Many residents have requested us to provide a brief outline of Glen Eira’s planning history to help gain an understanding of how Glen Eira’s planning CRISIS has emerged. It is basically a tale of consistently failing to up date the Planning Scheme with new planning tools as and when they became available
– despite recommendations from planning panels and residents outcries and
– disregarding the cumulative impact of development and the need to provide facilities and services for a rapidly increasing population.
Sadly today, Councils long term neglect of the planning scheme is exemplified by Glen Eira’s overarching planning document – the Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS). Glen Eira’s current MSS is based on 1996 census data.
In 2001 the Urban Villages policy, applying to Bentleigh, Elsternwick and Carnegie was enacted. No height limits were imposed. No structure plans were incorporated into the planning scheme. Promises were made to introduce design guidelines and parking precinct plans. (Nothing has been done in the 18 years since.)
Amendment C25 was gazetted (enacted). This determined the ‘minimal change areas’ and ‘housing diversity areas’ and established the borders of neighbourhood centres.
The Panel considered most of this amendment as an ‘interim’ measure, evidenced by these quotes:
- The Panel does not agree with the concept that all activity centres categorised as neighbourhood centres in C25 are automatically suited for higher density residential development
- The Panel recommends that the structure plans to be prepared by Council for each neighbourhood centre address issues of parking and traffic generated by both residents and shoppers.
- The Panel concludes that boundary issues are something that are best addressed through detailed assessment of each centre, as indicated in the amendment as future strategic work. The boundaries identified in this amendment should only be seen as interim arrangements until structure planning exercises are undertaken. This places high priority on the preparation of detailed structure plans for each of the neighbourhood centres. (p. 18)
- At best C25 provides a holding mechanism until more specific and effective policies are developed for each of the neighbourhood centres individually. This issue is a serious one that must be addressed directly in the development of the Structure Pans for individual centres. (p. 20)
Despite the above Planning Panel recommendations (which included the use of overlays), their questioning of analytical data and their criticisms of Council’s policies and strategies, Glen Eira opted to forego structure planning and instead retain existing policies and strategies. The rationale being that:
- policies and strategies were effective in managing development , and
- implementing and maintaining structure plans was extremely expensive and time-consuming (ie, taking years).
At the time, residents’ feedback was that the plans lacked strategic justification and that council had simply drawn circles on maps to establish the various minimal change and housing diversity (a.k.a. Activity Centres) areas. No detailed analysis of the circles content (eg. street configuration) had been undertaken.
During this period, other metropolitan councils undertook structure planning, incorporating the plans and the accompanying protective overlays in their planning schemes, ie. applying height, heritage, neighbourhood character and design controls to their activity centres. Glen Eira did nothing.
Amendment C110, announced in July 2013,and gazette on the 23rd August, 2013 introduced (for the first time in Glen Eira’s planning history) mandatory height limits but only for residential areas. No height limits applied to commercial and mixed-use zones. The new height limits were:
Housing diversity areas
- Within major activity centres: became split between proximate Residential Growth Zones (RGZ – 4 storeys) and less proximate General Residential Zones (GRZ – 3 storeys and to provide diverse housing types)
- Within neighbourhood and local activity centres: became General Residential Zone (GRZ – 3 storeys)
Minimal change areas
- Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ = 2 storeys), with a maximum of two-lot subdivisions
The application of zones was not, as claimed, a “direct and neutral” translation of previously existing housing diversity areas and minimal change areas.
There was no attempt to address:
- still outstanding boundary, character or design issues
- transition across zones (basically fitted within pre-existing circle)
- flow-on impacts (eg. traffic and on-street parking, off-street public parking)
- absence of structure plans and overlays
- inadequacies of policies and strategies
The new zones provided 87 years worth of development potential in residential zones, increasing to 106 years with the inclusion of commercial zones. This amendment was done without community consultation, without warning, in total secrecy and in record time. Residents woke up one morning to find that they now were living in an area that could have a four-storey, 13.5-metre building next door to them instead of the previous 9-metre preferred height.
- Without community consultation: Although legally obliged to undertake a Planning Scheme Review in 2014, Council applied for, and was granted, exemption from undertaking consultation, due to the claim that there was “extensive consultation” at its last review in 2010. Council exemption from undertaking a Planning Scheme Review was extended for two years post zone implementation. A request for a further years exemption was denied in 2015, refer below.
- Without warning, in total secrecy: State Government’s rezoning intention was announced in September 2012. Between then and Council’s zone imposition announcement ( August 2013), residents had repeatedly asked public questions about Council’s zone implementation. All answers were non-responsive and misleading.
- In record time:
- July 2013 – State Government gazetted the zones; councils were given 12 months to apply zones, ie. by July 2014
- 5 August 2013 – media announcements by State Government and Glen Eira Council of Glen Eira’s rezoning claimed it was the “first council to implement”, and the “biggest change in Glen Eira’s planning history”
- 23 August 2013 – the first Ordinary Council Meeting discussion of the zones since September 2012: “retrospective approval” to implement the zones
In December 2015, the Planning Minister declined Council’s request for a further exemption from undertaking a Planning Scheme Review. In response to complaints received from “residents of the local community, the development industry, local members of Parliament and VCAT”, the Minister ordered a Planning Scheme Review (with community consultation), and implementation of structure planning, by 30 June 2016 (see attachment).
Yet in 2019 the current structure planning exercise has stalled, and thus we still do not have:
- structure plans for our neighbourhood centres, or even permanent structure plans for major activity centres
- parking precinct plans
- height limits in commercial, mixed-use zones in neighbourhood centres or “convenience” shopping strips
Ministerial Amendment VC110, gazetted March 2017:
- removed maximum two-lot subdivision for Neighbourhood Residential Zones (both within and outside activity centres), allowing for more intensive development (particularly when basement car parking is permitted), and
- implemented minimum garden requirement for NRZ and GRZ.
Amendments C147/8, gazetted in 2017, provided interim height controls for Carnegie and Bentleigh. Elsternwick was not included even though it is a major activity centre. This amendment specified discretionary heights of mainly 6 and 7 storeys for Carnegie, and 4 and 5 storeys for Bentleigh. There was no consultation with residents since this was undertaken at council’s request via ministerial intervention under Section 20(4) of the Planning & Environment Act. No strategic justification was provided as to why 6 and 7 storeys are acceptable.
Amendment C157, gazetted in August 2018, changed heights to 12 storeys mandatory for Carnegie, and 5 storeys mandatory for Bentleigh, with 12 storeys preferred for Elsternwick. Again there was no genuine consultation, and residents were overwhelmingly opposed to these heights. Once more no strategic justification has ever been provided as to why 12 storeys is appropriate.
- Council has ignored community views repeatedly
- Council has failed to deliver on its promises
- Council’s agenda is and always has been pro-development
Some other points of concern:
- Council removed its development contribution levy from the planning scheme in 2010. Residents now subsidise developers’ drainage and community infrastructure needs.
- No decent open space levy existed until 2014, and even then this was only 5.7%. Other councils have up to 20% for their major activity centres. Council agreed to a paltry 4% and 5% for the Caulfield Village development of over 2500 dwellings!
- There has been minimal acquisition of new parkland, and minimal inclusion of parkland purchase overlays in proposed structure plans.
- The Planning Scheme’s Municipal Strategic Statement has not been updated since 1996.
- There has been no ho housing strategy study since 1998.
- Car-parking levies existed under Caulfield Council, but were removed around 1998.
- The first public question about a tree register appeared in Council meeting minutes in 2003. We still don’t have a register!
Delayed review of major heritage and neighbourhood character, despite the continued promises.
Minimal change areas were the less proximate residential areas, surrounding the housing diversity areas. Often referred to as “no go” or “go slow” areas. They comprised 80% of the Muncipalities residential areas.
Housing diversity areas were the proximate residential areas, surrounding existing public transport hubs and retail/commercial facilities. These areas were designated as being suitable for high and medium density development offering diverse housing options. They comprised 20% of the Municipalities residential areas..