Another VCAT decision (6 storeys, 23 apartments on Neerim Road) has been handed down in favour of the developer. (See: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2017/33.html)

We highlight some of the member’s comments below.

As a consequence of the amended plans, and confirmation that the ROW is a public highway and therefore able to be used, the Council advised that it was no longer pursuing the refusal grounds relating to overshadowing, bin storage and the use of the ROW.

COMMENT: From this comment it appears that council had no idea when it first rejected the application or drafted its conditions that the Right of Way (ROW) was a ‘public highway’ and hence ‘able to be used’.  What does this say about council’s record keeping, its corporate memory, and its professionalism?

In support of the proposed six-storey height, Mr Sheppard referred to the absence of a Design and Development Overlay or any other guidance from the Planning Scheme as to the building height sought; the existence of other similar developments in the activity centre; the adoption of a podium to integrate with the existing streetscape; and the recessed form of the upper levels.

COMMENT: There is nothing new in this comment since decision after decision has highlighted the lack of ‘guidance’ in council’s planning scheme. The Urban Villages were created via Amendment C11 well over a decade ago.  Yet, this council administration and its councillors have literally sat on their hands and done nothing to address these gaping holes in the planning scheme. Nothing but nothing can excuse returning councillors such as Hyams, Esakoff, Magee  and Delahunty for their role in allowing this to continue and in introducing the residential zones in secret and without fine tuning the planning scheme.

There is no policy or provision within the Planning Scheme which indicates the anticipated or desired building heights in the urban village. The Council has prepared Amendment C147, which proposes the introduction of a Design and Development Overlay (DDO) in the Carnegie Urban Village. The proposed DDO specifies a mandatory maximum four-storey height for development on the review site and neighbouring properties on the south side of Neerim Road. The Council has submitted the Amendment to the Minister for Planning with a request that the Minister prepare, adopt and approve the Amendment in accordance with Section 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987. At the time of the hearing, no response to the request had been received from the Minister. As it stands, Amendment C147 does not have the status of a seriously entertained planning proposal. There is no certainty that the Minister will agree to the Council’s request or what form the Amendment, if it is approved, may ultimately take. Given this, I am unable to give the Amendment weight in my consideration of this proposal.

COMMENT: Did council finally see the light with its proposed interim height controls, or was this foisted upon them by Richard Wynne? We now have the even greater embarrassment that Wynne has been sitting on these drafts for months presumably because council has again failed to do the necessary strategic work to justify the lines it has drawn on some maps!

While the Council raised concerns regarding the rear profile of the building, it was unable to quantify the setbacks which it considers should be provided in order to achieve what it would consider to be a satisfactory response to the neighbouring residential precinct.

COMMENT: This comment is the most remarkable of all. How can any argument be successful when no justification is provided?

Unlike some other planning schemes which include local policies on Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD), there is nothing in the Planning Scheme which addresses the level of daylight which should be provided to habitable rooms.

COMMENT: Another gaping hole that council has continually argued needs to be addressed by the state government and not councils. Thankfully Stonnington, Bayside, Port Phillip, etc. have not taken this same tack and have thus succeeded in providing greater protection to their neighbourhoods!

The evidence included a survey of on-street car parking spaces within a distance of 250 – 350 metres of the review site. The survey data confirmed that there is ample capacity to accommodate the four visitor cars. Notably this includes the unrestricted kerbside parking in Shepparson Avenue. The Council submitted that consideration should be given to the cumulative effect of parking reductions granted for developments in the activity centre. It was submitted that occupancy surveys such as those contained in the evidence can only reflect existing conditions and do not factor in approved developments which have not been constructed and for which reduced car parking has been allowed. While I understand the Council’s submission, I was not provided with information on the location and nature of all these other proposals, their stage of development and/or details of the nature and extent of any parking reductions. In the absence of this sort of information, I am unable to undertake the form of assessment advocated by the Council. I can only make a decision on the information contained in the application material, the submissions and the evidence. There is nothing to indicate that the on-street parking in the centre is experiencing such demand that a further four spaces cannot be accommodated. This is even more so the case when consideration is given to the likelihood of peak visitor demand occurring outside of the business hours and, therefore, at times when the demand for on-street parking is reduced.

COMMENT: It should not take more than an hour’s work to determine how many car parking spots have been waived in permits granted for this area! This was obviously not done! When council can spend literally millions upon millions on its computer systems (including – from memory – a $4m tender late last year) all such data should be available at the press of a few buttons.

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