PERMIT EXTENSIONS – THE FLAW REMAINS

In a previous post GERA raised the issue of planning permit extensions (for the construction of dwellings) and the failure to consider the flow-on impact of extended planning permits when reviewing applications for new planning permits.  As a result of  a public question* raised at the previous meeting, Cr. Tang requested a report be prepared by the administration**

Now imagine this scenario, a company director requests a report from management and that request receives a unanimous endorsement from the other directors.  Management produces a report which says

  • they don’t keep the data requested,
  • the data requested is not a legal requirement,
  • they have no intention of implementing system which keeps the data
  • that given the above,  the requested report would involve a costly exercise that management can’t see the point of.

This scenario happened at the last (12/6/2012) Council Meeting.  Cr. Tang’s request for a report on planning permit extensions (12 June, 2012 Council Meeting Minutes – Section 9.9) resulted in a 4 page report which, although more “sensitively” or “politically” worded than GERA’s above basic interpretation, very neatly fitted the above scenario.  Such a response would be both unthinkable and unacceptable response in a company – it is even more so when it involves a unanimous request from elected officials to an administration that is accountable to those elected officials.

Cr. Tang commenced the ensuing discussion by commenting that when the initial public question was asked he thought it was a valid question and that it was surprising to know that the statistics were not available in Council’s planning database.  He further commented that while Council keeps a number of statistics for statutory and operational reporting requirements, Council does not know if permit extensions are granted 5% or 95% of the time and also does not know how many extended permits exist with the municipality.  Without this information Cr. Tang said Council is unable to assess whether or not an issue exists.

The discussion that ensued was lamentable and is outlined below

  • Cr. Lipshutz  – Somewhat incredibly, Cr. Lipshutz’s comments went along the lines of “why do we want to know? Simply to know because we want to know is not an answer.”  He also expressed concern that Cr. Tang had identified that “now one of the problems is that we don’t know
  • Cr. Pilling adopted a narrow site by site view and said that details on individual permits could be found quickly and therefore he failed to see the effectiveness of collecting the data as “there was not much we can do with it
  • Cr. Hyams  – commented that he didn’t “see why you would go out there and get a planning permit if you don’t intend to use it” and collecting this data would be giving Council officers more work.

Cr. Tang’s closing comments were that he did not believe that the request was a large request, that the information may be useful to present to the State Government when it assesses planning reforms.  Cr. Tang’s final comment was “we don’t know what we don’t know”.

The motion was put to the vote and carried. (Although a division was not called for the gallery noted that Crs Pilling, Lipshutz, and Hyams voted against the motion).

As previously stated GERA describes the debate as lamentable and makes the following points

  1. Not one Councillor asked why the administration had not presented the information unanimously requested and had instead produced a document arguing against collecting the information.
  2. From the original request, the motion passed at this meeting was now to “commence” the collection of statistics on planning permit extensions – inherently this involves a four year wait for statistics.  GERA agrees with Cr. Tang in that the request is not a large one.  As per the State Government report on planning permit approvals included in the presented report, Council approves approximately 400 dwelling construction permits per annum.  Details on planning permits are computerised, therefore, it should not be large task to access and analyse the data from 4-5 years ago.  Why wait 4 years to identify a potential issue?
  3. Kingston Council did this analysis found that 60% of approved planning permits 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.   It is reasonable to assume that Glen Eira will find a similar percentage.  The media has widely reported  that developers “landbank” (for future developments) or enhance the value of their property by obtaining a planning permit.  Additionally, a simple drive around the municipality provides the empirical evidence (which residents are well aware of) that this is occurring in Glen Eira at an increasing rate (no. of demolished or unoccupied homes that are fenced off or partially complete boarded up developments). 
  4. That Council (Councillors and Administrators) have adopted the attitude of unwilling to investigate, “extra workload” and “not much we can do with it” is yet another example of gap between Council’s words and actions.  Council’s claims that it gathers the relevant information and, based on that information, makes the best decision possible” .  GERA asks what is wrong with doing the analysis now? (it’s not a big ask), why the reluctance and why the wait?

And as for what to do with the information, GERA suggests that if Council identifies planning permit extensions are an issue, then Council needs amend it’s planning scheme to ensure that planning permit extensions are re-assessed taking into account developments approved since the original planning permit was granted.  Such an assessment should include additional conditions to be applied to the planning permit to be extended (eg, noise abatement treatments to be applied, screening to restrict overlooking, exclusion for the residential parking permit scheme – to name but a few)

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* Council Meeting Minutes 22nd May, 2012 – section 11.4

Public Question

“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.”

** Council Meeting Minutes – 22nd May, 2012 – section 11.1

Cr. Tang’s motion for a report

That a report be prepared for an Ordinary Council Meeting providing alternatives for the reporting of or referring to Council in relation to extensions granted or requested on issued planning permits in Glen Eira. 

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously.”

+  Council Meeting Minutes – 12th June, 2012 – section 9.9

Cr. Tang’s motion –

“That Council;

1. Notes the report.

2. Notes the statistics that the planning department currently keep.

3. Commence statistic recording in relation to the request received for extension of planning permit. That the statistics should be recorded in at least the areas of;

(a) numbers of requests for extension.

(b) numbers of requests for extension granted.

(c) the average length for each extension granted.

(d) whether the extension has been granted by VCAT or by Council. 

The MOTION was put and CARRIED.”

No division was called for, however, the gallery noted that Crs Lipshhutz, Hyams, and Pilling voted against the motion.

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