On Thursday night at the Camden ward forum there was some discussion on structure planning and how this was to be the be all and end all for Glen Eira’s problems! A solution in one fell swoop! Delahunty expressed some regret that council had not undertaken this process during her four years as a councillor but assured residents that Elsternwick would be better off once these plans were introduced.

Even if we accept this position, it still leaves a multitude of questions that require honest answering. Structure plans are intended for use in activity centres. Elsternwick is a MAJOR activity centre – yet it has been excluded from the interim height controls recently proposed by council. The spurious and unbelievable excuse provided by councillors was that in the ‘popularity’ contest, Elsternwick featured lower on the list of priorities than did Bentleigh and Carnegie. This may well be true, but it is hardly a valid excuse for neglecting Elsternwick and the prospect of major high rise development that is on the cards with Coles, Ripponlea studios, etc.  This leads us to suspect that Council has geared Elsternwick to accommodate much denser development in this area.

Further, council’s ‘action plan’ following the ordered Planning Scheme Review, states that 2 structure plans (Bentleigh & Carnegie) will be completed within 4 years. If it takes 2 years per plan, and if Elsternwick is next in line, we won’t see anything happen for another 6 years! Unacceptable! Then there are all the so called ‘neighbourhood centres’ such as McKinnon, East Bentleigh (with Virginia Park looming), Ormond, Caulfield North (already seeing 7 storeys go up) etc. The time lag for completion of these structure plans could be as far away as 20 years. In the meantime street after street, neighbourhood after neighbourhood will be overdeveloped and ruined if the current rate of development continues.

As for the interim amendments recently submitted to the Minister for rubber stamping, residents have again been left out in the cold with no opportunity to comment or express their viewpoints. No-one was asked whether they thought discretionary rather than mandatory heights should be the option; no one was asked whether they thought 7 storeys in Carnegie was acceptable or appropriate or whether 5 storeys in Bentleigh was suitable. Not one single piece of strategic justification for any of these decisions has been provided. This makes us suspect once more than a neat little secret deal has already been teed up with the department and the minister in order to buy time for council and to delay and continue to delay any real strategic work!

Below we feature council’s ‘justification’ (obtained under FOI) for these two amendments as sent off to the minister. Hardly solid, researched, and validated ‘strategic justification’ for anything.

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Thus if new councillors are elected in a few week’s time we suggest that their immediate priority should be to:

  • Rejig the budget so that funds are available to immediately hire outside consultants to start on these structure plans and other amendments that would change the schedules to the various zones.
  • To immediately implement a full and complete review of the zones with community consultation
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