Resident #2 – began by asking whether the ‘new council is doing all it can to ensure it has all the information’ to ‘bolster its position at VCAT?’. Said he had been an objector to VCAT several times and ‘last week’ attended the hearing for a development on Neerim Road, Carnegie. Went on to say that it ‘breaks his heart’ to see council representatives trying to ‘argue a case’ when they don’t have ‘much to stand on’. Gave the example of internal amenity where the developers argued that it is ‘not mentioned in the planning scheme’. On car parking there were many permits granted where waivers were granted but ‘there is no evidence of how many car parking waivers have been granted’. Went on to say that ‘unless there is other evidence provided’, then the ‘evidence of the applicant stands’. Stated that the member asked about the draft Amendment on height limits, but the council rep ‘wasn’t able to provide an update on that’. The speaker claimed that this ‘would have had a big impact on the outcome of the case’. The question then is whether they can ‘invite’ these people who ‘act for council’ to present to council a report on ‘what are the gaps’ ‘whilst the whole process’ of implementing the work plan for the planning scheme review is going on. Also asked how council can ‘accelerate’ the Minister’s approval of the draft amendments.

DELAHUNTY: said that council were doing the ‘strategic work’ that she thought would ‘bolster’ council’s position at VCAT. Also stated that ‘arguably’ this strategic work should have ‘been done some time ago’ but they’ve ‘made the decision to do it now’. Thought that the questioner’s point about council reps reporting back to councillors ‘might have some merit’.

TORRES: said it wasn’t an ‘easy’ situation and that council gets a ‘high number of VCAT appeals’ and ‘many’ that council ‘defends’ are changed or ‘overturned by VCAT’. Claimed that ‘council is running’ on an average with ‘other similar councils’. Stated that the VCAT reps include ‘senior staff’ and consultants who were chosen because of their ‘experience and expertise’ including one who was previously a VCAT member himself.

DELAHUNTY: repeated the question that they use the reps to ‘figure out what are the hot issues at the time’ and that this ‘suggestion’ has ‘merit’. Informed the gallery that the VCAT Annual Report has been published and that there was ‘some discussion’ about the number of Glen Eira appeals. Admitted that it was a ‘high number’ and the cost for ratepayers. Again thought questioner was right in that they had to listen to reps ‘in order to figure things out’.

QUESTIONER #2: said there was ‘urgency’ because there’s a ‘gap’ between ‘what the representatives have to argue’ and they could be the ‘best representatives’ but ‘if there’s no basis for their arguments’ and therefore ‘no results’.

SILVER: said he was ‘satisfied’ that officers are ‘taking the appropriate steps to incorporate our policies’ into the planning scheme and that there’s a difference between ‘policies’ and the current legislation. Said he would like to see more lawyers on the panels.

COMMENT

Readers should find the following statistics from the VCAT Annual Report very interesting. Not only do they reveal that Glen Eira has had the highest number of appeals to VCAT in the last year, but that East Bentleigh appeals have gone through the roof (a 90% increase). These statistics put pay to the myth that under the new zones, VCAT appeals would be reduced. It also reveals the impact the zones have had in East Bentleigh where the overwhelming majority of cases are developer initiated precisely because of the zoning!

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