In a packed gallery last night, overflowing into the passageways, councillors voted unanimously to refuse the Selwyn Street application for the 10 and 14 storey towers. Hardly a surprise given the failings of the application itself and the strong opposition mounted by residents.

Objectors asked several questions in the ‘community participation’ section of the meeting. One wanted a commitment that when the developer headed off to VCAT, that council would employ a top quality ‘silk’ to defend the refusal. The response was that council had already held discussions with lawyers and would provide a good ‘legal team’.  Hence, the question whether more than a (lowly) solicitor would be employed was never really answered. Readers will of course remember the Calvary/Bethlehem Hospital case in Kooyong Road where council’s ‘legal team’ consisted of one hired ‘solicitor’ (Mr Vorchheimer) and 2 expert witnesses – a traffic engineer and an urban designer. It was up to the residents themselves to hire a barrister and town planner.

As for the comments of councilors themselves, there was the usual grandstanding and claims of caring about community and what a wonderful job council has been doing with its structure planning and how it has been listening to resident aspirations.

Interspersed throughout the various comments there were blatant untruths and distortions of historical fact that are mind boggling. We highlight these below.

SILVER: Admitted that the structure plan is not as yet an accepted document in the planning scheme and that it would anyway be of the ‘lowest order’ – ie merely a ‘reference document’. He then goes on to state that the Urban Villages policy provides greater guidance and that …’we are in the unfortunate situation this site is about to accommodate, based on the planning scheme, more than many people would be comfortable with’. Thus council’s planning becomes dependent on a document that began its life in 1999 and was finally gazetted in the early 2000’s. If Silver and the other councillors therefore rely on the planning scheme it should be asked:

  • how can they suggest in their draft structure planning a height of 8 storeys for this site when residents’ throughout the ‘community consultation’ phase were vehemently opposed to such heights.
  • And if the planning scheme’s Uban Villages policy is the be all and end all as claimed by Silver, then how can they now support an 8 storey height that differs from what the planning scheme states – Development in Selwyn Street be of scale similar to surrounding buildings with buildings greater than two storey being located towards Glen Huntly Road, and buildings to the northern end of the street being sympathetic to the character of the surrounding streets due to its visibility.
  • There is also this gem – No retail activities occur along Selwyn Street.

DELAHUNTY: “that design and development overlay has been in place for some time’…’it was certainly no surprise to the applicant’ and we ‘rested upon it quite successfully for a number of years here in council’.

Absolute hogwash. The DDO10 was only gazetted by the Minister on 16th August 2018 – hardly a period of years as Delahunty goes on to claim. The first developer application made it into the public arena in February 2018. Discussions with council had clearly been on the cards well and truly before this time. The overall draft structure plan only made it onto the council agenda on 27th February 2018 when it was resolved to seek the Mnister’s intervention without further community consultation. And please remember that the first inkling that residents had that council was contemplating 12 storeys anywhere in Elsternwick or Carnegie came in July 2018.

SZTRAJT: claimed that council’s structure planning was to give the community ‘reassurance’ as to ‘where development should go and where it shouldn’t go’. Said he didn’t believe that the application ‘matches the community expectations’ that council ‘went out and sought’ when they developed the structure plans’.

The one consistent element of all council’s shoddy community consultation was that the overwhelming majority of responses did NOT WANT the ‘urban renewal’ heights that Council determined. None of the structure plans are in accordance with community expectations as to allowable maximum heights. Sztrajt concludes that the application ‘just doesn’t fit’. Perhaps residents should start asking whether council’s proposed 8 storey height limit would also ‘fit’ this site given its location abutting heritage areas, schools, etc. It would also be wonderful to see some real justification for even 8 storeys given these constraints!

ESAKOFF: was the only councillor that at least sounded some disquiet with council’s planning – ie ‘the whole aspect of community benefit itself troubles me’ and ‘allowing’ extra height for community benefit is ‘fraught with problems’. Another problem lies with ‘architectural excellence’ and how this will be adjudicated. Went onto dissect the compliance ratio of Clause 58 where she stated that 11 comply and 10 don’t comply and another 6 could comply with conditions.

ATHANASOPOLOUS: claimed that the application doesn’t ‘address’ how the ‘interface’ doesn’t address what is in the planning scheme. Said he also heard comments that council is destroying Glen Eira but that council was working very hard to ‘achieve some very important zoning changes’ which the site had before. Wanted residents to think about the ‘work’ that council is doing to ‘achieve the best possible outcomes that we can’.

So introducing a structure plan that has zoning changes of 8 storeys (or 10 storeys) abutting heritage is council’s idea of the ‘best possible outcome’!!!!!!!!

MAGEE: claimed he always looked at ‘transition’ and how a development ‘transitions’ from the ‘activity centre’ to the residential areas and that has to be ‘from highest to lowest’. Said that the application ‘goes the opposite’ – from lower to higher.

Of course this flies directly in the face of council’s structure plan and DDO – where they decided that up to 8 storeys would sit quite comfortably alongside one and 2 storeys!!!!! and in other areas of Elsternwick, that 12 storeys is a good fit against 4 storeys!!!!!

The most astounding thing to issue from Magee’s mouth was the plea to objectors to go to VCAT and fight the application on ’emotional grounds’ – how it affects them. After 11 years on council this is the most ridiculous statement and displays either one of two things – that Magee knows nothing about the workings of VCAT or that he simply enjoys more grandiose grandstanding. Even with the 2015 Objector’s Bill passed by Labor, the onus still remains on planning law and what is in the planning scheme. Magee should know this very well given his appearance at VCAT when the Claire Street debacle occurred and the member stated in this decision – The Tribunal’s role is to interpret and implement the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, in a manner that is separated from the emotional or political positions brought by all parties. A fundamental component of any assessment against the Glen Eira Planning Scheme is consideration of the policy intent, particularly the local policies drafted by the Glen Eira City Council.

HYAMS: stated that council had asked for 8 storeys mandatory but Wynne made it 10 storeys discretionary. However, ‘perhaps’ when the amendment for the structure plans comes in then the ‘protections’ might ‘vary one way or the other’. The government he said did provide interim protection once VCAT showed ‘it was no longer listening to our policies and you got 12 storeys going in other places’.

Hyams statements are lamentable. VCAT has NOT changed its position on council policies. Council simply had NO POLICY on height control in Mixed Use and Commercial and only in 2013 were height limits made mandatory for large swathes of residential land in Glen Eira – again without any community consultation. So concerned were council about ‘heritage’ in Elsternwick that they zoned huge areas as suitable for 4 storeys (RGZ). The sheer hypocrisy is unbelievable. Even when draft structure plans were produced for Bentleigh and Carnegie, Elsternwick was left out completely – giving free rein for more and more inappropriate development. As a designated Major Activity Centre why wasn’t Elsternwick included in the first set of drafts? As for the potential for council to now backtrack and reduce the height limits contained in the interim controls is a joke – even if council were willing which we doubt. No Minister will approve going backwards from 12 storeys to 6 or even 8 storeys.


We concur that this application is totally inappropriate and there are very many planning reasons for why it should be rejected. This however does not excuse councilors getting up on their hind legs and making statement after statement that lacks veracity, is misleading, or displays their total ignorance. We are left to wonder whether another decision might have been arrived at if there were not 187 formal objections, a petition of over 1700 and a packed gallery of angry and upset residents.

The bottom line is that council

  • HAS NOT LISTENED TO residents in its strategic planning
  • No justification has ever been provided as to why Glen Eira needs 12 storey buildings and thousands upon thousands more dwellings when the municipality is well and truly meeting its population growth demands

What residents want is a set of councillors who have the gumption to stand up and speak honestly instead of continually attempting to cover up this council’s woeful and continued shocking record in planning. Instead of congratulating themselves as to how well they get on with State Government (an item in last night’s agenda) residents would like council to stop being so compliant and to do their jobs – ie representing the wishes of residents above the wishes of developers!


The officer’s recommendation for the Woolies site in Elsternwick is available in the current agenda. The recommendation is for a refusal. The application is for:

  • Two towers – one of 10 storeys and one of 14 storeys
  • 181 apartments
  • Large supermarket and 3 ‘kiosks’

There were 187 objections and an opposing petition with 1787 signatures. One letter was in favour!

The recommendation for refusal is not a surprise given the vast community opposition. What is a surprise is some of the nonsense and misleading statements contained in the officer’s report.

Mention is made several times of council’s ‘preferred character’ for this activity centre, and especially this site – for example:

The height, form, scale and design detail of the building is not sufficiently resolved and therefore the proposal does not appropriately respond to the existing low rise heritage character of the area or the preferred character envisaged as part of Schedule 10 of the Design and Development Overlay.

Readers should note that THERE IS NO SPECIFIC PREFERRED CHARACTER STATEMENT in DDO10. Instead, we get vague generalities and motherhood statements that make up the ‘decision guidelines’ for increased height  –

Whether any building in Precinct 5 or 6 that exceeds the maximum preferred building height

Demonstrates that the development includes the provision of significant community benefit; and

Does not create unreasonable impacts on the amenity of sensitive interfaces as a result of additional height; and

Demonstrates architectural design excellence.

The officer’s report also cites just one VCAT decision to reject a Monash application for a 7 storey building in a 4 storey preferred height limit. Hardly the same as a 14 storey building in a 10 storey limit! The argument presented in the officer’s report is that

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has also issued decisions, stating that departures from the preferred height limit should not be treated as expected, but rather only in exceptional circumstances such as those outlined above (Boneng (Portman) Pty Ltd v Monash CC [2017] VCAT 797).

Furthermore, the Monash DDO contains far more ‘guidance’ than anything in the Glen Eira DDO10. In place of the above ‘permission’ for applications to exceed the preferred height limit, Monash includes this paragraph –

A building should not exceed the Preferred Building Height (in metres and storeys) specified in the built form precinct provisions of this Schedule unless particular site conditions warrant an alternative design response and that design response demonstrates a respect for, and significantly contributes to, the preferred character of the Oakleigh Major Activity Centre. (refer Figure 2 in this schedule

AND the ‘objectives’ for this precinct state:

To retain and enhance the pattern of urban development in the core centre that is characterised by small lot frontages, two storey federation and inter-war buildings, steeply pitched roofs and architecturally detailed upper storeys

Glen Eira’s ‘objectives’ for this precinct is simply – To encourage developments in urban renewal areas and on strategic sites that provide a significant benefit for the Elsternwick community.

There are also countless VCAT decisions that would fly in the face of this ‘exceptional circumanstances’ view including a centre road Bentleigh application –

As well as these –

More worrying is the implicit acceptance in the officer’s report that a 12 storey building would be okay! –

The applicant’s own Urban Design Strategy prepared by MGS Architects does not support a building height of 14 storeys. Rather, it identifies that a 12 storey height limit should be adopted. This is more towards what is suggested as being the appropriate height for this strategic site and recognises the community benefit contribution included as part of the proposal.

What is not acknowledged here is that council’s resolution of February 2018 designated this area as suitable for a 6-8 storey building. Wynne gazetted 10 storeys. There is no excuse therefore for the comment that at even 12 storeys this is ‘more towards what is suggested as appropriate’.

When this goes to VCAT will council cave in on 12 storeys or will they fight this tooth and nail?

There are plenty of other issues such as traffic, heritage, overshadowing, setbacks that we will refrain from commenting upon. All in all this application was doomed to failure and will certainly test council’s commitment to the community once this ends up at VCAT.

The tree register saga is now at least 15 years in the making. Following the September 2018 report we still are eons away from anything happening. As far as we can tell from council’s published information the eventual tree register will:

  • Only be part of the Local Planning Law and NOT enshrined in the planning scheme. This means that it will not have the necessary clout that the planning scheme could provide.
  • There are no guarantees that this register will even get through to include trees on private land. At the September meeting Strajt and Magee, plus Esakoff’s historical stance, made it absolutely clear that they were opposed to any ‘law’ that pertained to private land. Hence a free pass for continued moonscaping!
  • Nor have we been provided with any information as to how many trees will be on the register; whether council will only include ‘natives’ as stated in their September 2018 list of ‘objectives’; nor whether council will follow the National Trust’s full criteria in assessing any trees. Again the September ‘guidelines’ only referenced ‘large’ trees!

By way of illustrating what can and should be done we highlight recent amendments from Moonee Valley Council. This council has had a register for years. The register has been updated annually, plus it has existed for quite some time as part of its planning scheme. The latest amendment, gazetted recently, takes this a step further by placing an Environmental Sensitive Overlay (ESO) on every tree listed in the register. Whilst removal is still permitted, Moonee Valley has ensured that moonscaping is now much more difficult and unlikely. The ESO ensures that for each tree there will be permanent tree protection zones, regardless of development desires, and that only branches of less than 10cm in width may be lopped by developers.

Glen Eira’s stated proposals don’t come within cooee of such actions!

FYI we’ve provided the following screen dumps from the Planning Panel report which supported council in their endeavours to protect their habitat. Importantly, the imposition on individual landowners and developers was seen as less than the overall ‘community benefit’ to that municipality by the enhanced tree protection!

The rise of resident action groups across Melbourne

Allison Worrall Jan 21, 2019


The genteel streets of Elsternwick are not usually the scenes of a protest but on Saturday, more than 150 disgruntled residents, many with children in tow, marched with placards.

The rally was to highlight the community’s opposition to two apartment towers of 10 and 14 storeys proposed after supermarket giant Woolworths bought the site of the former ABC studios.

The resident action group behind the march is in its infancy; members banded together just weeks ago. “I’m a complete novice,” said organiser and veterinarian Karen Boyd-Jones. “I didn’t realise it was going to be all day, every day – lucky I’ve just retired.”

While resident action groups are not new, their prevalence, profile and role in Melbourne has grown as the city’s population has boomed. Social media has been harnessed to raise awareness, attract new members, co-ordinate campaigns and share information.

In Brunswick in the inner north, an established and well-organised action group with more than 1000 members is gearing up for the eighth day of hearings at the state’s planning tribunal.

Protect Park Street Precinct formed two years ago in response to the proposed 13-storey development of 333 apartments overlooking Princes Park. The application has since been revised to 14 storeys, 255 apartments and 12 townhouses.

To date, the group has raised more than $100,000 to mount a comprehensive legal case against the large legal team hired by developer JW Land Group, which paid $32 million for the site.

Members include former La Trobe University chancellor Professor Adrienne E Clarke, who said the group wanted to see “an appropriate building, respectful of heritage values” on the site.

The rise of resident groups has seen thousands of Melburnians, many with little or no experience in politics or lobbying, become resolute activists in recent years.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that the way the planning scheme operates at the moment tends to be quite pro-development and favours the big end of town,” says Glen McCallum, the president of Protect Fitzroy North, a powerful group that campaigned against a sprawling 16-storey apartment complex on Queens Parade proposed by developer Tim Gurner.

In that case, planning minister Richard Wynne controversially intervened to place a 10-storey limit on the site, which ultimately led to the project being greatly scaled back. Mr Gurner defended the project at the state’s planning tribunal and welcomed the approval when it was granted.

Since then, Mr McCallum’s organisation has offered assistance and fielded enquiries from resident groups in Collingwood, Alphington, Ivanhoe, Heidelberg and Brunswick.

“The pace of development has stepped up,” Mr McCallum says, “and the regime the councils operate under hasn’t changed since way back in the ’90s.”

With or without the support of councils – many of which have been inundated with development applications and are simultaneously juggling dozens of proposals and appeals – resident action groups are regularly taking on multi-millionaire developers in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

When a case reaches the tribunal, developers will often hire high-flying legal teams consisting of a QC, a junior barrister, several solicitors and a stream of other consultants and experts.

Meanwhile, residents may not have any legal representation or, if they have successfully fundraised, may hire a planning barrister like Daniel Epstein, who charges community groups a reduced fee.

“It’s absolutely a David and Goliath battle,” Mr Epstein admitted but added that resident groups had repeatedly proven effective. “It might be that the development goes through but is much more considered and restricted because of what the community did.”

Most resident groups vehemently reject the NIMBY label, and Mr Epstein agreed it was not the right description. He stressed that the dozen groups he had worked with were not anti-development, but against developments that were ill-considered or too large.

Those involved in planning disputes say it is arduous work entailing countless hours of research.  “Our little structure plan for Elsternwick had approximately 19 documents, over 1000 pages,” said research scientist Jacinta Smith, who attended Saturday’s march.

“How do people cope with that? Only ridiculous people like me think ‘I’m going to read this with my highlighter’.”

Ms Smith said she had never stepped foot inside a council meeting until 18 months ago when her land was rezoned. “I, like many people, was ignorant and apathetic on local council issues,” she said. “We assume the professionals and experts will handle this for us.”

Glen Eira council will hand down its decision regarding the Woolworths development next month.


PS – From today’s Caulfield Leader


In the 2016 Planning Scheme Review, residents made it clear that high on their list of priorities for council action was the introduction of an ESD (Environmentally Sustainable Development) policy, plus a WSUD (Water Sensitive Urban Design) policy.  The formal Review submitted to government went on to state (page 26):

ESD, loss of water, permeability, underground car parking  

Feedback revealed a greater desire for environmentally sustainable developments. 

It is recommended:

Σ That a town planning sustainability policy be developed together with ESD objectives in the MSS.

Σ Investigate possible incentives encouraging ESD for developments.

Σ Increase opportunities for planting

Σ Develop a Water Sensitive Urban Design Policy.

Σ Continue advocacy for a Statewide ESD Policy.

In the October 2018 review these ‘recommendations’ somehow went out the window with council resorting to its time honoured practice of ‘let’s wait for the state government to do something’ as evidenced here:

Even the WSUD idea morphed into the single issue of the Elster Creek Catchment project rather than seeing this as an issue for each individual development application.

For 30 other Victorian Councils, waiting around is not an option. Here’s a recent announcement from the MAV – the peak body of all councils.

Glen Eira isn’t even a member of the above listed alliance! Why not? Why is this council so averse to working collaboratively with other councils to ensure positive outcomes for the community? Is it really so hard to devise a policy that is now firmly entrenched in countless other planning schemes? Or is it that any impediment to developers goes against the grain?

Here is a list, taken from the CASBE website of all councils forming this alliance.


Bass coast





Greater Bendigo

Greater Dandenong


Hobson’s Bay









Moonee Valley


Port Phillip








Yarra Ranges

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has today released its data for building approvals for the July to November 2018 period. Glen Eira remains well and truly above target to meet its housing needs for population growth.

The chart below features all building approvals since the 2011/12 financial year. Please note that these figures also include building approvals for single house replacements. Thus, whilst the chart indicates that Monash has 300+ more building approvals, once the number of permits for single houses are removed, Glen Eira is streaking it in. For example: during this period Monash has had 4432 single house permits granted. Glen Eira has had 2232 – ie Monash has had double the number. Boroondara is another example where the rate of single house replacement is very high – 3547. Further exacerbating this data is the size of these municipalities. When 80 square km (Monash) is compared to the 38.9 km of Glen Eira, questions of density, open space become critical. Something our council is ignoring completely!

Given this data, it remains unbelievable that council is still committed to doubling the size of our activity centres and facilitating apartment blocks of 12 storeys and more.

PS – in order to put some of these stats into perspective we are adding the following – a list of all municipalities that had more building permits granted than Glen Eira’s for the period July to November 2018. Glen Eira had 853 permits of which only 132 were for single house replacements. The following list includes the total number of permits, plus the number of single house permits following the bracket(/).

Casey – 1983/ 1794

Greater Geelong – 1416/1246

Hume – 1615/1395

Manningham – 1109/170

Melton – 1216/1199

Monash – 1201/291

Whittlesea – 1266/890

Wyndham – 2557/2296


Neighbourhood centres in Glen Eira have been totally ignored for years despite the fact that development is proceeding at a great pace and with ever increasing heights and density. The latest result of council’s failure to introduce any planning controls for these areas comes with a new application for a 7 storey development at 75-85 Hawthorn Road. This will sit directly alongside another 7 storey building and opposite a 6 storey building.

McKinnon now has 6 storeys. Glen Huntly has multiple sites with 6 storeys. East Bentleigh the same and will soon have at least 8 storeys. Murrumbeena and Hughesdale also feature 6 storey permits. Ormond will have 10 storeys and currently has several 5 storey permits. Each and every neighbourhood centre will now become another de facto high rise area.

So what is council doing about this? Very little it would seem. This stands in stark contrast to other councils who have refused to be so compliant and pro-development.  Boroondara through its C229 Amendment managed to ensure mandatory height limits for all but its 3 major commercial shopping strips where the majority were of a maximum height of 3 storeys and only 1 was for 5 storeys. (See HERE). Bayside has also worked tirelessly to shore up protection for its neighbourhood centres. In Glen Eira we still await any indication as to:

  • Will these neighbourhood centres also have structure plans?
  • When will council get around to introducing any real protection for these centres?
  • Will council be fighting tooth and nail for mandatory height limits as Boroondara did?
  • With the stated ‘upgrading’ of Bentleigh East and Caulfield South, what will council decide as an ‘appropriate’ height for these centres? – 8 storeys? 9 storeys? And how much land will be rezoned to either RGZ or GRZ that is now zoned Neighbourhood Residential?

True to form, council’s modus operandi remains the same – keep the plebs ignorant until it is too late!