PS: In order to clarify why this entire application has been so disastrously botched by Council we ask readers to contemplate the following and to have a close look at the zoning shown in the image. In the first place:

  • Council argued that this triple block site was ‘transitional’. The map shows it is smack bang in the middle of the RGZ
  • Council’s conditions included increased setbacks. Again ridiculous when the schedules don’t include this, plus there are already 4 storeys backing onto this site from Bent St and soon no doubt across the road.
  • The 3 block site is over 2000 square metres – positively encouraged by the planning scheme- even in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone
  • How many more times must councillors be hit over the head and realise that they haven’t got a hope in hell when they lop off a storey or two, or a handful of apartments and expect VCAT and the developer to accept this? The fault isn’t with VCAT. The fault lies with the planning scheme and lousy decision making that costs ratepayers a fortune to defend!
  • When some planner sits at a desk and draws circles on a map then insanity reigns supreme. That’s why one side of Godfrey Street will have 4 storeys opposite and other parts of Godfrey Street will have 2 storeys. As we’ve said, this isn’t planning, it is incompetence and indifference.

vickery

PPS: we are in error below. VCAT did order that council pay the developer’s appeal costs of $2,086.20

It is surely incumbent on every council officer to ensure that when a report is tabled, or a councillor says something that it is accurate, and not misleading. The number of times that Glen Eira City Council produces reports that are deceptive, lacking in complete information, and designed to portray only the ‘positives’ and these are then repeated by councillors is extraordinary. If a councillor does not know the facts, then it is his/her duty to find out. He should not as Lipshutz, Esakoff and some of the others invariably do, just regurgitate what has been put in front of them.

Our current case in point concerns Item 9.3 from Tuesday night – the so called VCAT WATCH. In the report on the decision for Vickery Street, Bentleigh, the Michael Henderson report states:

The Tribunal held that the interface between the building and the street was ‘urban’ rather than ‘suburban’, and that consequently hard surfaces, fences and limited landscaping along the front boundary are considered to be part of that ‘urban’ character.

Either this is a deliberate misrepresentation of the member’s judgement, or it reveals a total lack of understanding by our supposed ‘VCAT representative’. The full judgement can be accessed at: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/920.html

Whilst it is true that the member does use the terms ‘urban’ and ‘suburban’, it is clear that his use of this terminology is based on the simple fact that COUNCIL ITSELF REFERS TO BENTLEIGH AS AN ‘URBAN VILLAGE’!!!!! He uses the term ‘suburban’ to differentiate this from the Minimal Change Areas or the current NRZ. It is NOT the member’s fault that Council’s planning scheme still contains the outdated terminology of ‘urban village’ when  the 2010 Planning Scheme Review reported that it should be removed! 6 years on, it is still there!

More to the point, the member does not simply proffer a personal opinion that says ‘urban’ areas can have ‘hard surfaces, fences and limited landscaping’ because that is part of the ‘urban character’ as opposed to a ‘suburban’ character as Henderson would like to portray. The quoted sentence appears only AFTER the member has gone through all of the policy and zoning statements on height, etc and focuses simply on fence heights . It is Council itself, which has determined via its zoning of RGZ, what is acceptable in these areas. The member is merely adhering to the schedules, or the lack of differentiation, that council in its wisdom imposed. He is thus following council policy and what the zones tell him and what the developer is permitted to exploit!

Here is some of what the member actually wrote.

In the past few years multiple planning approvals have been granted for four storey apartment buildings in and around the Bentleigh urban village. One such development is under construction on the land adjoining to the west. This and other similar proposals respond to the site’s proximity to the activity centre and the planning policy context.

Schedule 1 to the Zone applies to the review site. It limits the height of a new building on this site to 14.5 metres, as its slope exceeds 2.5 degrees over an 8 metre cross section. No clause 55 standards are varied by the schedule. In addition to the purposes of the zone, intensive development is clearly encouraged by planning policy.

The Glen Eira local planning policy framework directs the most intensive development to the Phoenix Precinct at Caulfield and urban villages such as Bentleigh. These areas are to experience the most change. Housing diversity areas adjacent to the urban villages are to accommodate incremental change….

There is strong policy support for the development of apartment style buildings in urban villages, in a manner that will result in significant levels of change. This is a deliberate and considered policy outcome sought by Council.

I am not persuaded that one storey should be removed from the proposed building. Firstly, while all of the Bentleigh urban village is identified for substantial change, opportunities for intensive development within the centre are constrained. Heritage Overlays, Special Building Overlays, small lot sizes along Centre Road, four storey building heights and fragmented ownership all constrain to varying degrees the opportunities for Bentleigh to play the role envisaged by policy. Consequently I consider that weight has to be given to using the unconstrained sites efficiently so the urban villages can contribute to broader housing diversity and compact city objectives. Opportunities should be realised, unless there are particular site constraints or unacceptable amenity impacts that arise from an intensive development. I have noted above this site has no constraints and is well located to the core of the centre

  • In the absence of specific directions in the Scheme regarding massing, site coverage or setbacks for this site (the applicable schedule does not vary an clause 55 standards), I consider any transition in height and massing is confined to the boundary of the zone where it interfaces with a zone where less intensive development is to occur.
  • Consequently I see no reason to regard the review site as being within a transition area. Rather, as I have noted I think sites that are consolidated and unconstrained should be developed efficiently, given the relatively limited opportunities in Glen Eira as a whole and in the Bentleigh urban village.

I agree with the parties the development does not comply with standard B6. I must therefore turn to the objective of clause 55.03-1, which is: To ensure the setbacks of buildings from a street respect the existing or preferred neighbourhood character and make efficient use of the site. I give limited weight to the prevailing character, and note that the scheme provides little specific guidance to a preferred character.

I also think the proposed setback can take its cues from the activity centre to the south rather than the suburban character to the north and because of the type of building that is proposed. The somewhat lesser setbacks to the street will be more consistent with the supermarket and shops within the centre that are built close to their boundaries. I consider that this built form that provides a context for the emerging character, rather than the suburban setting of detached dwellings further north along Vickery Street.

I think it is entirely reasonable that a development in an area of substantial change has a higher site coverage and less permeability than a two dwelling development in a local suburban street in a minimal change area. The responsible authority was unable to provide a basis in policy or context to justify these requirements.

Conclusions

  • Once again councillors’ grandstanding by lopping off a storey has been truly routed by VCAT because of council’s deficient planning scheme.
  • If council really wanted these properties to be ‘transition’ then why zone them RGZ? Remember that in Glen Eira there really is no ‘transition zone’ just a one house ‘interval’ between the growth zones!
  • Henderson’s report is entirely disingenuous. Almost none of the negatives noted above re council are reported and this is regurgitated ad nauseum by the likes of Lipshutz, Hyams and Magee. Either they have not read the actual judgements themselves, or they are willing to sacrifice ‘truth’ in order to maintain the myth of how wonderful Glen Eira’s planning is.
  • Council should finally thank its lucky stars that the member did not grant the developer’s wish that ratepayers fork out their costs because of council’s failure to determine this application in the requisite time!

Finally, with the current Planning Scheme Review to be produced at the next council meeting, we can only hope that for once there is a comprehensive and honest analysis of all VCAT decisions over the past 6 years. Anything less, is totally unacceptable.

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