Monthly Archives: January 2012

Traffic

The results of the State Government’s Customer Satisfaction Survey and strong feedback from residents shows that traffic and parking management are major issues facing Glen Eira and that increasingly residents are dissatisfied with Glen Eira Council’s performance on these issues.

Council’s website states

“Council is responsible for the movement of traffic within and around the City. To ensure traffic moves efficiently and safely, an external parking and traffic expert has been commissioned to undertake traffic management on behalf of Council. This includes:

  • Strategic traffic management planning — ongoing strategic research and development of community responsive strategies with respect to the broad range of transportation and urban infrastructure issues relevant to Glen Eira.
  • Internal traffic management advice — ongoing traffic management surveys, analysis and advice.
  • Local area traffic management — preparation and design of traffic management schemes and management of associated public participation processes.
  • Parking management and control — servicing, investigating and amending parking conditions and controls on all road networks and in public car parks where Council is authorised to control parking.”

Note: The bold highlight is our emphasis

 Admirable aspirations which,  however, are not supported by the reference documentation.   At the time of this posting, the referenced document is the  Glen Eira Road Safety Strategy 2007/2008 -2011/2012 written in December, 2006, by Council’s consultant.  One wonders where the Strategy of 2011/12 – 2015/16 (and intervening years) is and what public participation was involved in it’s development.

The focus of the  2007/8- 2011/12 Strategy is clearly stated – “The primary objective of any road safety strategy should be to reduce road trauma. Convenience, amenity and property values are secondary considerations.”  Traffic management decisions rely heavily on the VicRoads CrashStats Database, which at any given time, is approximately 6-12 months out of date.

Whilst GERA applauds the aim of reducing road trauma (a.k.a. casualty crashes/collisions), GERA regrets that the Road Safety Strategy emphasises arterial roads (high volume of traffic = higher incidence of road trauma) and pays scant attention to local/residential streets.  Page 1 of the Strategy –  “Most traffic and safety concerns expressed to Council are in relation to local streets, these in fact have comparatively  few casualty crashes… available resources need to be targeted so as to achieve the greatest overall reduction in crashes as distinct from throwing money at what is perceived to be “a problem”

With the growth of population, both within and outside the Glen Eira boundaries, comes increased residential, commuter and visitor traffic.  Increasingly “rat runs” (usually above the speed limit) are made through residential streets to avoid congested areas.  Council’s focus on arterial roads without considering the flow on impact on local/residential streets is not good traffic management and does little to address this growing “accident waiting to happen” concern. 

Requests for installation of traffic calming treatments (which reduce speeds and through traffic) in residential streets are being met with comments of “Council’s budget only allows 4 – 5 such treatments a year … and your request has been prioritised as 295”*.   GERA accepts that a priority system is required as Council does not have the resources to satisfy every resident request.  However, GERA argues that, given the increasing number of traffic issues experienced in local residential streets, Council needs to increase it’s budget to provide for more traffic calming treatments in local streets and needs to conduct proper community consultation when budgeting the appropriate number of treatments to be completed annually.

GERA will focus on this growing issue and will be urging Council to

  • Live up to its website claims for community responsive strategic traffic management planning
  • Increase budget funding for the Traffic Management so that traffic calming treatments can be progressively introduced in residential streets which residents and Council have jointly identified as a problem
  • Identify a means of measuring effectiveness of actions and monitoring results
  • Identify monitoring and evaluation strategies that will monitor the success / determine the success of actions delivered
  • Be explicit to the community about how Council will tackle road safety as an issue, particularly, with regards to residential streets
  • Switch Council’s focus from “roads are for cars”, by adopting the approach that places pedestrians’ needs as the foremost priority followed by bicycles, public transport users and finally cars and trucks.  Using this approach provides improved facilities for pedestrians, reduces exposure for all road users, and overall vehicle volumes and traffic volumes are reduced

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*Quoted from letters sent to an Eskdale Road (between Bambra and Kambrook Roads) resident.  Council’s 25th May, 2011, traffic count shows that, within 100 metres of crossing the speed humps located in this section of Eskdale Road,  246 vehicles per day exceed the 50 km/h speed limit.   The speed humps and road service are gouged.

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Traffic Management

Council has turned the cheek on this major concern of residents, by diverting attention into something vaguely called Road Safety Strategy. This stratagem allows council to by-pass its responsibilities over 95% of Glen Eira – our local streets, by pretending the only real problems are on the 5% – the major and arterial roads.

But safety on major roads is the concern of the police, and the major road and arterials themselves are maintained by Vic Roads. Council has little role to play in their upkeep. On the other hand, safety works, roundabouts, car parking, in Glen Eira’s local streets are the province and responsibility of Glen Eira Council. By emphasizing main roads, at the expense of local streets, Council is simply cost-shifting.

Council claims that protecting our local streets to the level needed by local residents is “throwing money at what is perceived to be the problem”. Council’s budget only allows for 4 – 5 treatments a year. We must be more serious about traffic safety. Such an appallingly inadequate level of safety works means that it takes at least several years of Budgets to finish the needed works for just one LATM (Local Area Traffic Management) scheme. There are dozens of such areas across Glen Eira screaming out for urgent safety works. GERA believes it is time Council greatly expanded its LATM program.

Glen Eira Council gleefully accepts millions from property developers who pay Council to provide better local facilities for the ever-increasing numbers of residents that Council is encouraging. The need for better car parking at shopping centres is obvious. Council collects huge extra commercial rates but fails to use that money to improve street parking.

GERA believes that increased funding is critically needed for Traffic Management and Safety. The planning of the local LATMs should take higher priority at council meetings.

Community Consultation

Consultation –Principles and Practice

One of GERA’s most important concerns is the necessity for effective advertising of Council activities  and consultation between Council and the community it serves. Council’s public  statements on this are encouraging but its actions do not back up its public statements

An example is from the Glen Eira Council website – Community Engagement Strategy

“Community engagement provides an avenue for the community to become involved in local decision making and encourages collaboration from all members of the Community.  Based on the principles of democracy, social inclusion and accessible government, we are actively seeking to involve members of the community in our decision making processes.  

… We will work on an ongoing basis with the community to ensure that community ideas, concerns and aspirations are listened to and understood, and that community knowledge is harnessed for the benefit of all.”

We, more often than not, see inadequate and segmented consultation, along with scanty  information.  The most recent example is the Melbourne Racing Club’s Caulfield Village Development (also known as C60).

On some issues (usually minor) Council consults reasonably but on others (usually large) its performance is extremely  poor – advertising is inadequate or late; obviously concerned organizations are not directly  informed; the volume of mailed notifications to residents is inversely related to the magnitude of the project – restricting the volume and quality of feedback.

Although the Glen Eira News frequently states that “community consultation is a vital part of Council’s  planning and decision-making processes”,  such consultation appears too often to come too late in the process.  “Community consultation” is treated as a mechanism to inform the  public of what has already been agreed upon – to collect comment and to explain away why  there is no need for amendment. Council does not appear to appreciate, except in rare cases, that consultation is a two way process of exchanging views and explaining the  reasons for them. Consultation needs to come first for effective investigation and good  outcomes.  Putting consultation last is a waste of resources, time and community patience.

We make a strong plea to Council to reconsider the importance of this “vital part of  Council’s planning and decision making processes”, and to recognize this in Council  statements and actions.  We also make a  strong plea for Council to put consultation in its proper place and to adopt principles that can apply to all its planning decisions.  This will strengthen both the Council and the  community.

Take A Break Program

The “Take a Break” program provides low cost (approx. $20 for 3 hours) alternative occasional child care (for children aged between 0-6 years) when needed.

Take a Break is a small cost, high impact programme which was jointly funded by the Victorian and Federal Governments.  However, Federal funding stopped in July, 2010 and State Funding is to stop end December, 2011

While lobbying Federal and State Governments to resume funding this valuable program, Glen Eira Council has voted to fund the program “until the end of 2012 or until such time as the State and Federal Government reinstates their commitment to fund Take a Break, whichever is the earlier”.

The cost of Council extending the life of the program is approx. $30K and GERA applauds Council for deciding to do so.

Structure Planning – what it is and its importance

A structure plan is a highly regarded and long established planning tool that sets out a vision for the future development of a municipality or locality over the next 10-20 years. Structure plans incorporate the planning and management  framework required to guide development and land-use changes (ie. rezoning) that will achieve sustainable environmental, social and economic objectives (visions).  Structure planning also takes into account the views of the community and various stakeholders, as well as the diversity, historical fabric and special character of a place.

Based on a detailed analysis of past and future growth projections, structure plans are particularly relevant for areas targeted for growth (i.e. Glen Eira’s Housing Diversity/High Density areas) as structure planning requires the identification of, and subsequent planning for, the ramifications/impacts, both within the targeted area and “non-targeted” surrounding minimal change areas, arising from that growth.  Such ramifications/impacts include (but are not limited to)

  • retail, commercial and industrial activities/usages
  • housing demand (no. of dwellings, dwelling sizes (1,2 or 3 bedrooms) and types (apartments, townhouses)
  • open space network
  • heritage and neighbourhood character
  • public transport
  • traffic (vehicular, cyclist and pedestrian) and parking requirements
  • public realm (streetscapes, encroachment of balconies)
  • building design and height guidelines (built form)
  • provision of social services (libraries, infant welfare)
  • land configuration and ownership, and
  • municipal and service infrastructure (eg. drainage).

The need for the inclusion of the above ramifications/impacts results in Structure Plans often being described as “umbrellas” – the detailed analysis substantiates projected growth levels within targeted areas and hence the subsequent planning requirements for each ramification/impact.

It is widely accepted that there is “no one size fits all” structure plan applicable to a municipality – each housing diversity area (be it an Activity, Neighbourhood or Local centre) has distinct characteristics.  Consequently, structure planning should be prepared for each housing diversity area.

As is to be expected, structure planning is not static – it requires regular updating of analytical data and hence review of both the “umbrella” and subsequent plans to ensure that planning is updated in accordance with the rate of development (ie. the cumulative impact of development is recognised).  In addition, Overlays can be applied to specified “sub-areas” of a designated Housing Diversity/High Density area, if that “sub-area” merits higher level planning controls than are applicable to the broader Housing Diversity/Higher Density area.  Overlays may relate to heritage, neighbourhood character, built form, open space acquisition or parking provisions.

Without municipal and/or specific area structure plans, Professor Michael Buxton*,  in his address to the GERA Annual General Meeting, sees the following issues arising

  • planning will not be strategically driven and will be without clarity and rules
    1. building heights will become incremental (10 storeys was approved why not now try for 14)
    2. ad hoc subdivision developments permitted in minimal change areas and encroachment of high density dwellings in minimal change areas (as they are around the corner from a “diversity” area).
  • no thinking of the future or the broader picture and no awareness of the cumulative or flow-on impacts (traffic, parking, public transport etc) as each development is viewed in isolation
  • unforseen social issues due to crowding and high demand on open space and a community exhausted from constantly lodging futile objections to planning permit applications
  • heritage will not be protected

Needless to say residents need only walk around their activity centres to test the veracity of Professor Buxton’s predictions – unlike other Metropolitan Councils, Glen Eira has consistently refused to adopt structure planning (costs and resources).   In fact Council returned the $40,000.00 DPCD grant received to develop a structure plan for the Glen Huntly Road Housing Diversity/High Density area.   The Independent Planning Panel Report re Glen Eira’s 2003 Housing Diversity (High Density)/Minimal Change Area implementation (Planning Scheme Amendment C25) was emphatic in it’s recommendation that Glen Eira include Structure Planning and the introduction of overlays in the Planning Scheme..

GERA strongly advocates that Council adopts structure planning and overlays, and encourages community participation/consultation when developing structure plans/overlays.  In doing so Council should avail itself of the resources the DPCD freely offers (grants, expert advice and suggested structure plan outlines).

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* Dr. Michael Buxton  (Professor of Environment and Planning at RMIT University) has contributed extensively to government policy and maintains strong industry and professional connections. He is former chairperson Premier’s Green Wedge Working Party which advised the Victorian government on the introduction of a legislated urban growth boundary and revised green wedge zones for Melbourne’s green belt; former member of the Melbourne 2030 Implementation Reference Group; and has been a member of many government committees.