MEDICAL CENTRES (PHYSIO) – NEIGHBOURHOOD RESIDENTIAL ZONE EROSION?

UPDATE

At last night’s (4/11) Council Meeting, Councillor’s voted against the Officer’s recommendation to approve the permit application (outlined in the below posting) and opted to reject the application.   Councillors recognised that the proposed expansion of the Physio Practice was not supported by Glen Eira’s Planning Scheme (essentially, for reasons outlined in GERA’s below comments).

We congratulate the residents opposing this application, for undertaking significant research of the relevant planning scheme clauses and presenting a sound, well-argued case at both the Planning Conference and to Councillors over the recent Melbourne Cup weekend.   We also congratulate the Councillors for their willingness to review and accept the residents arguments.

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Following on from our earlier posting on Medical Centres in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ)  residents have alerted us to Agenda – Item 9.1 to be discussed at next Wednesday’s (4/11) Council Meeting . The Officer’s Report (Rocky Camera, Manager, Statutory Planning) recommends approval for a proposed expansion of a 2 practitioner Medical Centre (ie. Physiotherapy Practice) to a 5 practitioner Centre (ie. a physiotherapy practice) in a Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ).

While resident objectors have advised that both the permit applicant, and the applicant’s representative, have close associations with Council’s Planning Staff, like GERA, they believe that

  • any owner of a property in Glen Eira (regardless of current or past Council associations) has a right to apply for a planning permit, and
  • that Council has appropriate procedures and process in place to ensure that all planning permits are fairly and independently assessed against the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, regardless of the applicant’s, or applicants representative’s, current or past Council associations.

This is as it should be.

However, that being said both GERA and the resident objectors do not believe that the permit complies with the Glen Eira Planning Scheme and are questioning the planning rationale behind the Officer’s recommendation (Officers Report Extract) to approve the permit application.

Property Background

  • the property is zoned NRZ and is located on corner of Kangaroo Road and Pelling Road in Murrumbeena, close to the Kangaroo and Poath Road intersection and in close proximity to the Hughesdale General Residential Zone and Murrumbeena Park.

  • the property was reportedly acquired sometime after the August 2013, zone implementation and was converted from a residence into a combined residence and physiotherapy practice.
  • While Kangaroo Road is a busy local road it is not designated as a Road Zone (ie. RDZ – a Main or Secondary Road) in the GE Planning Scheme. Pelling Road is quiet residential street of approx. 150 metres.

Why is a Planning Permit Required

Under the Zones implemented in August, 2013, Medical Centres (ie Physio Practice) are a permitted use (i.e. a planning permit for that use is not required) within the Neighbourhood Residential Zone, provided certain conditions are met.   In this instance, one of the conditions contained in the NRZ definition, Clause 32.09-1, is not met, ie. that The site must adjoin, or have access to, a road in a Road Zone”.   Therefore, as Kangaroo Road is not a designated Road Zone a planning permit is required.

Planning Permit Application Summary

  • The permit seeks to expand the Physio Practice from a combined residence and 2 practitioner practice to a non-residential 5 practitioner practice.
  • On site (Off street) parking requirements are in accordance with the standards with
    • 4 car spaces for staff accessed via Kangaroo Road and
    • 13 car spaces for staff and clients, accessed via Pelling Road.

Officers Report Details

  • General
  • Public Notices
    • The Officers Report notes that 24 notices were sent to individual property owners and occupiers and resulted in the receipt of
      • 53 letters of Support (as per the Appendix – provided on a template letter)
      • 17 Objections
  • In the interests of transparency, at the Planning Conference, resident objectors specifically requested that the Officers Report include a comment to the effect that the 53 letters of support are predominantly template letters that were sought by a close associate of the applicant, from members of a local sporting club sponsored by the Physiotherapy Practice. As such the Objectors felt they raised conflict of interest issues which should be noted.

Unfortunately, no such comment is included in the Officer’s Report

  • Reasons for Recommendation

The Officer’s “Reasons for Recommendation” are based on an assessment of the permit application against Council’s Planning Scheme Clauses 32.09 NEIGHBOURHOOD RESIDENTIAL ZONE (Mandatory) and Clause 22.02 “NON-RESIDENTIAL USES IN RESIDENTIAL ZONES POLICY” (Non mandatory or Discretionary).

The intent of the Non Residential Uses policy is,

  • “ to provide direction for applicants in terms of minimising residential amenity impacts, preferred locations and design of non-residential uses and facilities … in a residential area” (Clause 22.02-1) and
  • “to encourage the development or extension of non-residential uses in suitable locations which comply with orderly and proper planning principles” ie “preferred locations” (Clause 22.02-2)
  • Preferred Location

The Non-Residential Uses policy defines “preferred locations” (Clause 22.02=9) as being along “main and secondary roads and on corner sites with vehicular access from service or side road” with this definition being further refined by the inclusion of a performance measure which identifies preferred locations “ as abutting main or secondary roads”.

Thus since Kangaroo Road is not defined as a major or secondary road, the permit application does not comply with either the mandatory Zone requirements or the non mandatory Non Residential Uses policy.

While the Officer’s Report acknowledges that Kanagroo Road is not a major or secondary road, the recommendation to approve is based, not on the planning scheme, but the statement that “it is a major Council road due to its relatively high volume of traffic

  • No. of Practitioners

As previously mentioned the permit application seeks to expand the Physio Practice from a combined residence and 2 practitioner practice to a non residential 5 practitioner practice.

This proposed 150% expansion proposal is not in compliance with the Non-Residential Uses Policy (Clause 22.02-5) which supports small scale medical centres in the residential zones by limiting the number of practitioners to two.

Despite this significant deviation from the policy, the Officer’s Report recommends permit approval as the deviation is “acceptable as the use is low in intensity”.  It is difficult to understand how such a deviation from policy can be considered as both “acceptable” and in line with the overall Non Residents Uses Policy intent of minimising residential amenity impacts.

  • Parking and Traffic
  • Somewhat of a misnomer, since this section of the Officer’s Report deals solely with parking.
  • With regards
    • on-site car parking requirements the objector’s agree that the required number of spaces has been provided. However, a reliance on tandem parking (Ie. one behind the other) for front staff car park and some rear parking spaces (staff and clients) indicates a likely increase in demand for on-street parking in a small residential road which already experiences high on-street parking demand due to it’s proximity to Murrumbeena Park.
    • Client car parking will be accessed via Pelling Road and will result in increased traffic volume and noise, particularly in Pelling Road, and in Murrumbeena Crescent.

No analysis of on-street parking demand or increased traffic volumes arising from the increased number of practitioners is presented.

In addition two significant points raised at the Planning Conference are not included in the Officer’s Report, these points are*

  • That the residents provided evidence of Physio Therapy Practices in the surrounding area that showed that the area is well serviced by the practices, the majority of which are located in preferred locations. Therefore, lack of existing services (ie. the concept of net community benefit) does not justify the location of clinic of this size in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (even though that zone is in close proximity to a growth zone).
  • The practices location is in close proximity to the Hugesdale growth zone (GRZ) which is a more appropriate location for a clinic of this proposed sizes and is in accordance with Council’s Planning Scheme, Clause 21.08 – INSTITUTIONAL AND NON RESIDENTIAL USES IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS which states

“The development and expansion of non-residential and institutional uses in residential areas is an issue that warrants attention. Medical centres, places of worship, childcare and kindergartens all, quite clearly, have a place within residential areas.  However, badly sited or controlled non-residential uses can progressively erode Glen Eira’s residential nature. The Non-Residential Use in Residential Zones Policy and Child Care Centres Policy have been developed to ensure that such uses are integrated into residential areas with a minimum impact or loss of residential amenity”

While GERA acknowledges that the Council has applied conditions to the permit application (related to hours of operation, signage, landscaping and “minor” aspects of car parking design), we believe that

  • in terms of the above points the Officer’s Report does not give adequate consideration to the permit’s non compliance with the Planning Scheme requirements or the amenity impacts of surrounding residents and
  • this inadequate consideration potentially has precedent setting implications for future proposed medical centre expansions across the Neighbourhood Residential Zone.

 

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*Comments inadvertently omitted from our original post

 

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