At the last council meeting, and following the wide media coverage, this resolution was passed –

Moved: Cr Delahunty Seconded: Cr Silver

That Council requests the Minister for Planning to prepare, adopt and approve a Planning Scheme Amendment in accordance with Section 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 for an interim heritage control over the property at 450 Dandenong Road, Caulfield North.

All well and good, but there is no guarantee that the Minister will accede to this request. Nor do we know whether council has in fact conducted any heritage evaluation of the building in order to provide sound strategic justification. In short, is this simply another example of an ad hoc reactive measure to recent publicity?

The same old questions surface time and time again –

  • Why is it that other councils can be so proactive on heritage?
  • Why hasn’t council allocated funds to ensure more than an ‘update’ of a ‘Reference Document’ that has existed for 15 years but never been included as such in the planning scheme?
  • Why must residents wait for at least another 2 years before there is the chance to include other properties such as the Dandenong Road one onto the Heritage listing in the Planning Scheme? Why can’t residents start nominating sites now? Why can’t the work begin now?

In March 2017 Council applied to advertise its ‘updated’ policy and to include this document only as a ‘Reference Document’ in the Planning Scheme.  The officer report specifically noted the following –

What should also be noted by readers is that Reference Documents have very little influence in decision making as stated in the Government’s Practice Note 13 — –Reference documents have only a limited role in decision-making as they are not part of the planning scheme. They do not have the status of incorporated documents or carry the same weight. (Planning Practice Note 13: Incorporated & Reference Documents)

Stonnington by contrast has done its homework and has come up with an amendment that seeks to include 60 new sites at the same time into its Heritage Overlays. (Agenda item for July 2017) None of this one by one ad hoc approach that is favoured by Glen Eira and which according to Stonnington is far from cost effective.

Conclusion?

We see no reason why Glen Eira cannot proceed along similar lines to Stonnington – unless of course there is no money for heritage consultants. That comes back to priorities. When a budget is willing to spend $282,000 on concrete plinths, instead of using this money to preserve our past, then we claim that council priorities are way out of kilter with what most people would want. Of course, we have never been asked what our real priorities are and where we would like our money spent!

The tragedy is that by the time council gets around to investigating what other properties should be included in a heritage overlay it will be too late.

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