Monthly Archives: May 2012

PLANNING PERMIT EXTENSIONS – A PLANNING FLAW

At the last Council Meeting 22nd May, 2012, Cr. Tang foreshadowed a resident’s public question by requesting a Report from Officers on planning permit# extensions.

The public question submitted was (Council Meeting Minutes, 22nd May, 2012 – Section 11.4):

“Would Council please advise what percentage of Planning Permit approvals are extended because either

  • construction has not commenced within the two year period? Or
  • construction has not been completed within a 4 year period?

 Since Council has previously advised that Council does not maintain specifics to this enquiry, could Council please advise what details/statistics it does maintain related to the extension of planning permits approvals.”

Prior to the Public Questions agenda item (Council Minutes – Section 11.1b), Cr.  Tang Requested an Officers Report be prepared indicating the number/percentage of planning permits that are granted extensions.  While Cr. Tang accepted that Council did not currently collate these statistics (planning permit applications once approved are filed away and updated individually if an extension is requested) it would be useful to have the information.  Subsequent discussion related to Crs. noticing substantial delays between the granting of a planning permit and construction commencing or being completed – the report may indicate a need to review the planning permit extension approval process (in particular the delegations of authority).  The request for a report, which is to be presented at an Ordinary Council Meeting, was passed unanimously.

While giving Councillors credit for recognising the significance of the issue raised in the public question, GERA is concerned that this information is not readily available and that the process of extending planning permits is not integrated into the planning process.  Integration in this case means

  1. Before extending a planning permit, consideration is given to planning permits approved since the permit to be extended was originally approved, and
  2. When reviewing a new planning permit application, existing planning permits which have been extended, are taken into consideration – currently they are not considered.

Without this integration, the cumulative flow on impacts of development (traffic, parking, drainage, overshadowing, overlooking – to name a few) are not taken into account in the planning permit (new or extension) approval process – the process is flawed.

To highlight the significance of this issue, Cr. Rosemary West (Kingston Council) at the March, 2012, GERA Development Forum reported  that Kingston found only 40% of approved planning permits were built within the prescribed  period. The remaining 60% were given “rubber stamped” extension periods  – no consideration was being given to what had been happening with applications for nearby residences since the original permit application. Kingston Council revised their delegations of authority to prevent ‘rubber stamping’ ”.

It is reasonable to expect a similar percentage will apply in Glen Eira.

To illustrate the significance of the planning permit extension issue, imagine the following scenario:

 Some 6 years ago an application for a 4 storey  (shops at ground level, 12 two bedroom units above, reduced parking requirements etc.) planning permit was approved for the corner of your street.  Since approval no construction work has been undertaken on the corner block and the permit has been extended.  However,  other townhouse type developments (2 or 3 double storey units per lot) have sprung up along the street.  Traffic  volume has doubled, “rat runs”* and street parking have become major issues and many street trees have disappeared to make way for driveway crossovers.   Now the developer is ready and construction commences on the corner lot – what impact will it have on you?  What plans does Council have to address the traffic and parking issues which this development will only add to – the answer is probably none because the planning permit for the corner lot was not considered when all the subsequent nearby developments were approved.

Add to the above scenario, the cumulative nature of planning permit extensions (e.g. simplistically say, 50 extensions last year, plus 50 this year = 100) the implications of not considering extended permits becomes even more significant

GERA intends to pursue this issue with Council and awaits Tang’s requested report (which unfortunately did not limit the review to permits related to the construction of new dwellings or include a date for report completion).

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# Planning permits and building permits are different – depending on the work to be undertaken one or both permit/s may be required.  In broad terms, planning is concerned with the land – the way it will be used (e.g. houses, shops factories, parks etc) and/or developed (e.g. size and type of buildings and landscaping) and what transport is needed. A  building permit is concerned with the actual construction – its quality and its safety.  While planning permits are required for a range of activities (e.g. fencing, signage, home extensions and construction of more than one dwelling on a lot),  the planning permit extension referred to in this posting relates to the construction of more than one dwelling on a lot.

*rat runs – vehicles using residential streets (frequently above the speed limit) to avoid congestion or shopping strips on main roads.

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C87 REVISITED – NEIGHBOURHOOD CHARACTER

GERA is disappointed with the entire C87 amendment process. It’s content,  it’s ramifications, and it’s failure to take due recognition of community wishes. The C87 amendment was discussed at the last Council Meeting (1st May, 2012 – Minutes – Section 9.1).

Background 

This Amendment sought to implement what is described as “new” prescriptive planning tools of the Neighbourhood Character Overlay (NCO) and the Design Development Overlay (DDO)* to some of the previously defined Significant Character Areas (SCA)*.

* For an explanation of the NCO, DDO and SCA, please refer to GERA’s earlier posting (17th February, 2012), under the Topic of  “C87 – Neighbourhood Character”.  Please also note that the NCO and DDO are not “new” prescriptive planning tools – in 2002 when Council sought to introduce SCA’s as a planning scheme reference policy, the Independent Planning Panel recommended use of the prescriptive NCO and DDO rather than the loosely worded SCA guidelines.  In 2008 another Independent Planning Panel re-affirmed the use of NCO’s and DDO’s rather than the SCA guidelines.

The C87 amendment sought to

  • exclude 4 previously defined SCA’s due to “mixed and extensive overbuilding”
  • 11 of the original SCA’s are to remain, however, 3 of them are to be split as their “different architectural styles warrant separate/different controls”.   In the case of  Queens Avenue and Derby Crescent the connecting streets will be excluded as  “new developments undertaken in these adjoining streets have lowered the significance of those areas”.
  • Include 3 streets not previously identified as SCA’s but which are now recognised as “having a relatively intact streetscape with many of the original buildings remaining and well preserved  …  where later overbuilding has occurred, these have generally been respectful of the established neighbourhood character”

* Again, for details there areas please refer to GERA’s earlier posting (17th February, 2012).

In total Council received 59 submissions commenting on Amendment C87 –

  • 17 residents residing in the SCAs supported the amendment
  • 15 residents residing in the SCAs did not support the amendment
  • 27 submitters objected because “their property or neighbourhood is not part of Amendment C87, and they think it should”  …  These residents “put strong arguments why the amendment should have encompassed their properties”.

With regards these 27 submissions, the Administrative Officers Report states This category of submissions request changes which go beyond the scope of this amendment in the form it was exhibited to the community. Any property that was not included as part of the exhibited amendment cannot now be included in this amendment. 

The suggested way forward for this category of submitters is to encourage them to put their views to the independent panel. The panel may, through their reported recommendations to Council, come to the view that some properties, not currently part of the amendment, are nonetheless worthy of NCO or DDO protection. It would then be open to Council to consider a new amendment process to include these properties”.

GERA’s Comments

GERA is extremely concerned by the officers “suggested way forward”.  These concerns are:

  1. If the Council considers the submitters requested changes to be “beyond the scope of this amendment” then the Independent Planning Panel (who will review the amendment under the guidelines contained Council’s  C87 Explanatory Note) “may”  (i.e. likely) adopt the same view as Council.
  2. The councillors unanimous resolution was that Council Supports the Amendment as exhibited, at the panel hearing subject to the following changes” (which were the exclusion of a Poath Road, Murrumbeena property and the reclassification of Normanby Road, Caulfield North as a minimal change area).  How is it that, as a result of the community consultation process,  properties which were not included cannot now be included yet properties which were included can now be excluded.
  3. The Council Meeting Minutes state that “The consultants who undertook the review of Neighbourhood Character were asked to comment on the submissions to assess if any changes to NCO boundaries/areas could be justified. Attachment 2 to this report lists submitters’ addresses, the issues raised by each submitter and provides an officer comment on each submission and recommended changes to the exhibited amendment (if any)”.  In line with open, transparent and accountable governance, GERA believes the full consultants comments should be included in the minutes – “an officer comment on each submission” is insufficient and residents have the right to view the comments submitted by the consultants (particularly as it impacts their property). 
  4. GERA does not support the comment that if the Independent Planning Panel recommends inclusion of properties not currently included in the amendment that “it would then be open to Council to consider a new amendment process to include these properties”.   Commencing  a new amendment process to include these properties is not dependent on a recommendation from the Independent Planning Panel, Council could proceed with a new amendment if it chose to.   GERA supports submitters who wish to lobby Council for a new amendment process. 
  5. GERA is concerned that the Planisphere Report may not have been as comprehensive as it may have been.  The Planisphere Report includes the following comments:
    • Section 1.2 Methodology – “The level of significance for each area with significant neighbourhood character was undertaken by way of two surveys – a framework survey of the entire municipality and then a detailed survey of all SCAs – and subsequent comparative analysis”
    • Section 1.2.1 – Framework Survey
      • “ The methodology for the framework survey included a windshield survey of random residential streets throughout the entire municipality
      • A preliminary survey and assessment was also undertaken of the fifteen SCAs listed in the Minimal Change Area Policy of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme (Clause 22.08), as well as potential areas of significant neighbourhood character recommended by Council”.
    • Section 1.2.2 – Detailed Survey

“A detailed street-by-street survey was undertaken of the 15 SCAs listed in the Planning Scheme, as well as an additional twenty-two streets that showed potentially significant neighbourhood character attributes”.

GERA believes it would have been appropriate to ask for residents input prior to commissioning the Planisphere Report.  This would not need to be an expensive or time consuming process (eg. a notice requesting community input on Council’s website and in the Glen Eira News) and would have been in line with Council’s claim of encouraging community participation.

GESAC OPENING – 7 May, 2012

The following GESAC Opening announcement appeared on Council’s website today

GESAC Open Monday 7 May 2012

“GESAC will open to the community from 6am Monday 7 May 2012. The whole facility will be open. Details of programs and services are set out on the GESAC website

  “The certificate of occupancy was issued on Monday 30 April and the builder handed over the facility to Council on Wednesday 2 May. Council’s GESAC staff are to be congratulated on opening the facility within a few days of taking control of the site,” Chairman of the Pools Steering Committee Cr Michael Lipshutz said.

“For the first time, Glen Eira City Council will be offering all-year-round health and fitness facilities for the whole Community. GESAC will bring benefits to thousands of people for many years to come. Council would like to thank the Commonwealth and State Governments for their financial support for the project. Both Governments will be invited to take part in an official opening shortly,” Glen Eira Mayor Cr Jamie Hyams said.”

GESAC is offering a free trial of all of its facilities – you need to sign up for the free trial.

Membership Previews are available on Friday, 4 May, 2012 – 4-8 p.m. and Saturday, 5 May, 2012 – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

GERA welcomes the opening announcement and the benefits GESAC will bring to the community.