of Glen Eira?
  • Do you drive to work in Glen Eira?
  • How many times a week do you use public transport (pre-covid)
  • Post-covid, will this frequency increase?
  • Do you find car parking is sufficient in Elsternwick/Bentleigh?
  • Where do you work?
  • Do you drive to shop in Bentleigh/Elsternwick?
  • If you drive to shop do you think you would use these multi-storey car parks? Why?
  • Do you think you would use these multi-storey car parks at night?
  • What would make you feel confident about using these car parks at night?
  • As a trader, how many of your staff (including you) drive to work?
  • How many staff use public transport?
  • Would you be prepared to pay for car parking?

There are undoubtedly plenty more questions along these lines which would provide a clear picture of residents’ needs and their views. Instead we get the following as part of the survey which concentrates on ‘congestion reduction initiatives’ – many of which council has absolutely no control over!

What other types of congestion reducing initiatives should Council seek further federal government funding for under the Urban Congestion Fund? Select all that apply.

On-call shuttle buses to take commuters to train stations

Repair of footpaths

 Optimise traffic-light management

 Use CCTV to monitor road conditions

 Enforcement of existing road traffic laws

 Improve perceptions of buses

Extend residents’ parking zones

Charge for workplace parking

 Improve cycling infrastructure (e.g. protected cycleways, safe cycling zones around schools, etc.)

 Improve bus services

 Develop and refine park-and-ride

Existing rail network

 Light rail

 Strategic Road Network resilience

 None of the above

 Other (please specify)

Even more ridiculous in the above list is the inclusion of jargon that we guess is totally nonsensical to the majority of residents – unless they happen to be traffic engineers. What on earth are we to make of: Strategic Road Network resilience? Or even Existing rail network? Nor does council inform us that road repairs have very little to do with ‘walkability’ or increased public transport use!

Council has also not provided any information as to what might happen if, for example, Elsternwick responses are in favour of the multi-storey car park and Bentleigh respondents are opposed. Does all the funding fall away, or will the government simply halve the grant and allow one to proceed? Surely this possibility would have already been discussed with the funders?

We are guilty of continually criticising this council’s consultation methodology and in particular their sub-standard surveys. Our solution(s) to these problems are simple:

  • All surveys MUST undergo a comprehensive ‘test run’ with councillors, community engagement committee members, and residents before they are put into the public domain.
  • Background information that is succinct, accurate and provides all the relevant data must accompany all surveys.
  • Those responsible for the creation of surveys be named and accessible to the public for continued feedback on their performance.
  • Reports on surveys be consistent in detailing all responses, number of respondents and publishing all comments. This does not happen with Community Voice!

Until we have such protocols, then residents have every right to be critical of council’s consultations and the adopted methodologies and purported outcomes.

Here is the latest ‘consultation’ from council:

Asking residents to proffer an opinion without any accompanying relevant data is NOT consultation. It is another example of the ‘top-down’ approach where decisions are likely to be imposed on a community that has not been given the information which would ensure informed decision making.

Here is what should be provided before people can make constructive and valid responses:

  • Traffic volumes over the past 3 years for all streets nominated
  • Accidents reported for the past 3 years that itemise: (1) number involving pedestrians; (2) number involving cyclists and how many of these result in deaths or ‘serious injury’?
  • Number of cyclists per day along these streets over the past 3 years
  • What local/national evidence is there that reducing speed limits ensures greater pedestrian safety?
  • What local/national evidence is there that reducing speed limits doesn’t increase congestion in other streets?
  • What local/national evidence is there that reducing speed limits leads to an increased use of bicycling?
  • What local/national evidence is there that reducing speed limits leads to an increased use of public transport?
  • What evidence supports reducing speeds by 10km/per hour or 20km/per hour?
  • What local/national evidence is there that reducing speed limits changes the frequency of car use?

There are probably plenty more questions that could be included in the above. What is important is that until this council acknowledges its woeful consultation processes, residents will react negatively most of the time.

Decisions must be based on evidence, accuracy and information that makes the issue(s) clear and comprehensible for residents. This rarely happens in Glen Eira!

Presented below are two pages from the approved Amendment C230 which extends (again) the expiry date for the interim controls for Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick until the end of December 2021. From memory, this extension is at least the third and will certainly not be the last before the final structure plans and accompanying DDOs become ‘permanent’.

The blurb that is supposed to ‘justify’ the extension is inaccurate, and full of nothing more than spin and more spin and so far removed from reality that it is laughable. We have highlighted those sentences that readers should pay careful attention to and ask themselves – how true is this?

We are told that the interim amendments:

…….protect the low scale shopping strip and contributes to the garden setting of the three centres.  Thus, we now have the ridiculous statement that a ‘low scale shopping strip’ is commensurate with 5 storeys in Bentleigh, and parts of Carnegie, whilst Elsternwick has no mandatory height limits in these areas. Topping it all off, we have designated heritage shopping areas in 2 of these centres surrounded by buildings between 8 and 12 storeys. As for the ‘garden setting’ in each centre, all we know is that council is still thinking about the potential sell offs for private development and now for social/affordable housing. Plus, if the ‘garden setting’ was, and is, so important, then why did Wynne and Council agree to remove the mandatory garden requirement for its newly suggested GRZ5 zone when Amendment C184 was made public?

We are also told that council has embarked on a two year program that is supported by substantial operational resources. Really?  Which resources? How much extra funding has been directed to planning? How many extra strategic planners has council hired in the last 18 months? How much money has council expended in the rental of the property in Dandenong Road and couldn’t this money have been used far better?

Nor do we accept for one moment that the planning framework…..is consistent with the council’s and community’s expectations…. All one needs to do is check out all the consultation documents to find that the vast majority of residents were NOT in agreement with 12 storeys, or even 6 storeys for so much of the municipality. Council simply did not listen, nor protest loudly and clearly when Wynne imposed more conditions. The only ‘certainty’ that is guaranteed goes to developers who continue to receive an open arms welcome into Glen Eira.

There is repeated mention of ‘neighbourhood character’ in these pages. What is not mentioned is that council still has no:

  • Housing strategy
  • Preferred character statements for ‘housing diversity’
  • An updated and current MSS (Municipal Strategic Statement). As it stands we are still using data form 1996!
  • The absence of a complete and current ‘neighbourhood character’ review
  • No review of the schedules to the various zones

We also find mention of public projects and how the extension will assist in delivering these projects. Is that why we have a ten year wait before anything starts on the proposed Elsternwick Community Centre according to the latest budget, and why other projects have either been put on the back burner, or relegated to years and years down the track? Readers will undoubtedly find plenty more in these two pages that are unfounded.

There is so much that is still to be done PRIOR to the introduction of any permanent controls. Surely it is time that council ‘reviewed’ its time frames and provided residents with this knowledge as well as explanations why after 6 years we are basically still at square one?

Below we feature some of the public questions which were submitted for the last council meeting. As per usual, residents received ‘responses’ rather than ‘answers’.

QUESTION: Council recently abandoned the Bentleigh and Carnegie structure plan due to the lack of a housing strategy and yet on tonight’s meeting agenda is the Glen Huntly structure plan (item 8.4). Should not Council wait to vote on Glen Huntly structure plan until after the completion of the housing strategy?

RESPONSE: The development of a Housing Strategy before the adoption of this structure plan is not necessary for this centre. While Glen Huntly will provide for additional housing, the structure plan is primarily focussed on the commercial core. This is quite different to Council’s other structure plans in Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick which also include large residential areas.

As a Major Activity Centre, there is an expectation that this centre will change in alignment with State Government Policy. The structure plan seeks to get on the front foot and manage the height and form of buildings that we expect following the removal of the level crossings

The preparation of the draft Housing Strategy will give appropriate consideration to the role of Glen Huntly as part of its development.

COMMENT(S) –  

The response given is literally baffling for several reasons:

  1. When buildings of 5, 6, and 8 storeys are proposed, then upper floors will inevitably consist of apartments. To therefore argue that this structure plan is only concentrating on the commercial sector and hence a housing strategy is unnecessary flies in the face of all common sense. How many apartments these sites can contain is surely an essential consideration in meeting the forecast population growth and the accompanying housing needs for Glen Huntly. Remember, the population growth according to council’s own published data is a mere 1000 over a 15 year period from 2021 to 2036.  That’s the role of a housing strategy. To determine need for each activity centre, and the entire municipality, and then to apportion this requisite growth across the entire municipality.  To pre-empt such analysis is not planning. It is simply assigning huge sectors of Glen Eira to unsustainable overdevelopment.

QUESTION 2

QUESTION: Following extensive resident feedback and inaction from Council, in 2015 the Minister for Planning compelled Council to undertake a Planning Scheme Review with a focus on controls for activity centres. In 2019 as part of the Planning Scheme Amendment C184, Council Officers belatedly highlighted the need for a Housing Strategy advising that the C184 amendment was not underpinned by an adopted municipal-wide plan. While Council failed to progress a Housing Strategy in 2019, it subsequently aborted Amendment C184 in 2021 in the absence of a clear strategic justification including a Housing Strategy. Based on advice from Officer’s, the Structure Plan controls for Bentleigh is now scheduled to be completed in 2024, some nine years after the Minister’s direction which is appalling.

Given this long history, why then have Council Officers recommended the adoption of a Structure Plan for Glen Huntly without a Housing Strategy?

Given that the response to this question consists primarily of a verbatim repetition to the first question, we have only included the opening two paragraphs of the response.

RESPONSE: It is noted that there are some inaccuracies and selective representation of facts in your opening preamble. Despite this, the answer to your question regarding the adoption for a Structure Plan in advance of the completion of the Housing Strategy is as follows :

Council began preparation of the Glen Huntly Structure Plan in mid 2019 in response to the announcement of the Government’s intention to progress level crossing removals in the area. The level crossing removals are expected to bring about a renewed focus and opportunity for change in Glen Huntly once complete. The preparation of a structure plan would assist guiding the height and form of future development, recognising its role as a Major Activity Centre, as designated by the State Government.

COMMENT:  If council does not agree with the comments made by the resident, then why not provide a full rebuff of those comments? How about explaining, itemising, and justifying the claim that there are ‘inaccuracies’ contained in the question? As far as we know, the resident was 100% correct in his claims!

More importantly, we now have to consider the entire argument as to why a housing strategy is not required prior to the adoption of the structure plan because, it is claimed, the focus is primarily on the commercial areas. Then why, did the council officer state in his report of the 16th March, 2021 (when Amendment C184 was abandoned/rejected) the following:

A housing strategy would also enable Council to introduce more tailored built form controls for its commercial and mixed use zones within activity centres, based on a better understanding of where and how growth will occur across the rest of the municipality

The housing strategy would provide Council with a municipal-wide framework for density,
based on demographic and character analysis and
inform all of Council’s strategic planning
activities.
(Page 116 of the agenda)

Doesn’t the above contradict what Council is currently stating? And doesn’t it illustrate perfectly the role of a housing strategy that needs to be completed before the adoption of structure planning? Council can’t have it both ways. Consistency, and dare we say, complete transparency, has never been this council’s strong point!

The agenda for next THURSDAY’S council meeting is now out and features Version 3 of the Glen Huntly Structure Plan. Readers will remember that the first draft went out for consultation in mid 2020 where council wanted 10, 8 and 6 storeys for many sectors. Following consultation, the 10 storey site at the supermarket was reduced to 8, with several other reductions. This was rejected by councillors in September 2020 with the arguments that 8 storeys in the second smallest suburb in Glen Eira, and with the densest population was a step too far. So now we have version 3, which to be blunt, is another pathetic planning document that is without strategic justification, without due consideration to residents’ views, and which will deny residents any say in what is approved.

The newly proposed changes are literally miniscule – a few nominated heritage properties to the west, and some in the commercial eastern side. Basically, this new version remains very much the same document as before – heights, to the greatest extent, remain the same as do setbacks. Thus, if councillors saw fit to reject this earlier draft, we see no reason as to why this ‘newer’ version should gain their approval!

The following paragraphs go through the proposed plan and highlight what we believe is so erroneous and constitutes poor planning.

What can be gleaned from the officer’s report and the draft structure plan itself:

  • This structure plan will be adopted BEFORE a Housing Strategy is completed and any permanent controls will only see the light of day AFTER the Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick structure plans have been done. Given that Elsternwick is stated as blowing out to 2023, that means that the Glen Huntly structure plan will have no statutory weight (ie.being included in the Planning Scheme) for years to come. This represents nothing more than another example of putting the cart before the horse!
  • There is currently no Heritage Overlay that exists for the proposed sites. This again, means that there is nothing available to stop a developer coming in and demolishing what council now believes is heritage worthy. Given the long process for having amendments included in the planning scheme, again we are looking at least another 2 years if not more, before any constraints are placed on developers – we quote: No changes to heritage overlays are proposed at this time. They will be pursued as part of a Planning Scheme Amendment at a later date
  • What is implied throughout this report is that the surrounding residential areas of Glen Huntly will be looked at down the track and this will cover the ‘study area’ for potential rezonings. As a Major Activity Centre, this will invariably mean that many sites now zoned GRZ (3 storeys) have the potential to be increased to RGZ (four storeys), plus the fact that the size of the activity centre will undoubtedly expand. We see no other way to interpret the following: again, we quote from the structure plan itself (page 17) – a review of the boundary of the activity centre as required  AND page 26 – the whole activity centre study area is considered a potential housing opportunity area. Council will undertake a housing strategy to determine the scope for residential change across our city. This will include assessment of residential land within the study area of the Glen Huntly major activity centre.

OVERSHADOWING/SUNLIGHT

Glen Huntly is a Major Activity Centre (MAC) in the same way that Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie are. The only difference is that it is far smaller (roughly 1 square km) but far, far denser (ie 63 people per hectare, compared to Bentleigh’s 38.92, Carnegie’s 54.51 and Elsternwick’s 44.73. But far more worse is that currently, Glen Huntly has 35% of its land mass zoned as appropriate for 3 storey dwellings. Many of these immediately abut the commercial and mixed use zones that the structure plan is considering. Given this proximity to increased heights of 8 and 6 storeys in some sections, we are completely flabbergasted as to why the proposed overshadowing requirements are different to what was thought appropriate for Bentleigh and Carnegie via the rejected Amendment C184.

Bentleigh and Carnegie were privileged to have overshadowing requirements that were form 10am to 3pm on September 21 AND 11am to 2pm for various precincts on June 22st – ie the winter solstice. Poor old Glen Huntly does not get anything for the winter solstice and only from 10am to 2pm for the September calculation. The officer’s report tells us – The shadow analysis was prepared for the September equinox from 10AM to 2PM. We also get these ridiculous statements from the officer’s report (page 138 of the agenda) –

  • The southern footpath of Glenhuntly Road in the Central Retail Precinct is not in shadow from 11AM to 2PM on the spring equinox.
  • 75 per cent of private open space is in sunlight for 5 hours on the spring equinox.

What happens to the southern footpath at 3pm? 4pm? How much is in shadow? What impact will this have on residents sitting drinking their coffees on the footpath? And what on earth does 75% of private open space mean? Which open space? Have consultants surveyed and done shadow diagrams for all of the ‘private open space’ in Glen Huntly? And if we take this statement at face value,does it mean that 25% of ‘private open space’ is in shadow and for how long?

PODIUM HEIGHTS & SETBACKS

When it comes to these two components of planning,  Glen Huntly again comes off a second best compared to the proposed Bentleigh & Carnegie structure plans envisaged by Amendment C184. For large swathes of land in Bentleigh/Carnegie their street podium heights were designated as 2 and 3 storey. In Glen Huntly, it is somehow fitting that these podium heights can be up to 15 metres (4 storeys) in 2 large precincts. And this is when the current sites along Glen Huntly road are predominantly 2 storeys in height! Why? Readers should peruse page 24 of the draft to see the full details.

The same applies to setbacks. Compared to the far greater setbacks imposed in Bentleigh & Carnegie, Glen Huntly is supposed to be content with a majority of 4 metre setback opposed to the standard 5 metres in these other MACS. The higher the building, then Glen Huntly is again worse off! Why?

HERITAGE

As we’ve stated, council has belatedly undertaken some heritage inspections of sites and come up with proposals for heritage inclusion. Yet even on this level, there is some major discrepancy between what Glen Huntly is afforded and what is stated for Bentleigh & Carnegie.  The officer’s report tells us – When the Built Form Framework was prepared, shopfronts along the Central Retail Precinct were treated as “character” areas. As such, no changes are proposed to the height limits or setbacks of the Central Retail Precinct as a result of the heritage assessment.

So we have the ludicrous situation where various sites in the Eastern Retail section designated as heritage – commercial/Mixed Use precinct – will be allowed to have 5 storeys (discretionary) and those in Bentleigh and Carnegie were seen as suitable for only 4 storeys.

Even worse, is that we again have council policy such as the City Plan, and which is referred to in the draft structure plan, that is totally ignored. The City Plan speaks of ‘shop top (heritage) as being suitable for 4 storeys. But this goes out the window with this plan for Glen Huntly!

HOUSING NEED

Council keeps repeating its mantra of the need for 18000 net new dwellings by 2036 throughout Glen Eira. When the population stats for Glen Huntly itself are produced we find:

Even if we accept these projections (which of course take no account of COVID), we find that in a 20 year period, the population growth in Glen Huntly will increase by a mere 1000. Plus in the period from 2021 to 2036 the increase will be 500 over a 15 year duration. Thus, if these projections are correct and only another 500 people will come to Glen Huntly, why do we need 8 storey and 6 storey buildings, that together are suggested by consultants to result in the addition of 410 net new dwellings. That is on a 50% uptake, so feasibly, the uptake could be even more if the housing market improves. Over various census results, the number of people per dwelling has averaged at 2 and a bit. This is forecast to continue by the ABS. So, 2 people per dwelling with a 500 increase in population should only require at best 250 net new dwellings!!!

Finally a comment or two on the ‘aesthetics’ of the document itself, and these comments pertain to much of what is produced by council.

  • The actual size of the full structure plan is 73 pages. Of these 73 pages we have 39% that are nothing more than either full page pretty pictures, or sketches that reveal absolutely nothing. For example: not one of these sketches present realistic images of an 8 storey building!
  • Jargon, generalisations, vague assertions, and platitudes reign supreme. Perhaps someone can inform us what this actually means? – Encourage pedestrian permeability (page 18). Will we now be aiming for ‘porous people’?!!!!!

Much of what is in this draft document is evasive and scant explanation and justification is provided to residents. In a democracy, where transparency and accountability are crucial, Glen Eira Council continues to fail dismally.

We urge all readers to write and ring councillors and inform them why the process, the lack of further consultation, and the outcomes if approved are not in the community’s best interest and as happened in September 2020, this draft plan should again be relegated to the dust bin of history!

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