GE Transport


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!

If you are concerned about the future of Glen Eira, then we urge all residents to register for a zoom meeting this Wednesday evening on the State Government’s proposed changes to Plan Melbourne and its impacts on the 4 municipalities that comprise the inner south region – ie Bayside, Stonnington, Boroondara and Glen Eira. See: https://engage.vic.gov.au/mfpf and then click on the respective region to sign up for the meeting.

There are several documents published which outline the potential changes. These can be downloaded from the above website.

Of greatest concern is the following:

  • Plan Melbourne originally forecast an ‘aspirational’ housing target of 125,000 for the 4 municipalities by 2051. This figure has now become 130,000 of which Glen Eira is expected to accommodate 28% of the additional 5,000.
  • The original Plan Melbourne version stated that the 2016 housing figures for the 4 councils were 110,000. Now we are told that in 2016 it burgeoned out to 119,000 and that these four councils are also expected to include the additional 5000 that were originally earmarked for the ‘green fields/industrial areas’.
  • The projection for Glen Eira has thus gone from 13,000 net new dwellings by 2036 to 14,700!
  • All of the above ‘calculations’ are, in our view, devoid of strategic justification. COVID is given scant attention. All that these documents state is that there has been a decline in population but by the mid 2020’s Victoria will still be approaching 8 million. No evidence is provided for this conclusion and given the mass exodus from Melbourne, zero immigration, and the potential future loss of international students, these statements are indeed open to question.

Throughout the documents, which are big on promises and vague commitments, the emphases remains on more and more development for our activity centres. Questions of capacity, infrastructure, density, cost, remain unanswered. How councils are expected to cope with these proposed changes is not answered; nor are we told how governments will fund increased open space, infrastructure needs, transport. All in all, these four councils are treated as basically ‘equal’ with no differentiation to speak of and no concessions to the impacts of COVID.

Another example of the State Government ramming its suspect plans down our throats. We call on residents and especially local councils to speak up; to demand justification for every proposed change, and for our council in particular, to finally voice their concerns as to the clear and constant overdevelopment of this municipality.

Please register for this meeting in order to express your view!

Year after year after year, the results of the Community Satisfaction Surveys repeat the same results. Each year for over a decade now the areas that are causing greatest concern for residents are:

  • Planning
  • Population growth
  • Traffic/parking
  • Consultation
  • Informing the community

But nothing seems to change when council knows only too well that these are the areas that need to be focused on. Even more disconcerting are the results as presented in the following table. They reveal the importance that people place on these various areas, plus how they evaluate overall council ‘performance’ for those categories. When there is a discrepancy of over 20 points, then remediation is well overdue.

Council can pat itself on the back all it likes, but the main areas of discontent remain and even grow.

Over the next 6 months or so, council officers will be creating what is arguably the most important planning document of the past two decades – the Housing Strategy. Readers may be surprised to learn that Glen Eira City Council does have such a document – it is dated 2002 and is based on 1999 stats. That’s how out of date this council is.

What has been stated several times is that this upcoming Housing Strategy will form the foundation for council’s land use planning. It will set the parameters for our structure plans, and other policies.  Community consultation therefore becomes an essential component for the strategy. Thus far, we have certainly been underwhelmed with what council has produced on this front – one forum that featured Bernard Salt, et.al – and which had very little relevance to Glen Eira itself. (See: https://gleneira.blog/2021/07/15/the-symposium/)

Council’s latest effort consists of a ‘mini-survey’ for those residents who are members of Community Voice. As an adjunct to the larger questionnaire on the Have Your Say site, one would have hoped that the questions are meaningful, valid, and relevant. They are anything but. Here is the most important section:

COMMENTS

The first question asks for a simple ‘yes’/’no’ response as to whether residents can ‘identify’ any apartments that have been ‘well done’. There is no opportunity for an in-depth response; no opportunity to define/elaborate on what ‘well done’ might mean- and whether individuals interpret this phrase the same; no opportunity to identify location. Thus if readers tick the ‘yes’ option, does this mean that they are happy with what is being built overall? Or does it mean that maybe a minority of apartments fit the bill of ‘well done’?  The same kind of questions would apply to those who selected ‘no’. Nor do we know what either response tells us about housing in Glen Eira and how any result will be interpreted. Secondly, how are people meant to judge what is ‘well done’? Have they been inside the apartment blocks? Are they aware of how much open space is provided? Do they know how many car parking spots are onsite? What do they know about overshadowing, or the thermal efficiency and sustainability of any of the apartments? Simply asking for a ‘yes’/’no’ answer is to put it bluntly a joke!

The second question on ‘suitability’ for more or less development repeats the shortcomings of the previous question. It becomes impossible to understand any of the responses,  given that they are not broken down into specific criteria. Some people might feel that heritage is an important constraint on increased development. Others might believe that the lack of open space is crucial. Then again, others might be convinced that Glen Eira already has enough development and that no single area should be burdened with more.

Even if responses choose the option for more development in certain areas, we are still left without reasons for this selection or potential  locations. It’s all very well to push the mantra that activity centres require increased development, but unless residents are provided with the necessary data on the availability of open space, the proposed increase for individual centres, etc. any response is again totally meaningless.

CONCLUSION

All of the above, then raises the question of why is council doing this? Why do we get presented with survey after survey that is at best skewed, and at worst, totally meaningless?  We firmly believe that what passes for consultation in Glen Eira is nothing more than a ‘tick the box’ exercise so that council can claim to have met its legal obligations. If it were otherwise, we would surely have better surveys and processes.

This leads to even more fundamental questions of governance and transparency. For example:

  • How many more times will councillors allow this administration to get away with sheer incompetence when it comes to community consultation/surveys?
  • How many more times will money and time be expended to produce, analyse and report on meaningless questionnaires that lead nowhere and certainly don’t provide any insight into what the community feels
  • Who produces these surveys so they can be held to account?
  • Who authorises their publication so they can be held to account?
  • What ‘testing’ (if any) have they undergone?
  • What is their purpose?
  • How valid are any of the results produced?
  • How much does each cost in terms of officer time?
  • What say do councillors have in their creation?

Until we have councillors willing to put a stop to this constant charade and sham, poor governance and certainly the lack of transparency in Glen Eira will continue!

CLICK TO ENLARGE

As we wrote in our last post, we believe that it is incumbent on current councillors to owe their primary allegiance to their constituents and not to any state or federal political party. It was very clear last night on the multi-level car park issue, that most councillors chose the latter.  The community, and their wishes, was not the prime concern. Rather political point scoring definitely was.

Consistency has never been a hallmark of some councillors. Last night was no exception. On the Woolworths application, here is part of what occurred.

Cr Parasol in seconding the motion to refuse the Woolworths application said – ‘being on council you have to listen to the residents’…..I feel we need to support their claims’. Athanasopoulos in his response stated: ‘there will be some form of development and ….and just saying the community don’t want it and therefore you as a councillor have to vote that way, I don’t really appreciate that type of interaction’. …it’s not just for me to do a poll survey around an area and then land on a decision’. He needs ‘all information’ and a ‘prudent councillor would do that’ before he decides. He wants good ‘interaction’ ‘rather than dictating to me what I should do as a councillor’.

When the multi-car park item came up, Athanasopolous moved a complex motion that included ‘consultation’ on whether the community wanted to accept the grants, and the locations of the newly proposed builds. What’s important is that he also said that the consultation would provide council with a MANDATE!!!!! In other words, if the community says ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ then this is the basis upon which he, as a councillor would vote. In our view, this totally contradicts what he stated in the Woolworths item! Isn’t this proposal nothing more than a ‘poll survey’ which was dismissed several items earlier? And if we consider the definition of ‘mandate’ then this also implies voting in accordance with community views.  Furthermore, readers would do well to remember Athanasopolous’ comment in September 2020 when he stated that councillors should not appear to be ‘in the pockets of residents’. Taking all this into account, we have to wonder whether any consultation result would deter certain councillors from voting on issues that they have already made up their minds about!

What last night so sadly showed was that ideology is the greatest criterion in many councillor’s decision making. Residents, and purported ‘genuine consultation’ is nothing more than a tick the box exercise to legitimise predetermined decision making. Indeed a very, very, concerning night for residents.

Item 8.5 on the current agenda features the multi-deck car park(s) issue. We are finally told several interesting things:

  • Council has secured $20.6M in grants
  • This amount means that council does not have to fork out any ratepayers’ money
  • The car park locations have changed in both Elsternwick and Bentleigh
  • The car parks will be ‘smaller’

Three options are then provided:

  • Proceed with a ‘feasibility’ study and community consultation on design
  • Proceed with ‘soft’ community consultation first
  • Return the money to the federal government and abandon the project

Whilst all this sounds wonderful, a myriad of questions remains and detail of course is missing. For example:

  • Multi-level car parks cost the earth. Council in its Strategic Resource Plans (SRP) for 2018/19 put the cost for the Stanley Street edifice at $18M and the Horsely Street versions at $14M – and that was three years ago! Admittedly, the later first drawings were for the equivalent of 5 and 4 storey constructions. We are now told that the proposals will be ‘smaller’, so supposedly cheaper!  What then needs to be stated is: if the car parks will be smaller then how many actual car parking spots will they contain? And how does this reduced number correlate to the previous studies that told us we need xxxx amount of car parking spots? Was this initial figure wrong and we are now supposed to accept a lesser required number?  Even more dramatic is the change in location. Whilst the new recommendations make sense, it again calls into question the first set of recommendations. How could planning have got it so wrong the first time around?
  • We are also concerned about council’s track record on major infrastructure projects. Each and every one has cost heaps more than first suggested. So, will $20M really be the final cost and if not, then how much will council need to put in to complete the projects? There is much in the officer’s report claiming that it will not cost council a cent. We remain unconvinced.

THE OPTIONS

Option 1 – Proceed with full feasibility and site due diligence, including development of concept designs. The problem with this option is that it basically pre-empts community input on the first question that needs asking – ie does the community support the development of multi-level car parks? If all the community is asked to respond to is the draft designs, then the first essential question is neatly side-stepped.

Option 2 – Proceed with a light-touch engagement phase to gauge community support for the commuter carparks prior to undertaking full feasibility and concept design. What on earth does ‘light touch engagement’ mean? Is this a euphemism for another half-baked consultation process? Even if the consultation is genuine, what happens if the Elsternwick proposal gets support and the Bentleigh one does not garner majority support? Will council still proceed? Return half the money?

Option 3 – Abandon the projects and return the funds to the Federal Government.

Our problem with these options is that there is no logical sequencing of process. Surely the first step must be whether a majority of the community even supports the idea of multi-level carparks. The next step would be to proceed with a business/feasibility study, etc. If there is no support, then ‘yes’, return the money – or if one site is shown to be acceptable to the community, then proceed with this alone. The drafting of the options does not provide this logical sequence. With the officer’s report recommending Option 1, the go ahead is taken for granted.

Looking back, residents have never been asked the crucial question – do you want multi level car parks? That should and must be the starting point. Residents also require far more specifics in order to come up with any informed opinion. Given that council as far back as 2018/19 was able to come up with some base-line costings, then they should be able to do this now as well. They should also be capable of telling residents what is the difference between ‘commuter parking’ and shoppers’ parking. Will certain levels be set aside for train commuters alone? How will this be monitored and enforced? Will there be any parking costs? This is information that should inform any consultation process. What we have in this report fails miserable on all these counts.

Finally, the recent publicity regarding the alleged pork barrelling by the Liberals in the grant process, should not have any impact on what decisions will be made by councillors. Federal Labor is of course using this as a great opportunity to lambast the Libs. It is therefore incumbent on our councillors to focus on their roles – ie the Glen Eira community and not to play politics! They are councillors first and last and owe allegiance to their constituents – not some political party!

Council has produced what it calls an ‘issues and opportunities’ paper on its upcoming housing strategy. One should therefore reasonably expect that residents be provided with:

  • An overview of the current situation,the various ‘issues’ confronting the municipality, and
  • How these ‘issues’ might be addressed via planning controls

In order to achieve the above, any decent discussion paper should provide readers with a detailed explanation of the issues, the problems, the potential solutions, and then insert specific questions that seek responses. Sadly, in the 13 page document, we find that only one single question has been included. It reads: How will we provide for the housing needs of an evolving community while continuing to support the sustainability, attractiveness and liveability of our City?

We are told nothing about our ‘evolving community’ (whatever that means!), nor anything about the controls that council has at its disposal in order to ensure ‘sustainability’ and ‘liveability’. Unless readers are aware of what is possible, their ability to respond meaningfully to such a question remains limited. For example: council introduced its residential zones in 2013 (without consultation). Nothing in the accompanying schedules to these zones has been reviewed, amended, or questioned. Whilst other councils have up to 40% permeability requirements even in their General Residential Zones, Glen Eira is content with maintaining its 20% requirement. This also applies to size of underground basements, open space requirements, etc. If sustainability is the objective, then residents need to know that council can and should be amending its schedules, and even reviewing the placement of the various zones. None of this has been communicated.

As for our ‘evolving community’, nothing in the issues paper identifies what this actually means or what the implications are and how they relate to a housing strategy. We are provided with a breakdown of detached housing figures, percentages of lone person households, and families with children (page 9). All we get are generalised comments such as ‘Housing diversity is important. There is support for housing diversity’. None of this has been explained, examined, and defined.

We also find statement after statement that deserves to be challenged. For example: ‘There is a need for student accommodation close to Monash University……’ We are not told how many student accommodation places currently exist and given COVID, how many might be required over the next 15 years. And if over a third of our current households are families with children, then surely, ‘housing diversity’ should pertain to the size of apartments built, the number of 3 and 4 bedroom homes, or the size of available open space? We are not provided with any data that reveals what is currently being built in Glen Eira or how council can introduce policies and standards that impact what is being built.

Page 12 of the paper exemplifies everything that is amiss with council’s consultation methodology. Under the banner of ‘Sustainability’, we are informed about 867km of footpaths (!), and the number of solar households in Glen Eira. Surely there is more to ‘sustainability’ than the length of our footpaths and even the number of homes with solar energy? We then also find the sneaky inclusion of this sentence: Higher densities in established areas can help contain urban sprawl on the edges of Melbourne. Is this simply setting the scene for more and more development and what does it have to do with ‘sustainability’ in Glen Eira itself? Not a single word is included on exactly what ‘higher density’ might entail and most significantly, what tools council has available to ensure that our streets, our open spaces, and our amenity is protected.

We started off this post by noting council’s refusal to provide questions that address and seek informed feedback on the central issues that any housing strategy should encompass. By way of comparison, here are some questions that other councils thought necessary to include in their respective discussion papers on their housing strategies – BUT ONLY AFTER SOME POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS WERE LISTED! –

KINGSTON

Thinking about new housing which has been built in Kingston over the last 10 years: a) Which specific developments or which types of development do you think have been successful? Which have been less successful?

BENDIGO

How important is the issue of housing affordability and to what extent should the Council and the private sector be involved?

Is this assessment accurate and is there additional land within the UGB (Urban Growth Boundary) that should be made available for housing or are there sites where development is not feasible or appropriate?

Council has identified a major future long term growth front to the north west of Maiden Gully –how appropriate is this area to accommodate residential growth in the future?

DANDENONG

What considerations should be taken into account when identifying locations for medium to higher density development?

How can Council improve the quality and location of medium and higher density housing?

There are several other councils which are currently reviewing and updating their housing strategies. We urge readers to have a look at what Bayside and Stonnington are doing in terms of their consultation methodologies.

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