Category Archives: Community Plan Forums

COMMUNITY PLAN – THEY DIDN’T LISTEN

The Community Plan represents the community’s views and aspirations for Glen Eira’s future growth and development over the next 4 years.   As such, it provides the framework for the Council Plan/Strategic Resources plan which outlines how Council will allocate resources to meet the community’s aspirations expressed in the Community Plan.  The Budget is a detailed allocation of resources for the first year of the Council Plan/Strategic Resources Plan.

GERA has, therefore, focussed on the Community Plan, since it is the cornerstone for the subsequent Council Plan/Strategic Resources Plan and the Budget.  Obviously, shortcomings in the cornerstone will flow on to the subsequent plans.  In making this submission GERA has concentrated efforts on the four major interrelated issues raised by residents at the community forums.

The GERA submission follows.

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Introduction

Our submission focuses on the four major areas which are of concern to residents:

  1. Traffic management & Parking
  2. Inappropriate development & general planning
  3. Open space, and
  4. Governance & community participation

1.      Traffic Management/Parking 

1(a) Traffic

The stated strategic objective is “to promote the safe movement of pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic by effectively managing and improving roads, footpath and bicycle lanes together with balancing car parking opportunities”.  The first strategy is “improve safety and movement of road users and provide a fair and equitable balance of parking”.   This is not a strategy and does not provide any meaningful information on what mechanism will be used to achieve the objective or how it can be monitored.   What is missing in this strategy is the clear enunciation of the mechanisms that will be used to achieve the objective and which clearly establishes how the outcomes of the objective can be measured.

Council proclaims that ‘safety’ of all road users is a priority. Yet, the Actions proposed do not address safety clearly enough. Far more is needed than the placing of a ‘speed trailer’ in a few streets or even 40 ‘community consultations’. What is required is the total integration of the Bicycle Plan, the Transport Plan and expenditure. The Action Plan does not achieve this integration and the suggested measures provide no quantifiable means of assessing whether ‘safety’ per se has been achieved. Thus it is impossible to determine how rates have been expended.

Sadly, Glen Eira does not possess a separate ‘walking/pedestrian’ policy, even though its statements place pedestrians first. If our suburbs are to be made ‘safe’ for pedestrians, then there is nothing in the community plan which is geared towards ensuring this. Current international best practice is to manage roads via what is called a Road User Hierarchy. Basically, this ranks the most vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) as the number 1 priority with the last priority being a single occupant vehicle.   Given Council’s long standing focus on main roads, rather than local streets, one can’t assume that Glen Eira, unlike other Councils eg. Stonnington and Port Phillip, has adopted this philosophy.  Further these councils have implemented various road treatments which fully support such a strategy – ie. creating speed humps which are incorporated into footpaths to ensure safer pedestrian transition across roads. These councils also erect barriers on corners to protect pedestrians. Hence the vision of these councils is matched via practical strategies and funding. This is lacking in Glen Eira.

1(b) Parking

 Council makes the statement that “parking demand outstripped parking supply within Glen Eira many years ago”. Council introduced a Residential Parking Permit Scheme to address these issues, yet Council’s application of this scheme is ad hoc and random at best. Residents are continually faced with both medium and high rise developments on major roads which have been granted parking permits in the nearest adjacent local residential streets. These streets are already ill equipped to cater for the existing parking demand much less the increased burden imposed by developments. If Council is serious about addressing this problem then it must ensure that the Residential Parking Permit Scheme is applied rigorously across the entire municipality and that any development that will increase the number of dwellings per lot is excluded from this scheme.

 2.      Inappropriate Development & General Planning

 This is the most disappointing aspect of both the Community Plan and the budget. Residents have long made it clear that their concerns cover the entire municipality rather than only select neighbourhoods. They have also made it clear that they expect council to hold to its MSS to protect the social and environmental amenity of the entire municipality. The proposed strategies and measures do not come close to achieving any of this.

Even the recent Planisphere report consistently refers to ‘over-development’ that is not sympathetic to the neighbourhood character. Council’s approach to this entire area is piecemeal and unco-ordinated. Further, residents have never been told why Glen Eira does not possess, or has NOT even attempted to introduce and develop many of the following:

    • Glen Eira does not have structure plans
    • Glen Eira does not have interim or permanent height controls
    • Glen Eira does not have any development contributions levies
    • Glen Eira does not have a transitions ZONE for dwellings bordering Housing Diversity Areas
    • Glen Eira does not have clearly defined Housing Diversity Areas that are mapped and publically available/accessible
    • Glen Eira does not have a Commercial Centres Policy
    • Glen Eira does not have a Parking Precinct Plan
    • Glen Eira does not have a Public Realm strategy
    • Glen Eira’s public open space policy dates back to 1996
    • Glen Eira’s Neighbourhood centre policy relies on data from the early 90’s
    • Glen Eira’s policies are inequitable where it is claimed that 20% of the municipality should bear the burden of the majority of developments
    • Glen Eira’s delegatory powers largely exclude councillors and cede all control to unelected officials when it comes to planning decisions
    • Glen Eira rarely uses ‘experts’ to support residents at VCAT ( in contrast to other councils)

As per the previous strategies and measures for the Traffic and Parking section, the proposals for the strategies in the Planning section are also deficient in that they fail to provide clear, measurable outcomes which will assist in achieving the strategic objectives.

3.      Open Space

Primarily, the introduction to this “theme” relates to the significant benefits of open space (both for a community and individuals) and how little Glen Eira has (i.e. lowest amount of open space per capita of any Melbourne Municipality).  This is in line with the issues residents have raised for many, many years and are issues which will continue to remain for many years as the number of high density developments explodes and subdivisions decrease the amount of private open space in minimal change areas.

Glen Eira’s record in the acquisition of public open space is not commensurate with residents’ aspirations. In fact, over the years Glen Eira has probably sold more than it has acquired. What little open space remains is being further eroded via the ‘redevelopments’ of pavilion after pavilion which increases the buildings’ footprints, often necessitates expansions of car parks and access roads, and in the end, are probably under-utilised. Again, residents are never provided with data that would support the contention that such ‘developments’ are valuable ‘community hubs’ rather than a drain on limited resources.

It it also worth making the point that Council includes such buildings as part of its capital assets (as are roads) but they remain non-realisable assets. Millions upon millions has been expended on such projects at the expense of basic infrastructure such as roads, traffic calming, drainage, and other essentials (which are also capital assets). Expenditure on most of these ‘essentials’ has in fact declined in recent years.

Council claims to collect over $1 million dollars in open space levies. Yet this money is not employed in the purchase of further open space. Rather it is skewed towards more and more sporting grounds and facilities, instead of passive recreational use. The prime example of this is the failure to introduce community gardens which residents have raised for years and years. Even  this budget  and the potential use of the Booran Rd Reservoir ignores this possibility and offers designs which in large part are geared to more sporting ventures.

The centre of the Racecourse ‘development’ is another case in point where Council has successfully minimised publicly available open space for Racecourse usage.

It is indicative perhaps of Council’s attitude to the importance of open space as the foundation of planning, that its extant policy dates back to 1996. Nor does council have a public realm strategy which places the issues of open space as central to all planning activities and which was brought out clearly in the recent community consultations.

In all of the strategies and measures included in the Community/Council Plan, open space is inextricably linked to ‘sporting facility upgrades’. This is a limited and deficient interpretation of what open space should entail and its importance to the community.

4.  Governance & Community Participation 

The Good Governance Guide  defines good governance as

    • Participatory
    • Consensus oriented
    • Accountable
    • Transparent
    • Responsive
    • Effect and efficient
    • Equitable and inclusive
    • Law abiding

How well are any of these standards incorporated into the community plan? And how well are the strategies that will achieve these outcomes enunciated? We believe that very few of these standards have been addressed in the draft Plan. For example, informing the community is not a substitute for real participation, consultation, or even transparency. Nor does it guarantee ‘efficiency’ and ‘inclusiveness’ – all of which are a continual source of frustration to residents.

Most of the measures cited are either legal requirements, or simply confirm actions which are already in place. There is nothing innovative, or which addresses the issues of real consultation and participation. For example: agendas and minutes have been available on council’s website for years; as has the reporting function of Council’s quarterly reports. It would be far more useful if such reports were clear, accurate, comprehensive and informative.

GERA would also like to make the comment that whilst the Community Plan notes many council policies such as the Asset Management Strategy, Open Space etc, many of these policies are not featured on council’s website. Many that do, are remain hopelessly out of date. It is most unfortunate that when council proclaims its adherence to various policies and how well they are working, that residents are denied access to these vital documents. All policies should be available and easily accessible.

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Will Council Listen?

At the recently well attended Community Plan Consultations the Mayor, Cr. Jamie Hyams, made a point of emphasising the importance of the Community Plan.  This Plan represents the community’s views and aspirations for Glen Eira’s future growth and development.  As such, it provides the framework for the Council Plan which outlines the means/actions Council will undertake to ensure that residents’ aspirations are achieved.

Cr. Hyams outlined the views expressed by residents at the last Community Plan Consultations (2008) and showed how Council had listened and incorporated those views in the resulting Council Plan.   To illustrate how well Council listened to residents, the example of Open Space was used. The Glen Eira Municipality has long been recognised as having the least available open space in the Melbourne Metropolitan area  (VEAC – Metropolitan Melbourne Investigation – Discussion Paper, page 185)  – as housing density grows, Glen Eira’s open space per capita continues to fall.

As per Cr. Hyams, Glen Eira Council heard the “more Open Space” and used the below points to outline what Council had achieved.  Theses actions, together with comments from GERA, are as follows:

 1.      Dog off leash area distance from play ground decreased from 50m to 20m.

GERA questions how moving a “virtual” boundary in existing parkland achieves “more open space” or improved open space.

 2.      Council and the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) entered an agreement in which the MRC will undertake landscaping for the centre of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve (estimated cost $1.8m).

 When Queen Victoria agreed to the creation of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve (1885), the reserve was set aside for three equal uses – that of racecourse, public park and public recreation area.  While there may be some disagreement (thorough bred racing activities vs. public access) about some of the reserves access restrictions, the centre of the racecourse has always been a public park and recreation reserve.  Therefore the centre of the racecourse has always been legally regarded as open space. The proposed ‘development’ of the centre does not in fact add any additional open space to the city and its residents.

 Over the years (including recent years) Council has done little to ensure that the centre of the racecourse has been maintained for its intended purpose.  Indeed, the area in the centre of the racecourse has been whittled away (taken by training tracks and facilities) and much neglected.

 That the MRC has now seen fit to do something about landscaping the centre is related to Council’s approval of the MRC’s proposed development of the nearby MRC freehold land (between Station Street and Normanby Road, Caulfield North).    Housing an expected 2,500, this development, without increased open space will cause Glen Eira’s per capita open space ratio to fall further.   GERA does not believe that Council’s inclusion of landscaping the centre of the racecourse can be seen as an ‘achievement’ which expands on already existing open space.

 3.  Purchase of two house lots which jutted into Packer Park and their incorporation into parkland.  (112 & 118 Oakleigh Road, Carnegie – cost $1.92m)

 While GERA applauds this purchase, GERA is aware that Council’s original proposal to acquire the properties provided for funding the purchase by selling the former Packer Park Bowling Green (2743 sq m) for multi-unit development.  Fortunately, as a result of resident outcries and adverse publicity, Council dropped the proposed Bowling Green sale and  converted it to parkland. (Leader, 18th August, 2009).

GERA is aware also that Council is not charging multi-unit developers the full  Public Open Space Contribution/Levy.  This Contribution is capped, by the State Government, at 5% of land value (payable at the time of subdivision into separate property titles or strata titles).  This levy is to provide Councils with funding (from developers) for the acquisition of new parkland and improvements to existing parklands.

 Unlike other Councils (e.g. Port Phillip – 5% across the board since 2011, Manningham – 5% since 2006), the Glen Eira Open Space Contribution/Levy, (DPCD – Glen Eira Planning Scheme) established in 2006, is summarised as follows

  • The number of lots in the subdivision capable of containing a dwelling.

2 lots – not listed

 3 lots – 2%

4 lots – 2.5%

5 lots – 3%

6 or more lots – 3.5%

             Location increments are

  • If the site is in McKinnon, East Brighton, Ormond or Bentleigh – 0%
  • If the site is in Carnegie, Murrumbeena or East Bentleigh – 0.25%
  • If the site is in Caulfield, Caulfield North, Caulfield South, Caulfield East, Glen Huntly, Elsternwick or St Kilda East – 0.5%

 Council’s 2010-2011 Annual Report – Financials, page 146, show Open Space Contributions for 2011 as being $1.630m and 2010 $1.664m.  Conservatively, GERA estimates that had Council charged the full 5% this revenue would have doubled.

 By not changing the Open Space Contribution/Levy to 5% in 2006 and 2008, (which is a zero cost option), Council failed to listen to residents “more open space” and the result is higher profits to multi-unit developers and increased parkland acquisition and maintenance costs to ratepayers.  The cumulative lost revenue (effectively a ratepayer subsidy to developers) is mind-boggling.

 Clearly Cr. Hyams list of  ‘achievements’ needs to be seriously questioned when it comes to open space and what progress this council has made in actually ‘listening’ to residents.

The big question is will they listen any better in 2012?