Readers will remember the saga of Claire Street, McKinnon and Magee’s crocodile tears of woe on the steps of VCAT. The street featured again at Tuesday night’s meeting with Magee jumping on the same old  bandwagon  – everything is VCAT’s fault rather than council policy, planning and zoning.

The only reason that the VCAT member knocked back the first Stellar application for three storeys and thirty plus units was that the developer was exceedingly greedy. No decent setbacks, and internal amenity suitable for a mole – ie subterranean apartments! Another application has now gone in for 33 units and will end up at VCAT again.

But things have now got even worse. There is another application in by the same company Steller, for 1-9 Claire Street that will see: ‘six, three storey townhouse and two three storey apartment (44 dwellings)”. Stellar has basically bought out the entire street and the sole remaining resident has decided that enough is enough and has put his property (4 Claire St) up for sale.

We have no doubt that both Stellar applications will be passed by VCAT. Not because they ‘ignore’ council policy, but because it IS COUNCIL POLICY TO ENCOURAGE 3 STOREY DEVELOPMENT ON CONSOLIDATED LOTS and the zoning is GRZ. When the VCAT member rejected the first application for 6-10 Claire St., he made it absolutely clear in his judgement that zoning and lack of preferred character statements make Claire St.(and much of McKinnon) a candidate for this kind of rampant (over)development. It is Council policy. Please note the number of times the phrase ‘policy’ or ‘planning scheme’ feature in the extracts from this judgement (below).

Magee and the other councillors can continue with their nonsense and the spurious blame game, but residents need to appreciate the truth. Any Planning Scheme Review that fails to address zoning and the limitations of the schedules is not a review – it is a whitewash!

The judgement below says it all in our view.

Source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2015/1762.html

These local policies strongly support the development of apartment style buildings in Claire Street , McKinnon, in a manner that will result in significant levels of change. This is a deliberate and considered policy outcome sought by the Glen Eira  City Council. It allows policies to also be implemented that reduce the ability for any meaningful level of medium density housing to be developed in the majority of other residential areas within the municipality. In other words, the Council has chosen to allow significant change in limited neighbourhoods, so as to preserve to a strong level the existing character of most of its other neighbourhoods.

While this individual proposal fails to address some important design matters, it is inevitable, in applying the local policies drafted by the Glen Eira City Council, that Claire Street, McKinnon will be subject to significant levels of change in the short to medium term.

Although townhouse developments of two and three double storey dwellings have started to appear in this area, the restrictions now in place over most of the municipality will act to focus more intensive development into areas such as this in McKinnon. It may not mean the whole street is filled with three storey apartment buildings but it almost certainly means that the existing single dwellings on a lot will be gradually replaced. It may take twenty or thirty years but, based on submissions and statements of grounds, I am not sure that existing residents appreciate the changes that will occur in response to development outcomes sought by the Glen Eira Planning Scheme.

In this proceeding, Mr & Mrs Menko lamented that most of the lots in Claire Street have now been purchased by developers, and are likely to be subject to forms of development like the one before me. They resist this level of change, and the likelihood that only two of the original single dwellings will remain. They also raise concerns about how this extent of development can be suitable for a dead-end street, with its only access point to McKinnon Road, and limited on-street car parking supply. They also question the ability of McKinnon Road to accommodate the additional traffic. I understand the frustrations and anger expressed by residents about the rate of change that might occur in Claire Street . However the extent of redevelopment that is likely to occur is a direct realisation of the very clear intent of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, in particular the local policies created by the Glen Eira City Council.

  That is, this form of development and rate of change, is consistent with the planning scheme that I am charged to apply. Further, it is not my role to review, on an ad-hoc basis, the suitability of this dead-end street to accommodate this level of change, nor the ability of McKinnon as a whole to accommodate additional population and traffic. The Glen Eira City Council has had the opportunity to carefully consider such matters, over an extended period of time, and has identified Claire Street  McKinnon as an appropriate location for the placement of a housing diversity area, to take the additional housing demands of the municipality.

  The Glen Eira Planning Scheme clearly supports substantial development in Claire Street  McKinnon. This substantial development is not expected to imitate or reflect the style and form of the single dwellings that currently exist in this and other streets. Instead, a policy intent has been clearly been articulated for Claire Street  by the Glen Eira City Council, that encourages more intense and more diverse housing forms. Invariably this means that apartment buildings are strongly encouraged in this neighbourhood.

It is clear, when taking into account the policy framework as whole, that apartment style development is the undeniable future for Claire Street , McKinnon, as clearly identified and articulated by the local policies contained in the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, as drafted by the Glen Eira City Council.

the apartment building is excavated below natural ground level to the rear boundary, such that the ground floor level will be around 1.3 metres below natural ground level, and the ceiling height of the ground floor apartments will be roughly matching the standard fence height on the boundary.

The residents urged upon me that a more appropriate development will consist of two storeys in scale. I agree with their submissions that the two storey apartment building at 13 Claire Street represents a more successful integration into the surrounding context. Further, for the reasons set out above I agree that this proposed three storey building is too big and bulky, with inappropriate setbacks, for the review site. However I have not been persuaded that the site is unsuitable for a three storey apartment building per se. Given the extent of policy support for a significant level of additional housing in this location, and the vast size of this consolidated site, I am not willing to conclude that it is not possible for a well designed three storey apartment building to be found to be an appropriate built form response to this context

Mr & Mrs Menko also raises a concern with the potential increase in traffic in Claire Street  and their difficulties in accessing McKinnon Road. I acknowledge that this proposed development, if approved, would have increased such traffic levels, and the delays currently experienced in turning onto McKinnon Street. However the traffic impacts of the proposal were considered by Council’s traffic engineers, and in their independent and expert opinion, the surrounding road network can accommodate the expected increase in traffic.

The policy framework of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme clearly articulates a future for Claire Street  McKinnon that anticipates significant change and more substantial housing developments. The Glen Eira City Council has adopted such a vision as a means of protecting much of its other residential areas from even a moderate amount of medium density housing. That is the policy framework that has been adopted and applied to this municipality for over 11 years, and is the vision that I must have regard to and implement in my decision making task.

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