The trend of councillors lopping off a storey or two plus some apartments and then having the developer go to VCAT and winning has continued. The latest example concerns  600-604 North Road, Ormond. The application was for 6 storeys and 57 1 and 2 bedroom units, plus visitor car parking waivers. Officers recommended 5 storeys and councillors decided that 4 storeys was ‘acceptable’. VCAT allowed the 6 storeys and 57 units plus reduction in car parking waivers. Councillors just never seem to learn! They have failed miserably every single time where this ‘populism’ has occurred. Instead of addressing the real culprit (the Planning Scheme) councillors have been contact to continue with this pointless tactic. Of course, it allows them to use VCAT as the total villain.

Adding insult to injury in this case is the substandard performance of council at VCAT itself and the fact that of the 20 or so conditions imposed, the VCAT member overturned most of them. Here is some of what he stated:

VISITOR CAR PARKING

Whilst I understand the concerns of the residents, the evidence is that there is sufficient capacity in on-street car parking areas to accommodate the demands generated by visitors who are unable to secure a car space in the basement. I was not provided with any evidence or data to contradict that of Ms Dunstan (for developer), and also note the absence of an objection from the Council’s Traffic Engineers.

CROSSOVER WIDTH

The Council seeks to have the vehicle crossover to be 6.0 metres in width and in line with a 6.0 metre wide accessway to the basement car parking area, measured between a 300mm wide kerb on each side. This requirement was included upon the recommendation of the Council’s Traffic Engineers, and the Council’s submission did not include an explanation of why the proposed 5.5 metre width is unsatisfactory. ….. Ms Dunstan’s evidence is that the proposed 5.5 metre width is sufficient to allow for the simultaneous two-way traffic flow, and exceeds the 5.0 metre dimensions specified in Clause 52.06 for a passing bay. I accept this evidence and was not provided with any justification for the required 6.0 metre width. …..No justification for the required reduction in the width of the crossover was provided. I will delete Condition No. 1 d).

HEIGHT

As observed in the case of Rosenwald v Glen Eira CC – There is nothing in the Planning Scheme to indicate that a uniform height is sought for buildings within this centre. Indeed, as noted during the course of the hearing, the land within the activity centre is not affected by any overlays that regulate built form outcomes, such as a Design and Development Overlay or Heritage Overlay. Activity centres are commonly characterised by a varied skyline or building profile. Heights vary, and it is not unusual to find that one building is taller than the others. It may well be that this building will be the tallest in the activity centre. If this were to eventuate, we do not consider it to be an unacceptable planning outcome as, ultimately, it is likely that the disparity in the height with other buildings would be confined to something in the order of two storeys. We consider this to represent an acceptable graduation in height within this context. These observations equally apply here….The absence of a height control for the commercial area is an indicator that notably taller buildings than in the residential streets can be contemplated in these locations. I consider that a five-storey height as recommended by the Council’s officers would be reflective of this distinction. The question then becomes whether the additional (top) level should be approved. I have determined that it should be, based on its recessive siting and appearance.

Source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/1316.html

CONCLUSION

Merely a set of questions –

  • When will councillors learn that until the planning scheme is changed (and quickly) their grandstanding is useless?
  • When will officers and/or consultants front up to VCAT with a fully documented case of sound evidence, rather than continually relying on developer ‘statistics’. Unless this is done, it is simply a waste of ratepayers’ money to defend cases that don’t have a hope in hell of succeeding.
  • When will council stop imposing farcical conditions that are doomed to failure because they simply do not accord with council’s own planning scheme? Does this mean that officers don’t even know what their planning scheme contains? That conditions are imposed willy-nilly?
  • Why has it taken the Minister’s intervention for council to even contemplate changes to its planning scheme, when the past four years of this council alone, illustrate the futility of lopping off a storey when the developer decides to go to VCAT. Or has this been the plan all along?
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