The 3 images above depict an aspect of structure planning undertaken by different councils – and stand in stark contrast to how Glen Eira Council is approaching the same task.

Please note that:

  • Each of these councils includes vast areas of ‘residential’ land
  • Borders are clearly defined and are ‘reviewed’
  • Notations that ‘heritage’ areas to be ‘generally excluded’

Glen Eira’s structure planning concentrates exclusively on the main shopping strip (ie Centre Road, Glen Huntly Road, etc) and the surrounding residential areas (ie the zones) are ignored. The use of the term ‘shopping strip’ alone in the surveys was the clear giveaway!

Given that ‘structure planning’ is meant to deal with ‘activity centres’ as a whole, and that activity centres include far more than a single shopping strip, we find the approach taken by council far from adequate – especially in light of the countless comments already submitted by residents complaining about overdevelopment in their side streets. What we are therefore seeing is NOT a structure plan for an activity centre but a half baked approach to genuine community consultation and proficient strategic planning.

Finally, Council’s planning scheme clearly outlines what it considers to be an activity centre. Here is the one for Bentleigh –

By ignoring the residential areas included in the activity centre, we can only wonder at the efficacy of any resulting structure plan. If no current data on population, car ownership, developments, etc is included in the design of any future structure plan, then the very validity of the plan must be questioned. As shown in previous posts the vast majority of development is not occurring in the areas zoned Commercial, but in the abutting residential areas. The impact of this must be reviewed and questions as to capacity, infrastructure needs, etc. addressed before any window dressing occurs for the central shopping strips alone.

Residents do have cause for concern given the ‘results’ which have thus far been produced by council in regard to the structure planning ‘consultations’. The plans are supposedly based on community feedback. Yet very little of what residents wrote is reflected in any of these documents. When even council is forced to admit that ‘opposition’ to ‘private development’ features prominently in most of the areas listed, but fails to make an appearance in the ‘objectives’ section listed for further action, then something is drastically wrong.

Below is what council sees as the road map for the next phase of ‘consultation’ for four of the designated activity centres – (the screen dumps come from the ‘Transformational Concepts’ report). Please keep in mind that no explanation has been given why Hughesdale and Murrumbeena should be included as part of the first cabs off the rank instead of say Ormond, McKinnon and even Balaclava, Glen Huntly and Caulfield which according to the latest version of Plan Melbourne are now designated as MAJOR ACTIVITY CENTRES!

What we have here is thus another example of a Clayton’s Consultation where decisions have already been made and the ‘results’ of  community input are deliberately distorted, or completely ignored!

Many residents, it seems, are pinning their hopes on the approval of council’s interim height amendments C147 and C148 for the Bentleigh and Carnegie ‘urban villages’. We remind readers that in both of these draft amendments, council saw fit to request, for the most part, only a ‘preferred’ height limit for the commercial and mixed use zones. Bentleigh was to have a preferred 5 storey height limit and Carnegie a preferred 7 storey limit.

At the time many residents asked for mandatory height limits for the entire areas. Council in its wisdom argued that their chances of ‘success’ depended on not asking for too much, so that leaving the majority of land as ‘preferred’ was the best option. Mind, no ‘consultation’ has ever taken place as to whether or not residents felt that 7 and 5 storeys were appropriate or even if 13.5m and 10.5m were appropriate height limits for massive areas of the municipality!

Needless to say, no strategic justification was submitted with these draft amendments and residents were certainly never provided with any such justification. Hence, in part at least, the minister’s delay in rubber stamping anything. The question now becomes, will these amendments solve the problems of overdevelopment? How confident should residents be that a ‘preferred’ maximum height of 7 or 5 storeys will be the magic bullet that curbs developer greed and abuse of the planning system?

In order to answer this question we have perused some VCAT decisions from the past year. They certainly do not fill us with confidence that the option of going for ‘preferred’ height limits will halt buildings in excess of these heights. Below we feature some verbatim quotes from various VCAT decisions where the developers were successful in gaining permits in excess of what the various planning schemes stated as their ‘preferred’ height limits.We quote verbatim:

The starting point for a consideration of the overall height and setbacks of a proposal is the overlay. The discretion to vary the preferred heights and setbacks is appropriately informed by a wide range of factors, including but not limited to those which are contained within the decision guidelines of the overlay. The strategic and physical context of the site will be important considerations when deciding whether to exercise the available discretion, as will the design of the building. The proposal should not be rejected simply because it does not comply with the preferences expressed in the overlay. Not all sites within DDO18 in this location will be capable of achieving the preferred height and not every site will be limited to this height


It (the application) provides for a form that is in the general height range sought. It is not substantially over the preferred height listed in the table, and we accept that had the proposal been for a seven storey commercial building, its absolute height would not be dissimilar to that proposed for a nine storey, predominantly residential building.


While the preferred height limits are relevant, they are but one factor in my assessment of the appropriateness of the proposed height for the review site. Another important factor is context, and another still is the quality of the overall design response proposed for the review site.


  • The proposed building has a maximum height of 16.5 m, exceeding the preferred height by 2 m. The proposed building is 5 storeys high, one storey higher than the maximum height which appears to be contemplated by the design guidelines. Council and respondents submit that these provisions establish a height limit which should not be exceeded and which when exceeded results in a building which fails to appropriately respect the preferred character within the precinct.
  • I do not think that this is the correct approach to the analysis of the policy framework in respect of this precinct. This approach treats the precinct as a uniform whole and fails to have sufficient regard to fails the diverse factors which influence which should be regarded as an appropriate outcome within different parts of the precinct. These factors include:
  • Some parts of the precinct are very close to the Camberwell Junction Activity Centre, they are as Mr Bissett submitted, within the sphere of influence of the activity centre if not being part of it.
  • I consider that this level of change is not a matter of concern, because it is consistent with the level of change which is anticipated by the zone provisions and the broader planning policy framework as it relates to important activity centres. It is reasonable to expect that the character of the eastern end of Precinct 49 will be transformed over time.
  • In general terms I consider that land within Precinct 49 east of Hastings Street is at least within the sphere of influence of the Camberwell Junction Activity Centre. This factor, together with the association of the land with land in the Commercial 1 Zone and the General Residential Zone lead me to the conclusion that, on suitable sites, buildings in excess of 4 storeys in height may be appropriate, provided that the interfaces with adjoining land are appropriately managed.


On balance, I am not persuaded that the extra height of a building that exceeds the proposed mandatory controls by between 1.2 and 2.2 metres will be discernible to a viewer at street level or that it sets a precedent for other buildings that may exceed Council’s desire for a 19 metre height limit. One of the major benefits of a discretionary control is that it allows for some variation around a preferred height depending on the particular site context. I consider that allowing a building to slightly exceed 19 metres does not undermine or offend any of the relevant design objectives proposed in DDO18.



  1. Schedule 19 to the Design and Development Overlay, titled Brunswick Activity Centre – Lygon Street Local Area applies to the site and surrounds. It envisages a five-storey spine (17 metres maximum) along the western side of Lygon Street transitioning through four-storey development (14 metres) along the eastern end of Pitt Street to the area’s residential hinterland further to the east.
  2. The review site is the closest of the ‘four-storey development sites’ to the spine. Due to the strategic decision to apply the spine to existing titles facing Lygon Street, land immediately to the north[2], south and east of the site is earmarked for five-storey development.
  3. Consequently, the Applicants’ say it is reasonable to propose a five level building here, as it will have a comfortable relationship with surrounding buildings. They see a planning detriment in restricting its height. Losing a floor means three less dwellings in a location earmarked for high density residential development.
  4. The Council contests this interpretation. It says that ‘double-dipping’ into the planning policy framework misinterprets the Brunswick Structure Plan. It says that all relevant State and local planning policies were factored into the Brunswick Structure Plan. It says the preferred maximum heights of the Overlay reflect the policy framework holistically.
  5. Further to this, it says the word ‘maximum’, when referring to preferred ‘maximum’ heights in this and similar Overlays, should be afforded its ordinary English meaning. It says it should not be presumed that each and every surrounding development will reach its maximum height. As such, predictions of this site’s future physical context should not presume that five-storey development will occur to the site’s north and east[
  6. Finally, it submits that I should be cautious of promoting incremental ‘cribbing’ of heights. It asks me to acknowledge that an approved building that is one-storey higher than the Overlay’s preferred maximum will be used as ‘leverage’ to justify something taller than the preferred maximum on nearby lots.
  7. These general submissions do not persuade me. The question, when properly put, is whether a proposal responds to its planning and physical context. In other words, direction provided by planning policy and opportunities/constraints resulting from its siting amongst its neighbours must be integrated to provide an acceptable outcome. This is the basis of a performance-based system where every proposal is decided on its merits. In this instance, I find the opportunities resulting from its siting amongst its neighbours allow a five-level building to meet the Structure Plan’s objectives for this location.
  8. I attach little weight to the submission regarding ‘double-dipping’ in this instance. Allowing an extra floor of three dwellings will barely alter the Brunswick Structure Plans outcomes. Further to this, I find the submission is contrary to the generally accepted principle that each proposal should be considered on its merits with due regard for its physical and policy context. I find it reasonable to conclude that the strategic drafting decision to link title boundaries to preferred heights leaves some leeway for variations to the preferred maximum heights.


In the most scathing terms possible, and with conclusions that reveal the mess that State and Local planning authorities are in, the Auditor General released a report yesterday that basically found:

  • The Department is not doing its job
  • Ministers, department, and councils lack transparency and accountability
  • The legislation is inadequate and contradictory

It is a comprehensive review of planning in the state and well worth a read for those interested. Some of the most interesting points made emphasise that very few amendments or planning permits adhere to the ‘social, environmental, and economic’ ‘net benefit’ for the community that the legislation requires. In most cases, these elements don’t even get a mention in reported decisions. Here are some quotes, which we believe apply most strongly to Glen Eira City Council:

If the community is to have confidence and trust in the planning system, decisions must be transparent, and planning schemes must be well implemented and operate as intended.

The assessments DELWP and councils provide to inform decisions are not as comprehensive as required by the Act and the VPP. DELWP and councils have also not measured the success of the system’s contribution to achieving planning policy objectives.

Transparent—there is generally strong community participation due to extensive third-party and appeal rights in planning decisions. However, planning assessments used to inform decisions do not transparently analyse all relevant planning matters as required by the Act and the VPP, and not all decisions are accompanied by published reasons.

Some councils are also slow to review and revise local planning schemes, and there is no requirement for DELWP to regularly review and revise the content of the VPP.

The following image sums up many of the issues that bedevil Glen Eira –

The full report can be found at –

PS: just as a reminder of council’s failure to deliver on long made promises, we repeat part of a previous post that confirms everything the Auditor General claims. The image below comes from the minutes of 2010 and the (in)famous 2010 Planning Scheme Review. Please note all the promises that were made with none being delivered in the space of 7 years! Three councillors of that time are still on council – Esakoff, Hyams and Magee and Delahunty arrived in 2012. What have they done to ‘progress’ the initiatives of the review over this time span? The highlighted sections below speak for themselves.


A few preliminary comments on last night’s council meeting.

There was a huge turnout of residents – well over 120 people crowded into the chamber that probably seats only 35 and overflowed into the corridor outside the chamber and down the stairs. And the number of agendas that were printed? Certainly no more than ten! Residents have often asked that some form of overhead displaying motions, amendments etc, be available so that people could follow what is going on. A water cooler/dispenser, which once upon a time was provided, has not made an appearance for years now. We don’t believe that it is too much to ask that given overcrowding and the length of some meetings, plus the heat, that all stops are pulled out to ensure that residents are at least provided with the ability to get a drink or to see (and hear) what is going on.

Item 9.1 – McKinnon Road Amendment

Hyams moved motion to refer to a panel but that the zoning be General Residential Zone 2(GRZ2) . Seconded by Magee.

HYAMS: started by saying that he thought that ‘we all agree’ that the land ‘could be better used’ than the industrial zone that ‘is there at the moment’. The application was for a Mixed Use zone, but ‘my belief is that a Mixed Use zone is not the appropriate zone’. Even though the site ‘is near a shopping strip I don’t agree it is part of the shopping strip’ and is alongside GRZ and also Neighbourhood Residential Zone. Therefore since it’s not part of the shopping strip and the context is residential ‘I don’t think it is appropriate’ for this to be rezoned to MUZ and ‘four storey building and for shops’. Quoted the planning scheme and council policies that ‘encourage the conversion of isolated pockets’ of industrial land to ‘residential’. Said that many objectors asked that the amendment be abandoned and they still have that ‘option’ but thought that the GRZ2 ‘was an option that we can move forward with’. Even if they wanted the zoning to be NRZ they would still have to go through a panel. Continued that he also ‘shared concerns’ with residents ‘about the traffic’ so having a MUZ ‘with shops’ and the increased traffic ‘isn’t quite appropriate’.  Spoke about Wynne’s recent proposed changes where across Melbourne the GRZ was going to be 11 metres but ‘that doesn’t apply to Glen Eira’ because this municipality has ‘mandatory 10.5’ and ‘it is my understanding that this will stay’. Explained the difference between GRZ1 and GRZ2, where the latter has ‘greater setbacks to the rear’ and if it’s GRZ then ‘there is no need for a Design and Development Overlay’. Said he chaired the planning conference and it was long and ’emotional’. ‘It was unfortunate that the police needed to be there’ and ‘contrary to rumours’ put out by some ‘irresponsible people’ council didn’t pay the police – they ‘came of their own volition’ because there had been some ‘very unsavoury behaviour towards the applicant’ which was the reason for their presence. Said that the Glen Eira Resident’s Association were present at the planning conference and they made some good points and for those people interested in Item 9.2, they ‘might wonder why they weren’t accorded the same help’. Explained the process – ie going to panel, back to council etc. ‘So this isn’t the final step’ and objectors still get opportunity to put their view.

MAGEE: ‘There’s an awful, awful long way to go’ and the panel will consider the ‘merits’ of everyone’s submission. Council can then accept, amend or reject the panel’s decision. Said that ‘clearly a mixed use zone is not something I would be favouring’. With a GRZ zoning this is then ‘limited to 3 storeys’. Councillors would probably say that ideally they would ‘love to see Californian bungalows’ on the site but ‘that’s not ever going to happen’. Opposite is Neighbourhood Residential so this site becomes ‘what you would call the transition’. Said councillors had ‘heard a lot of concern from residents’. They probably get 1 or 2 such applications a year which ‘generates a lot of debate and that debate is welcome’. But this has ‘to be taken into consideration for what is the big picture for Glen Eira’. Thought that the MUZ would ‘be a step backwards’ but the GRZ he thought ‘is appropriate’. Repeated that there’s ‘still a long way’ to go and this is only the first step in the process by ‘sending it to that independent panel’.

ATHANASOPOULOS: started by saying that the thing he has been ‘most passionate about’ is planning. He is also ‘proud’ of councillors for taking the approach ‘which is a long term strategy’ on planning. But ‘without that strategy’ he finds it ‘difficult to go through’ these sorts of applications. Said it’s difficult because ‘I am not guided by an actual strategy that I have endorsed’. Thought that ‘it is up to us’ to abandon the amendment. Said he isn’t anti-development – he owns a business in Carnegie and ‘I understand the benefits of development’. Agreed that the ‘city is going to have to’ change over the years. What council does need is the ‘ability to go to our people’ and asking them ‘how do you see this’ for an area and then ‘for us to come back here’ and for officers ‘to put together a strategy for every particular area’. ‘This will take time’ but in the ‘meantime’ he isn’t ‘comfortable’ in saying ‘I think this should go here’. So until they ‘go to our community’, speak with them and ‘actually develop that strategy’ and then ‘make the decision’ on applications. ‘Then I would be very comfortable’. Didn’t think that council should be going to a panel and that they should be ‘focusing all our effort’ on ‘what we want for our whole municipality’.

ESAKOFF: agreed with comments but wanted to emphasise that the ‘site is due to change’ but wasn’t sure if MUZ was right. Felt that a GRZ was more appropriate since it is in a neighbourhood centre but ‘at the edge’ so there is that ‘transition down. Perfect’. So the ‘GRZ absolutely fits’. Also is a ‘fair way away’ from the rest of the shops.

TAYLOR: asked that if the amendment was abandoned would it be coming back to council at any stage?

DELAHUNTY: said it ‘would be open to the applicant’ to resubmit another application.

TAYLOR: said it was a ‘difficult decision’ because she had got a lot of ‘feedback’ from residents and thought along with other councillors that GRZ was most appropriate because ‘we want to keep that village feel as much as possible’. It won’t stay industrial and ‘we have to make sure that we utilise the space appropriately’.

DELAHUNTY: said she has a ‘lot of sympathy’ for Athanasopolous’ views since he makes ‘a very strong argument for the need for a strategic plan’ and that she ‘wishes we had done our strategic plan’ long ago. Strategic plan ‘would help a lot’ with this. The community has also made their views known on the ‘item’. The community ‘around this site is obviously vocal but also very loving’ of their area and ‘that helps a lot’ with the decision.  Stated that she is ‘in two minds’ because going to a panel on something she mightn’t fully agree with, but she ‘wants to know more’ and realises that ‘I am placing costs on council’ and the developer. This mightn’t be necessary if they ‘intend to actually not listen to the panel’ and ‘do some strategic work’. On the other hand ‘this applicant shouldn’t be a victim’ because council hasn’t done the strategic work and he ‘has put in an application’ which ‘deserves to be considered on its merits’ – ‘regardless of whether council has been organised enough’. Strategic work is important and typifies the way ‘this council is working’ and it’s going to be a ‘great outcome in the end’. Council does need ‘to consider things outside the process’ at the moment. Said that ‘this is an uncomfortable decision’ but she is in favour of sending it to a panel because ‘it buys us some more time‘.  Not a good reason admittedly to send to a panel but overall ‘this is industrial land’ and ‘due for a change’. So ‘on balance’ she will vote for a panel.

HYAMS: moved the motion not because he wants to ‘buy more time’ but because getting this zoned to GRZ means to go to the panel. Otherwise it will stay industrial and he didn’t think ‘this does anyone any good’. Agreed with Delahunty about residents having a say and that’s ‘part of what we do’ in the structure planning process. Was also ‘sympathetic’ to Athanasopoulos’ views but having a strategy ‘is going to take a fair while’ and it’s not ‘fair’ or ‘right’ to tell applicants who ‘come along in the meantime’ that they are going to ‘have to wait’ until council does its strategic planning. Said that council ‘needs to apply the policies we have at the moment’ and ‘work on the strategies in the meantime’. Explained the process again – ie panel, minister, then back to council.



For all the talk about not being ‘populist’ but doing what is ‘right’ that we’ve been hearing for years and years from the likes of Hyams, Magee, and Lipshutz in particular, this resolution provides clear proof to residents that if they organise, if they are vocal, and if they put pressure on council, then they will achieve some change of heart.

One needs to question why, when this amendment was first considered in September 2016, the likes of Hyams and Magee and all other sitting councillors of the previous council, saw absolutely nothing wrong with an MUZ zoning? The officer’s report hasn’t changed its recommendation – those councillors re-elected have changed their view! Where were they 6 months ago? Why put residents through this aggravation and angst?

As a reminder, here is part of what Hyams said at the September, 2016 Council meeting .  Please compare with what he has stated above! It speaks volumes about all notions of consistency and ‘integrity’! And of course, ‘populism’ has nothing to do with anything when over 100 objections are submitted!

Hyams moved motion to seek authorisation from the Minister. Seconded by Magee.

HYAMS: stated this was the ‘very first stage’ of an amendment process. Said ‘should we allow this to happen. Should we have consultation on this?’ Claimed that it ‘should be a mixed use zone rather than the industrial it is now’ because this will allow ‘more appropriate uses such as shops’ . There would be 4 storeys with ‘quite significant setbacks’.

LIPSHUTZ: said they will hear what the community has to say but there is ‘large approval here’ and they are sending a message to the community that ‘we do support this’ and for the future. This ‘is a message to the community – this is where we’re going’.



The image above comes from Council’s summary of community responses to the Bentleigh ‘shopping strip’ online survey. According to the ‘facts’ presented here we are meant to believe that 65% of respondents are in favour of ‘private development’ (whatever that means!) – but with some constraints on height and ‘character’. Please note that of the valid 248 comments included in the document, the claim that 65% are ‘supportive’ does indeed represent an entire work of fiction. What is most disappointing about this report is:

  • The failure to acknowledge the countless comments that specifically referred to overdevelopment in the various side streets of Bentleigh – ie the damage done via the zones
  • The exclusive emphases on the ‘survey’ comments rather than the opinions expressed via the forum PLUS the apparent ‘editing’ of the forum comments themselves – ie not every comment made online is included in the resulting ‘summary’. Here is one example of what’s been omitted – The critical and major issue is the urgent implementation of height and appropriate building form controls. Interim measures are required immediately to ensure a planned future for the shopping precinct. The inappropriate and unplanned overdevelopment must be stopped now to ensure that structure planning results in long term plan
  • The total inconsistency in the reporting across all suburbs. Surely a report on community responses to one issue should include identical categories in the respective pie charts?
  • Could this possibly be another example of ‘community consultation’ designed to ‘endorse’ the decisions that have already been made behind closed doors?

Presented below are the pages that are council’s version of the online forum comments plus another graphic displaying what has been happening south of Centre Road Bentleigh since the introduction of the zones!

Council’s recent release of documents related to its ‘structure planning’ must, in our view, be treated with a huge grain of salt. This is the first in a series of posts analysing what has been placed in front of residents and how valid, accurate, and transparent these documents really are. Are we again being taken for a ride via data that are highly questionable and manipulated to present already determined decisions?

The first document is called ‘Activity Centres Snapshot: February 2017’. It purports to be ‘based on similar studies carried out by Melbourne City Council’ in its Places for People and Local Liveability 2015 Study. (uploaded HERE). The aim is to ‘provide a more comprehensive understanding of how the city performs for everyday people’. Yet, when both of these documents are compared, the Glen Eira version is anything but ‘comprehensive’. For starters we are told that:

  • All data used in this document is current (February 2017) except for residential and employment population data, which is taken from the Census carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2011. How much credence should then be placed on this ‘snapshot’, especially given the rate of development since 2011?
  • The land uses were determined using Council’s internal database and does not include residential land within the study areas. How on earth any study can ignore ‘residential’ is simply mind boggling! Or is this simply more confirmation of the fact that council is focusing exclusively on the single street shopping strips themselves and not the zones that have blighted countless people’s lives?
  • Then of course, there is this wonderful ‘escape clause’ – Disclaimer: this document is provided for information purposes and does not claim to be complete. Although due diligence has been applied to ensure that all information contained in this document is accurate, it cannot be guaranteed that this document is without errors or omissions. Why publish anything if its accuracy and integrity cannot be assured?

We’ve drawn up a table below which illustrates just some of the differences between the Glen Eira version of good planning and what the Melbourne City Council included in their study. To therefore claim that this piece of paper represents a ‘snapshot’ of what is happening in Glen Eira, and is the basis upon which to plan for the future, is not only ludicrous, but deliberately misleading and invalid.


Compounding all of the above, we then have neat little maps of the various areas under consideration – with no explanation, no criteria, and again, lines drawn on a map. The City of Melbourne’s study clearly defined how its various neighbourhood borders were selected –

To understand the Local Liveability 2015 Study area at a local level, 5-minute walking catchments were identified across the study area to effectively act as a sieve and allow for disparate urban geographies and their components to be compared ‘apples for apples’. For greater rigour and to reflect the true local urban conditions, real 5-minute walking catchments were determined rather than standard ‘as-the-crow-flies’ walking radii.
Local Movement as defined by Melbourne then includes ‘Car Spaces Per Employment’, ‘Car Spaces Per Resident’, and the numbers of bus stops, tram stops, etc.  All Glen Eira includes are the latter. As mentioned previously parking does not figure at all. Instead we are presented with nice little maps, that may look ‘professional’ and pretty, but which don’t reveal very much when terms, borders, and important categories are omitted!
The Bentleigh snapshot is typical. Depicted is a huge area that is overwhelmingly ‘residential’ – which we’re told has been excluded. Thus, what knowledge and what kind of basis for future planning can be drawn from this effort? Finally, Melbourne has no qualms in pinpointing areas that are ‘poor’ in terms of ‘liveability’ for its neighbourhood areas. In Glen Eira of course, the category ‘poor’ simply does not exist – everything is ‘great’ or ‘good’!!!!!!!!!