As part of his ‘feedback’, Ron Torres told last night’s audience the following –

TORRES: Said that the ‘work plan’ will ‘recommend’ structure plans. Stated that structure plans ‘contain a shared vision’  of’ how our activity centres should develop and evolve’.  Said that council has in the past discussed structure plans but ‘things have changed today’. Now they ‘believe there is a strong need to further develop structure plans in our activity centres’. Claimed that this was because ‘the planning landscape is very different to what it was in the past’. Said ‘in the past our policies were defensible’ at VCAT. But ‘today it is a very different storey’. ‘VCAT is brazenly over-riding or ignoring our policies’ and ‘VCAT is expressing to us where they believe our policies fall short’.  This makes things very difficult when council’s policies ‘can be challenged and over-ridden’.

The other thing that is different from the past is population growth and ‘Melbourne’s development boom’.  Also Plan Melbourne Refresh has ‘clearly suggested’ that municipalities like Glen Eira will have to accommodate ‘the majority of Melbourne’s increasing population’. So all of this combined has lead for a clear ‘call to better manage’ growth in ‘our activity centres’.  There’s a ‘call for greater clarity, greater certainty’. The tools used could ‘take the form of height controls’; ‘development contributions’; ‘perhaps car parking precinct plans’ and ‘perhaps a mix of different zones’.  In order to ‘achieve’ all of this they need the ‘foundation’ of structure plans in order to deliver all of these tools.  It’s not a case of one size fits all because ‘not every shopping centre is the same’. Bentleigh residents were strongly represented in the feedback and they put in a ‘strong call’ for lower height limits in ‘that shopping centre’.  Said other shopping centres also called for height limits but these were of a ‘different flavour coming from those shopping centres’.  Thus ‘we believe that structure plans can deliver that shared vision’ and the necessary ‘controls’.

COMMENT

We challenge the repeated propaganda that is now par for the course that VCAT is the major villain in all our woes. We challenge even more vigorously the total untruth that ‘in the past our policies were defensible at VCAT’.  Council’s ‘policies’ have never been ‘defensible’ at VCAT!  The following table provides clear evidence of this. We have gone through every published VCAT DECISION from 2003 until the present day. We have tabulated all those decisions which either overturned council’s decision, varied them, or confirmed them. These figures do NOT INCLUDE permits granted as a result of Practice Day hearings or Mediation, since VCAT does not publish these. Thus we have no record of how many times council may have caved in to developer demands at such meetings and the application never went to a full hearing. Further, on variations, this overwhelmingly involved the developer objecting to conditions that council had imposed. In well over 90% of cases, the conditions were thrown out or greatly modified. Another ‘victory’ for the developer! And as further ‘proof’ to our claims we present extracts from VCAT member decisions dating as far back as 2001 and 2006. The arguments that the developers used then are still being used today and the gaps in the planning scheme have remained since these earlier cases. That is inexcusable. Council’s task should be to analyse every single VCAT decision and to attempt to plug the holes. The holes have been there for eons and nothing has been done. It is high time that this council admitted the truth – their total unwillingness and/or ineptitude in dealing with planning issues! Unless this Planning Scheme Review includes a full and comprehensive analysis of all VCAT decisions and makes definitive recommendations on how to address the policy failings, then nothing will change in Glen Eira.

Here is the said table and the percentages refer to council’s success rate in having VCAT confirm their decisions. This is followed by the extracts from earlier VCAT decisions. Thus for a council which can’t even come close to having at least half of their determinations ratified by VCAT, then something is drastically wrong – either with the planning scheme itself, or with those who are duty bound to enforce it.

UntitledWhile it formed no basis for discussion in the officer report and while the grounds of refusal are silent on the issue, Council now claim that the proposal offends the “character” of this area. Council submitted that “..the combined mass, height and scale of the building do not provide an acceptable degree of change in the neighbourhood context.” Council believe that the proposal is not of a high standard design although I note that at no stage in the planning scheme has Council indicated what it wants McKinnon to look like.
(Domus Design Pty Ltd v Glen Eira City Council) 2001/50797:

The Tribunal therefore thinks it is misleading to “piggyback” the residential urban character ambitions of Council on to this commercial centre. Reliance on “character” as a basis for a decision must have its limits. It simply cannot be used as a reason for every modification or rejection especially when the MSS is silent on its relevance in specific areas.

Secondly, there is no suggestion anywhere from Council as to what the character of the McKinnon shopping centre is anyway. There is no relevant study; as noted already, there is no MSS position; there is no Design and Development Overlay to refer to, and there was no attempt in either the Council report or the Council submission to define what makes up the character of this area. On the Tribunal’s observations, the centre appears as an attractive local neighbourhood centre which hosts a variety of uses and building styles with interwar double storey shops being the dominant built form. There is already evidence of change taking place with newer buildings being constructed or permitted.

But the third and more important reason is that in many cases, it will be a futile exercise to demand respect of a “character” in an area that you are hoping will change. If, as is the case here, Council is contemplating the rejuvenation of a small activity centre with shop top housing and higher density development, then of course the “character” that is there today will be different to the character that will be there if Council’s strategy comes to fruition. (Decision: 27th March, 2006 – 156 McKinnon Road)

Source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2006/452.html

Notwithstanding that increased housing diversity in the Housing Diversity Areas will be associated with increased development intensity, Council has not adopted any statements of preferred neighbourhood character for these areas that recognise such likely change. The only direction that is provided is from one objective and related policy of Clause 22.07 that have been highlighted above, that is:

n To ensure that the density, mass and scale of residential development is [sic] appropriate to the location, role and neighbourhood character of the specific housing diversity area

36 However, and in contradiction to its clear purpose of facilitating change, this objective appears to refer to “existing” neighbourhood character as a criterion, as that is the only neighbourhood character that can be referred to. This seems to me to involve an inherent contradiction: how is one to assess the degree of change that is appropriate in the context of existing neighbourhood character which is historic and is expected to change as a result of the new development that is being assessed? (3rd May, 2006 – 225-9 Koornang Road, Carnegie)

Source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2006/778.html

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