Recent planning conferences, plus some of our previous posts, have highlighted the concerns that residents have with deep excavation for underground car parks and the irreversible problems that these constructions can cause. In a municipality that this prone to flooding, that has large areas of water table, and where basements are abutting neighbours’ fence lines, the prospect of real long term damage is high.

Council’s position has been: first grant a permit and then worry about such things as flooding, discharging polluted waters into the drainage system and lowering of the water table so that surrounding areas are susceptible to earth movement and instability. In contrast, the latest agenda items for Kingston contain a policy called “BASEMENTS AND DEEP BUILDING CONSTRUCTION POLICY”. If the policy is ratified, then Kingston will demand before any permit is granted  the following:

Prior to application for a building permit, developers must conduct a site investigation to assess the local hydrology. The results of the site investigation must be presented to council in the form of a Groundwater Assessment Report Site limitations with respect to groundwater that have been identified in the initial design phase should be considered prior to the commencement of construction. Any excavation within 1.00 metre of the groundwater table will require a documented management plan to be submitted as part of or in conjunction with a Construction Management Plan. All necessary permits for the drainage of or de-watering of the site shall be in-place prior to construction commencing

Double depth excavations for two levels of basement car parking is now becoming more frequent in Glen Eira. Yet all council has done is include some ‘conditions’ in the planning permit about water discharge, etc. No real consideration has been given to what could happen to the groundwater levels; what could happen as a result of earth anchors; what could happen as a result of the cumulative impacts of such developments. Granting a permit and then trying to fix the problem is far too late as has been evidenced by several disasters in Carnegie.

If development is going to continue at the rate it is and with the proliferation of underground parking that reaches several levels, then greater surveillance, and far more restrictions on what can be done where is necessary. Sitting back and doing nothing is not the answer.

We have uploaded the entire Kingston officer’s report and the policy. Please refer to pages 210-235.

At last council meeting a public question asked how many amended permits have been submitted requesting either an increase in height or number of dwellings and how many were granted since the introduction of the zones. The first part of the question remained unanswered. The second part of the question provided the response of only 4 granted permits.

Either council is suffering badly from amnesia, or its record keeping systems are sub-standard, or perhaps the third possibility is that the responses to public questions are far from accurate, truthful, and precise. Somehow, council simply forgot to note one major application that had been decided at the previous council meeting and neatly sidestepped all those applications in commercial zones – admittedly because the question did not specifically refer to this zone.

The argument consistently put up by council is that the zones have had no impact on the increased intensity of development. Not so we argue. With the introduction of the new zones what is starting to emerge is that developers who have clung onto their land (some for several years) are now taking advantage of the ‘largesse’ provided to them via the new zones and submitting amended applications for either increased heights and increased numbers of dwellings. This is even more rampant in the commercial zones where there are no height limits. Below we feature, in addition to the paltry 4 that council nominated, some examples:

150 Tucker Road Bentleigh – Amend Planning Permit GE/PP-21042/2008 by changing the description of what the permit allows/covers to provide an increase of 7 dwellings (from 13 to 20 dwellings) (GRZ1 zone)

259-261 NEERIM ROAD, CARNEGIE – A previous application for a 3-storey building comprising 19 dwellings was approved by the Delegated Planning Committee with a reduction in the number of dwellings to 17 on 8 September 2010. Subsequently, on 11 January 2011, following a VCAT hearing about conditions, the Planning Permit was amended to allow up to 18 dwellings. This permit expired on 8 September 2013.

The current proposal for 28 dwellings is a complete redesign of the approved building with an increased number of dwellings and one additional storey. (RGZ1) (Note: this is technically regarded then as a ‘new permit application’!!!!!

2 MORTON AVENUE, CARNEGIE – Construction of a six (6) storey building comprising forty (40) dwellings, one (1) shop and a basement; reduction of the car parking requirement for dwelling visitors to one (1) car space; reduction of the car parking requirement for the shop to zero; and waiving of the loading bay requirement (Application to Amend a Planning Permit) AND –

A planning permit already exists for the site. The original permit was issued on 14 June 2011. It allowed the construction of a 4 storey building comprising 20 dwellings and a shop. This Planning Permit is still valid and will expire on 14 June 2014. The current proposal for 40 dwellings and a shop is a complete redesign of the approved building with an increased number of dwellings and 2 additional storeys. (C1Z)

467C HAWTHORN ROAD, CAULFIELD SOUTH – Amend the current planning permit to allow an additional storey (total of 4 storeys), provision of a lift and internal alterations. The four dwellings approved under the current permit will not increase in number. (c1z)

356-364 Orrong Road CAULFIELD NORTH – Application to amend Planning Permit GE/PP-22648/2010 which allows a five (5) storey mixed-use building comprising a supermarket, dwellings and a basement car park with an increase in the number of dwellings from fiftysix (56) to sixty-seven (67), an increase in the overall building height by 1.9m, the inclusion of five (5) advertising signs and associated changes to the internal layout and external appearance of the building (c1z)

338A Orrong Road, CAULFIELD NORTH – Amended Application – Amend the permit preamble to allow for a four (4) storey building – was a 3 storey – permit granted on 30/4/2014) (c1z)

670-672 Centre Road BENTLEIGH EAST VIC – Amendment to existing permit as follows – An increase to the size of the building to five storeys – Modifications to the first, second and third floors, including an increase in size and internal changes to the layout of the dwellings – The addition of ten (10) apartments – A reduction to the commercial floor area – (C1Z)

After years and years of cow towing to the MRC and well after the fact of the Caulfield Village machinations, Cr Lipshutz is now on the side of the angels. Yes, the MRC are ‘bullies’ and yes, the MRC are the tenants and should not be setting their own terms on leases. Well, if this isn’t a Johnny come lately approach we don’t know what is! Only problem is – where was this defiance and public advocacy five years ago?

More to the point is that on today’s Jon Faine program, Lipshutz announced that Council was not opposed to racing and didn’t want training to go from the course! The removal of training is part of the original agreement between council and the MRC. If this position has changed then:

  • Where is the council resolution ratifying such a change in position?
  • If no resolution has been passed then what right does Lipshutz have to make such statements?
  • Or, is all of this again, decision making behind closed doors?

We present below the once lost, but now miraculously found, minutes of a 2008 Trustee meeting where readers will find that the issue of the removal of training was discussed and then subsequently endorsed by council resolution. The full document is then uploaded HERE.

Pages from Trust Minutes 25 September 2008PS: FOR SOME MORE INTERESTING READING, HERE ARE SOME SNAPSHOTS FROM THE MRC’S 2014 ANNUAL REPORT. Please note the reference to Symons as paying ‘commercial rates’ for the training facitilities and for his ‘membership’ of the group but of course, no ‘conflict of interest’ according to our previous post on the Sword claims. The full Annual Report is available from:



In what can only be described as the most extraordinary course of events the MRC representatives (plus 2 Government appointed Trustees have voted at the last (secret?) Trustee meeting to:

  • have a 5 year lease on the entire racecourse land and only pay $90,000+ pa
  • that this lease then be ‘renewable’ for a further 21 year lease at this rental
  • that Mike Symons (and the other MRC trustees) do not have any conflict of interest concerns when negotiating leases on their rented stables/training facilities

What we publish in order below is quite staggering. First, the letter by Greg Sword to the Minister and others alleging conflict of interest etc. Only the first page is uploaded, but the entire document is available for downloading HERE

Pages from Caulfield Letter to Chairman of TrusteesNext, we’ve uploaded the MRC response and its attack on Sword. Again the full document is available HERE

Pages from Ltr to CRR Trustees from MRC TrusteesFinally, another document written by Mr Fenwick to the Minister is available HERE


  • The entire Trustees should be sacked immediately in our view and an independent management committee appointed
  • The legality of this entire fiasco, and especially the actions of the MRC trustees needs immediate resolution with the option of penalties
  • A full parliamentary inquiry, if not a Royal Commission be instituted to investigate the long term issues that have plagued the management of the racecourse as public crown land.


Untitled2Untitled3PS: We also direct readers’ attention to the following snap shot from the latest Annual Report. Please note:

  • Neighbourhood character’ only applies to Minimal Change – in contradiction of council’s own planning scheme!
  • No ‘resolution’ provided to council re introduction of the new zones – simply an ‘implementation report’ – and after the fact of course!


Labor promises reform to consider planning objections

Date: October 20, 2014 – 12:15AM
Henrietta Cook

The number of objectors to proposed developments will have be taken into account by the state’s planning tribunal if Labor wins the election.

In a pledge likely to appeal to voters in seats where planning is a sensitive issue, Labor has vowed to change the state’s planning laws to give locals a greater say in controversial new developments.

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said the changes would let the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal listen to the community.

“The move would see significant community responses like that at Tecoma McDonald’s or against the Orrong Road Towers in Prahran taken into account in decision-making at VCAT,” he said.

“This is about ensuring that development works in the community- we are putting people first.”

Under Labor’s promise, the Planning and Environment Act would be changed so that “where appropriate” VCAT must have regard to the extent of community opposition to planning proposals.

They hope this will restore confidence in third-party participation in planning decisions.

Labor’s proposed changes would not apply to minor renovations or major projects where consultation is already a requirement.

The contentious Orrong Road apartment towers in Armadale and the Tecoma McDonald’s are two high-profile planning cases where VCAT has been criticised for approving development despite vocal community opposition.

No McDonald’s in the Dandenong Ranges campaign spokesman Garry Muratore said the fast food giant would have never been granted permission to build in tranquil Tecoma if the volume of community opposition had been taken into account.

“We knocked on the door of every single house in Tecoma and found that nine out of 10 people didn’t want McDonald’s. That was something VCAT should have taken into consideration, as should McDonald’s. The weight of the public opinion should matter.”

In 2011 the Shire of Yarra Ranges voted unanimously against the fast food giant’s proposal to open a restaurant on the main street of Tecoma. But McDonald’s successfully appealed the decision in VCAT, despite hundreds of submissions from the fired-up community. The chain restaurant’s initial application to council attracted a record 1100 objections.

In their decision, VCAT said, “We acknowledge there is considerable opposition to this proposal…However the tribunal has consistently found that planning decisions are not to be based on the numbers of objections. Our decisions must be based on the planning merits.”

Mr Muratore said Labor’s proposed changes would give VCAT clarity and restore the democratic process.

“Although we aren’t critical of VCAT’s decision – they made that decision within the current legislative framework – if this had been in place this development wouldn’t be able to go ahead.”

In the marginal seat of Prahran – which Labor hopes to take from  Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown at next month’s state election – community concern has been brewing for some time over a four 12-storey tower development on Orrong Road.

The developer Lend Lease’s plans for the site were rejected by Stonnington Council, which was inundated with more than 600 objections. VCAT overruled its decision in 2012 – despite receiving 450 objections – and the council later lost a Supreme Court challenge to the decision.

“The number of objections to the proposed development was an irrelevant consideration,” VCAT said in its decision regarding the Orrong Road proposal.

Under current laws, social effects must be taken into account when assessing proposed developments. But this does not include the volume of objections.

Unrest over living space the key in battle for Bentleigh

October 19, 2014 – 9:21AM

Robyn Morgan leftPrahran a decade ago in search of suburban serenity. Like others escaping the inner city, she wanted more: more time away from traffic congestion, more educational choice for her children, more peace of mind when she walked down the street.She didn’t have to travel far. About 20 minutes south-east, the electorate of Bentleigh was the quintessential family dream: spacious houses on leafy streets. Decent roads and transport options. One of the most sought-after public schools in Melbourne.

Lately, though, the winds of change have accelerated at an uncomfortable pace. State government planning reforms have paved the way for higher-density development in prized areas near shopping strips and public transport. Once sleepy streets are being earmarked for large-scale apartments. And the very blessings that draw people to the area in the first place – good amenities, quiet neighbourhoods – are suddenly in danger of becoming a curse for the locals who want to preserve what they have.

For residents like Mrs Morgan – whose street in McKinnon recently came under threat of an “inappropriate” three-storey apartment proposal – planning has become such a sensitive issue it will determine her vote at next month’s state election.

“We moved here from Prahran to get away from high-density development and traffic congestion, and we specifically bought in this area to be as close as we possibly could to McKinnon Secondary, to put our kids into that school,” says the self-described swinging voter.

“But what’s happening will completely change the demographic and the whole amenity of this area. So in terms of political choice next month, I definitely won’t be voting Liberal.”

It’s an ominous sign for the Napthine government, which came to power only four years ago riding on a similar wave of discontent against Labor in this very seat – only then, the flashpoint issue was overcrowding on the Frankston train line.

At the 2010 state election, Bentleigh was the last Labor-held electorate to fall, giving Ted Baillieu the 13 seats he needed to win government. So tight was the contest that only 522 votes separated incumbent MP Rob Hudson and Liberal counterpart Elizabeth Miller, a former nurse who emerged from relative obscurity to swing the election in the Coalition’s favour.

Fast forward to present day and the government has spent much of its first term lurching from one political headache to the next, making the task of holding on to sandbelt seats like Bentleigh even tougher.

What also makes this contest unpredictable is the area’s volatility. Taking in suburbs such as McKinnon, Moorabin and Hampton east, Bentleigh is a mix of the old and the new: ageing residents who have lived there for decades; aspirational young families who can afford the average house price ($925,000 for three bedrooms); a multicultural melting pot where 45 per cent of locals have parents who were born overseas.

But the seat has changed hands repeatedly over the past 50 years, with voters tending to switch their allegiance based on policy or personality, rather than stick with the same party for the sake of tradition. Come November 29, the government needs an anti-Liberal swing of only 0.9 per cent for the electorate to switch, yet again.

Miller’s main challenger, Nick Staikos, is your quintessential politician who’s worked his way from the ground up: a Labor member since he was 16; Glen Eira’s youngest councillor at 19; a staffer to former federal MP Simon Crean; and a life patron of the local senior citizens club, which has about 500 members.

“There are a lot of things we need to get done for our community – rebuilding our schools, removing level crossings, ensuring that our significant senior citizen community is looked after,” says the ambitious 28-year-old.

Miller, on the other hand, joined the Liberals only in 2006 and has cut a fairly elusive figure on Spring Street ever since. She’s softly spoken and has a tendency to avoid the media, but those who know her will tell you she’s fiercely committed when it comes to her electorate.

When Melbourne was hit with flash floods in 2011, resulting in extensive damage to streets in McKinnon and Ormond, the newly elected Miller doorknocked every house on Cadby Avenue and Station Avenue to ensure residents had appropriate food, shelter and heating. Drain pipes were eventually installed with her assistance, and months later, when severe rains hit the area again, she spent hours driving up and down the streets to make sure water was draining properly.

In a rare interview at Parliament last week, Miller, 47, admitted the battle for Bentleigh would be tight, but believed people would vote on her record as an “active, hands-on, grassroots member”.

“I’m living and breathing my community, and overall, they undoubtedly have confidence in this government,” she says.

Still, there are plenty of factors that could prove her wrong. Like many other electorates, Bentleigh is growing –  but with that comes growing pains.

McKinnon Secondary College, for instance, now has 1850 students – and countless others are trying to enrol –  which can put a strain on facilities and space without additional resources, says principal Pitsa Binnion. She welcomes both parties promising $9 million for building upgrades (Labor committed in March; the Coalition last Monday) but admits the popularity of her school has led to other challenges in the area.

“The problem is there’s such growth in the area and the demand is so high it creates other issues like traffic and buildings going up everywhere,” she says. “What are we to do?”

Others are asking the same question. On Tuesday, it was standing room only at the Glen Eira council as nine planning applications were debated. One of them was the three-storey proposal for Penang Street, where the Morgan family live, which was ultimately rejected – although it is not yet known whether the developer will challenge at VCAT. Other residents, like Greg Wilkinson – who lives in Loranne Street where a four-storey apartment block was approved – weren’t as lucky.

“I’m not against change, but I am against intense change,” say Wilkinson, who voted for Miller at the last election but insists he won’t do so again on the back of the government’s planning reforms.

And what about transport, the critical issue that became emblematic of Labor’s inability to manage population growth in 2010? About 191 weekly services have been added on the Frankston line since then, resulting in punctuality averaging 90.2 per cent over the last 12 months – up from 70.9 per cent over Labor’s last year in office.

But Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen, who also happens to live in the electorate, says that while there have no doubt been improvements in punctuality, cancellations remain an issue, while the government’s own figures show cancellation rates on the Frankston line worsened slightly in the 12 months to September.

The good news is, with only six weeks until the election, critical issues such as planning, education and transport will remain in the spotlight. Labor has already pledged to remove the Centre Road level crossing; both major parties have promised upgrades to schools in McKinnon and Bentleigh; and both also have grand new plans to bolster jobs.

As for voters like Robyn Morgan and her neighbours? They simply want whoever wins in November to stand up for the community when it comes to neighbourhood change. “We’re not against new development, but it just has to be appropriately sited,” she says.