There is much in the current agenda for Tuesday night’s council meeting that residents need to be aware of and to actively lobby the new council on. Whilst there are clearly some major improvements in terms of community consultation, and a more ‘up front’ approach to letting residents know what is on the drawing board, vigilance by residents is still required. Plus of course the demand that council is explicit and precise in all its communications with residents.

This last point is crucial, especially as it applies to Item 9.7 of the agenda – ie ‘city strategy’ and the work council is proposing to undertake in the next 18 months on planning. The item basically promises 3 things:

  • To update the 2005 Activity Centres Strategy
  • To complete structure plans for Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick, and
  • To continue and expand the ‘engagement’ practices currently initiated for the shopping strips

Whilst this all sounds wonderful, there are some real concerns as exemplified by this sentence – The revised Activity Centre Strategy will inform Building and Development (or Urban Design) Guidelines which will guide the design of future developments within all commercial areas.

And

Community feedback will be sought on built form controls across all commercial areas with a more detailed focus on Urban Villages.

We remind readers that an ‘activity centre’ is much, much more than the ‘commercial’ areas. It also incorporates the surrounding residential areas that are currently zoned either Residential Growth Zone, and/or General Residential Zone (ie 4 and 3 storeys respectively).

Then there is also this nebulous sentence  – This work will manage development in key sensitive areas whilst also aiming to strategically unlock some key sites close to train stations for redevelopment. Exactly what does this mean? Which sites are in the firing line?

Until council is prepared to commit to a full and comprehensive review of its residential zones, then no amount of structure planning, or urban design frameworks alone will ameliorate the damage that is currently continuing to occur in our local residential streets. The real questions that residents should be demanding answers to are:

  • If the major shopping strips can provide enough housing to cater for the population growth, then does Glen Eira really need 40+% of Ormond, for example, zoned as General Residential Zone?
  • Why do so many streets have 3 distinct zonings when the recommendations from the Minister’s Standing Committee on the new zones recommended against this practice?
  • Why have so many heritage areas been included as part of growth zones and others haven’t? What is the logic and the consistency behind the new zones and does this stand up to scrutiny?

The following screen dump from the current planning scheme will show why we are concerned about the potential direction of planning in Glen Eira if the intention is to only concentrate on the commercial areas and totally ignore the surrounding residential streets that are part of all activity centres. The shaded areas largely represent the commercial and mixed use zonings in Bentleigh. The darker single lines represent the ‘circumferance’ of the Bentleigh activity centre. Most of the activity centre is comprised of nearby streets and therefore housing.  To ignore these countless streets which are zoned GRZ and RGZ and to only concentrate on the commercial zoning as the draft Amendments C147/8 do is to wash one’s hands of protecting neighbourhoods and undertaking planning of the highest order. In the meantime of course, officer recommendations are to grant permits for another 61 units over 3 locations of 3 and 4 storey heights!

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