Another VCAT decision will not please residents in East Bentleigh. Without adequate controls developers are now going for broke. This time it is an amended permit for 669-673 Centre Road raising the height from 4 storeys to 6 and the number of apartments from 32 to 39. And once again the developer appealed to VCAT because of council’s inability to determine its decision within the prescribed 60 day limit.

We now have the utterly ridiculous situation where so called ‘neighbourhood centres’ are being granted permits that in some cases outstrip what council regards as ‘appropriate’ for its ‘urban villages’ or Major Activity Centres. The best example of this is council’s ‘approval’ of 8 storeys for the Ormond Tower (a neighbourhood centre) which is higher than its interim height limits for both Carnegie and Bentleigh.

The reasons for the permit in Bentleigh East ultimately boils down to the following – and we quote:

  • I acknowledge that a building of six storeys may have an appearance from certain views as a dominant element. This arises from the adjoining single storey development and form surrounding the site on Centre Road. However, I must also be mindful of a number of factors including:
  • There are no height controls or development overlays to guide development in the centre or to restrict the height of built form,
  • There is a five storey development under construction located to the west of the review site and other permitted developments of a range of heights within the surrounding area.
  • I am mindful that in the context of the ‘targeted approach’ to housing densities within the municipality, higher forms are contemplated and the area is changing. In the short to medium term the view of the building from the east would be larger than the adjoining buildings but this may change given the centres zoning and policy direction.
  • There is nothing in the Planning Scheme to indicate that a uniform or low building height is anticipated in this location. In a commercial centre, heights often vary. In this immediate future, this building will be one storey taller than its neighbour to its west.
  • A fair reading of the Housing Diversity Policy identifies that change is anticipated in Neighbourhood Commercial Areas such as this. It is recognised by the Planning Scheme that neighbourhood centres will provide significant opportunities for housing diversity. It further recognises that different outcomes are sought in the commercial and residential areas of neighbourhood centres. The proposed additional two levels is in keeping with the vision to provide for further housing diversity.

We remind readers that we have yet to get confirmation that council is intending to introduce structure plans for each individual neighbourhood centre, nor have any specific timelines been provided. All that has been stated is that an ‘activity centre strategy’ will eventually see the light of day. We doubt whether this ‘strategy’ will be binding on developers. In the meantime residents are paying the cost of council’s refusal to enact any meaningful legislation for the past decade.

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