The State Government and Council’s strategy is transparently obvious [reduce amenity for all but start with the significant minority in “targetted” areas] and it continues an inglorious tradition started by Labor when Melbourne 2030 was released. Remember this statement: “The character of established residential areas will be protected through Rescode, and increased densities will not be achieved at the expense of existing amenity.”? Not that Council or VCAT ever took it seriously.

Yesterday’s announcement reaffirms the Government’s belief that it should be able to reduce people’s amenity without consulting them; taxation without representation. It doesn’t matter whether Lib or Lab or Brown, that is the principle.

Look at the huge chunk of Residential 1 Zone properties that are now about to find themselves in Residential Growth Zones or  General Residential Zones. Where once they had ResCode, which included a 9m height limit, now they don’t. Council argues quite shamelessly that people will be better off because now there is “certainty”, since previously Council and VCAT ignored ResCode if it suited them. The same people who repeatedly abused the planning scheme are still in charge. What guarantee do residents have that whatever the schedules might say (and of course these remain top secret) that this planning department won’t continue with its old ways of handing out dispensations on countless of these ‘standards’?

Remember too that height limits only apply to dwellings or residential buildings. It won’t be long before we see some imaginative applications that push the envelope, quite literally. And of course, there simply aren’t any height limits for the old major activity centres and the main roads they sit on. Glen Huntly Road already has 10 storeys. That is the future – minimal ‘commercial’ or ‘retail’ and stacks of apartments.

Then there’s some seemingly random choices made, all without any transparency. Glen Huntly, which is a major activity centre, is now to be surrounded by GRZ. It has a railway, a tramway, 2 State Arterial Roads, and open space. Then look at what Council is doing to a bunch of Edwardian homes and California bungalows in Carnegie, which instead is to be rezoned RGZ.

The media releases remain silent on the contents of the Schedules to the Zones, yet the map does give a strong hint that at least some content has been inserted to replace “none specified” for various amenity standards. Who decided what should be inserted? Council staff. Council couldn’t even be bothered to vote on it.

The recent decision to refuse a Permit for Wilks St (Alma Club) is suddenly looking shaky, until such time as people can evaluate the implications of being rezoned to GRZ and Schedule 1 (no increase in rear setbacks). It’s no surprise that this has suddenly dropped its Minimal Change status and is now designated as General Residential Zone. In other words, 3 storeys is fine and 75 units in a dead end street is perfectly okay.

If Elizabeth Miller believes “the Victorian Coalition Government is delivering on their promise of protecting residents’ backyards” then she should be prepared to state how many backyards have just been condemned to being buried underneath concrete. I wonder if she even knows. Yesterday’s obligatory soundbite was carefully filmed in a tree-lined street. There won’t be many trees left when there’s no permeable soil available for roots in the targeted areas.

Will the State Government accept responsibility for flood damage when the drains are inadequate for the rapid runoff of water from these concrete ghettos? Does it have a crime strategy for the consequences of creating an unhealthy imbalance in demographics? Has it identified where the new sports facilities will be located?

Expect traffic to be managed when areas that you have to pass through have their population swollen by several thousand residents? There are no amenity standards for traffic congestion, no money to eliminate railway level crossings in the municipality, and it’s not even safe to ride a bike since Council/VCAT encourages street parking for multi-unit development [count the number of applications which seek and obtain a waiver]. Besides, the speed limits are generally too high for the population density. Will people be walking to their nearest open space? Depends how far it is. Yesterday’s announcement ignored that element of community well-being.

Clearly the policies behind yesterday’s announcement are unstable. If you increase the population faster than the jobs in an area, then more people will have to be travelling further distances at a slower average speed by less convenient means. Council admits its planning for an extra 18000+ people over 20 years, so it should be able to show its traffic modelling along with documented assumptions like where they have to go for work, recreation, services. Of course such detailed planning is not Glen Eira’s forte. The irony is that when council officers front up at VCAT and argue that the municipality has already exceeded its population forecasts, then that only throws more doubt on the figures produced by council this time around.

Planning for a community is so much more than trumpeting a bunch of discriminatory height restrictions. This entirely begs the question of where council has been for the past 10 years? No height limits throughout this time; no structure plans; no parking precinct plans (then or now); no Environmental Sustainable Design (then or now); no Urban Design Framework (then or now). It’s been hell bent on more and more development. This latest announcement only provides further evidence that the philosophy, strategy, and ambition remains intact. Glen Eira will remain the developer’s paradise.

Finally, we remind readers that in March 2012 the officers in their wisdom wanted to introduce a greater percentage of permeable surfaces but ONLY FOR MINIMAL CHANGE. Councillors passed a resolution that in part read: “Prepare a Planning Scheme Amendment to lower the percentage of impervious surfaces within the Minimal Change Area and Housing Diversity Areas.”. No such amendment has seen the light, so we can only conclude that once again a council resolution has been ignored or conveniently forgotten and not acted upon in a ‘timely manner’ as required by law. Now we discover that the ORIGINAL recommendation of 25% permeable surfaces will only apply in what was formerly known as Minimal Change. This is how this council works and residents need to be not merely aware but alarmed at how their rights have been continually trampled upon.

Last but not least, here is a glimpse into the future for all those areas with the nice little light blue lines marked on them!

highrise

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