Mar 202012

The Age has written this article, reporting proposed changes to the state’s planning system. Below is the text in full.

The future is here
Marc Pallisco
March 17, 2012

Planning changes can’t halt suburban high-rise creep.

Ten years ago the Bracks Labor government was preparing to release an internally praised but community criticised planning policy that, in practice, revolutionised the way Melburnians viewed apartment living.

The now redundant Melbourne 2030 strategy aimed to accommodate about a million extra people by permitting high-density development around all transport nodes within the city’s  existing boundaries, regardless of that site’s proximity to the CBD.

Cost-effective because it reaped the financial rewards of a rising population without the need to invest in new infrastructure, the policy was imposed aggressively by various levels of government until 2011 when, according to RMIT academic Dr Paul Mees in his report Who Killed Melbourne 2030? it was ‘‘buried, unmourned and unloved’’.

Source: REIV.
Source: REIV.

Responsible for the fatality was the incoming Liberal government, led by architect Ted Baillieu. Self-professed ‘‘interventionist’’ Planning Minister Matthew Guy said a replacement strategy would be released late this year, but in the meantime, he has identified precincts in Port Melbourne, North Melbourne and Richmond where he will legislate for more intense apartment development in the medium and longer term.

But chat to industry players, including planners, developers and agents, and it would appear the core elements of Melbourne 2030 are very much alive and well right now.

In Box Hill, for example, where apartment development has been rampant in recent years, the owners of a Station Street site where a 38-level tower was proposed under Melbourne 2030, but never approved, have just lodged plans to replace the site with a 33-level building.

Agents say in 2002, before Melbourne 2030 was introduced, an apartment tower even a
quarter of this size would have been unheard of in the area.

Today, apartment towers of 10 or more levels exist or are being considered in plenty of middle and outer-ring suburbs such as Glen Waverley, Reservoir and Ringwood. Even in the regional township of Cowes, for example, 142 kilometres from Melbourne, a permit was granted in 2010 for a nine-level tower.

‘‘Given that Melbourne’s population is continuing to grow rapidly, many of the key principles of the Melbourne 2030 plan remain in action by default,’’ said Clinton Baxter, director of commercial real estate agency Savills, which has sold many residential development sites to builders since the state government changed.

‘‘Melbourne will need an additional 620,000 households to cater for another million people by 2030, and developers expect to be encouraged to continue high-density development within
particular locations that offer public transport, shopping and community infrastructure,’’ Mr Baxter said.

‘‘This expectation and confidence has been maintained since the Baillieu government came to office.’’

Mr Baxter said developers responded to buyer preferences such as apartments in the suburbs, and planning authorities needed to regulate to allow for demand-led population growth.

‘‘If this objective can be managed while retaining the wonderful character of Melbourne’s established suburbs, then we all stand to benefit,’’ he said.

But retention of character, particularly for streetscapes around suburban train stations, proved hard to maintain under Melbourne 2030 as developers snapped up prime sites, including historic homes, with the view to replacing them with flats.

Various councils, a former planning minister and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal regularly cited the strategy (along with such other justifications as affordability and jobs) to
approve apartment projects the community did not want, nor understand it may have needed.

Interestingly, however, developers and agents said that, often, those who complained about high-density residential proposals were the ones who subsequently ended up buying apartments within them.

This was proved at Camberwell Junction about two years ago, when Queensland developer FKP revealed that 90 per cent of apartment sales within the Aerial project it fought locals to develop were sold to investors who live within five kilometres of the site.

The mismatch of demand for apartments, versus limited supply of them, may be one reason the best performing suburb in terms of median value is the relatively middle-class suburb of Bentleigh East, about 14 kilometres southeast of town.

According to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria’s most recent December 2012 quarter research, the median price for a unit or apartment in Bentleigh East is $700,000 — up 7.7 per cent from last year. By comparison the median house value in Bentleigh East, according to the REIV, is $677,500 — down 7.5 per cent.

Bentleigh East ranked above what may be considered more blue-ribbon suburbs, and where apartments are in larger supply, including Armadale, Brighton, Docklands, Port Melbourne
and Toorak.

Challenging those who argue that buyers cannot afford to buy into Melbourne’s inner-city any more, the REIV found several precincts, including Carlton, Footscray and Thornbury, ranked in the top 10 most affordable suburbs for units and apartments.

Catherine Cashmore of Elite Buyer Advocates is not surprised Bentleigh East (and another middle-ring suburb, Mount Waverley) ranked in the REIV’s top 10 for unit and apartment median
value, but she warned prospective buyers to compare apples with apples.

She said the way the REIV compiled its figures, inner-city apartments were defined under the same umbrella as large villa units, which might include a portion of land.

However, Ms Cashmore said, in recent years Bentleigh East had fallen in line with the Melbourne 2030 policy in regard to apartment construction. She said the shop-top-living concept was taking place, starting at the suburb’s Centre Road retail strip.

Developers were finding buyers for apartments within their projects, despite the bleak economic backdrop, she said.

Like Mr Baxter, Ms Cashmore believes planning attitudes under the current government are similar to those of the former Bracks-Brumby government.

‘‘It costs less to build houses than it does to build infrastructure,’’ Ms Cashmore said. ‘‘To build a community is particularly expensive when government factors in the price of schools, parks and other amenities.

‘‘This is one of the reasons governments and councils end up building where existing infrastructure is,’’ she said. ‘‘The precedent [to make more efficient use of sites within the Urban
Growth Boundary by increasing density] has been set.’’

 Posted by at 2:57 pm
Mar 192012

We have received notice from VCAT ordering the following:


1 The applicant’s request for an adjournment of the hearing of this proceeding is granted on the following basis:
a This matter remains in the Major Cases List.
b Pursuant to clause 51 of Practice Note – PNPE8 Major Cases List (Planning) the applicant will lose the benefit of the expedited Major Cases List hearing timelines.
2 The hearing on 11 April 2012 for 5 days is vacated.
3 This matter will be relisted for a hearing after the applicant has completed giving notice of its proposed amendments to the permit application by way of amended plans pursuant to Practice Note PNPE9-Amendment of Plans and Applications and the Tribunal’s order dated 17 February 2012.

Click here for full copy of order.


Despite our letters to VCAT identifying the below issues and asking for appropriate action including dismissal of the case, VCAT seem to have not responded to the following:

  1. The developer not complying with previous VCAT order and letter to substantiate the variations of project cost estimates.
  2. Therefore, this development not meeting the Major Case List entry criteria.

What happens next:

  1. We wait for the developers amended plans.
  2. As the April hearing is cancelled, we wait for VCAT to re-schedule the hearing timeline.
  3. We continue with preparations for the VCAT hearing.

So… working on the assumption the developer will not make any significant and positive amendments to the plans, we have more time to gather resources and prepare the best case we can against this development.

 Posted by at 9:09 am
Mar 152012

The Age has written this article, reporting proposed changes to the state’s planning system. Below is the text in full.

Is this a good or bad thing for communities? The devil will be in the detail of course.


Planning reform blocks appeals
Jason Dowling
March 15, 2012

A DRAMATIC overhaul to the state’s planning system will soon mean residents will not be notified of thousands of new development proposals or be able to object to them.

The government says the new planning system to be introduced in State Parliament by July will cut red tape, reduce waiting times and free up council resources for complex planning issues.

Under the changes – one of the biggest overhauls of the state’s planning laws in a decade – councils and communities will define what development is allowed in their area, including height and density, and then applications matching the definition will be fast-tracked through the planning system.

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said the new system would reduce community consultation in planning decisions.

“Communities will be locked out and watch helplessly as historical buildings and tree-lined streets are attacked by [Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s] wrecking ball and replaced by high-rise skyscrapers,” he said.

The new planning system is expected to apply to more than one in five development applications and will require them to be processed within 10 working days with no notification or appeal rights for neighbours.

The system, called “code assess”, will initially be used by local councils for processing low-level planning issues such as extensions and dual occupancy developments.

But the system is also intended for key development areas across Melbourne – Box Hill, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Footscray, Frankston, and Ringwood – to process development applications that could include apartment towers of more than 20 storeys.

Mr Guy said the new system would add “certainty and clarity” to planning.

He said guidelines for development set by councils and communities would be mandatory and developers would only be able to appeal a council’s decision if it was inconsistent with the area’s new planning code.

“It will determine what can be built and where,” he said.

Bill McArthur, president of the Municipal Association of Victoria, said the planning system needed improvement but warned, “clear policy and objective criteria must be agreed with the community before removing public notice and third party appeal rights”.

“Until this happens, councils will remain concerned about including some single dwellings, extensions and multi-units in a fast-track process,” he said.

Mary Drost, from community group Planning Backlash, said councils and the community should set the rules for development in their areas and developers should not be able to appeal the decisions under the new accelerated planning process. “If it’s out – it’s out,” she said.

Victoria’s building and development industry has long advocated for an accelerated planning application system. The Property Council’s Victorian executive director, Jennifer Cunich, said changes to planning laws would help economic growth.

Gil King, of the Housing Industry Association, said developments that met existing planning guidelines were chewing up council time and resources in a drawn-out approval process.

“This will actually make it clearer, if it meets the requirements it will be approved much more quickly, it will streamline the whole process.


Note: The above text by The Age – copyright remains that of the respected owners.

 Posted by at 9:32 am
Mar 072012

Today we sent a letter to VCAT requesting direction on a few matters:

  • Despite being ordered by VCAT, the developer has not explained the cost estimates to justify the matter being eligible for the VCAT Major Case List. We have requested the matter be decided upon.
  • Despite during the Direction heading the applicant informing VCAT/Council/Residents they would not be submitting amended plans, the developer has now requested Council and Residents accept an adjournment to submit amended plans to consider the ‘Council’s feedback’ (the permit refusal report). We explain that residents are not in a position to properly consider an adjournment until the Major Case List eligibility criteria situation is decided upon.
  • And because the developer did not take the path of responding to the Councils permit refusal report with another more amenable Planning Application to Council, and instead defaulted directly to VCAT, only later to request an adjournment to consider the Councils feedback; we request of VCAT the developers case be dismissed entirely as the developer is using an inappropriate forum to achieve planning permission.

A copy of the letter below…

Registrar, Administrative Division
GPO Box 5408

Melbourne, VlC 3001
By e-mail:


Dear Sirs,

VCAT: P27/2012 – 6 PAlNE STREET, NEWPORT, 3015

I confirm that I am one off our Resident Objector representatives and Deputy President Dwyer made a representative order at the Directions Hearing on 6 February 2012 that I be included.

We refer to the above matter and, in particular to the Applicant’s adjournment request dated February 2012.

The Applicant has requested an adjournment of the Hearing scheduled for 11 April 2012 in order, as we understand it, to provide amended plans which address all of the matters raised by the Council in their response to the Applicant’s Permit application.

The Residents are extremely concerned about this apparent breach of the Guidelines governing the Major Cases List and outline our specific concerns below;

  1. The Applicant lodged the permit application with the Council on 7 September 2011.
  2. On 8 December 2011, the Council rejected the Applicant’s permit application and at the same time provided a comprehensive response outlining the various amendments that the Council required.
  3. Notwithstanding the fact that the Applicant was aware of Council’s requirements, the Applicant waited until the reintroduction of the VCAT Major Cases List and then immediately lodged this Application with VCAT with the same plans as lodged with Council.
  4. A Directions Hearing took place before Deputy President Gibson on 6 February 2012. Amongst the orders made by the Deputy President on that day were, inter alia, an order dispensing with Mediation and an order that the Applicant provide VCAT and the parties with evidence supporting the estimated value of the development and explaining why the cost of the development had increased in the period between the lodging of the permit application with the Council on 7 September 2011 and the lodging of the application with VCAT on 3 January 2012. As can be seen from the e-mail sent by the residents on 1 March 2012, to date, the Applicant has not provided such evidence. The Major Cases List clearly outlines the quantum parameters for inclusion in the list. In the case of this particular development, the construction costs, excluding holding costs, professional fees and contingencies must be $10 million or more. The estimated cost of the development at permit application stage was $9.5 Million. This increased to $12.1 Million some three weeks later (between 8 December 2011 and 3 January 2012). The Applicant provided a letter from Cost Control (Victoria) Pty Ltd (“CC”) dated the 15 February 2012 which states that CC generally agrees with the Developer’s costs assessment of $11,352,055. It should be noted that this is yet another version of the cost of the construction and not sworn evidence of the cost as directed by VCAT. The Residents consider that unless, or until, the Applicant complies with the guidelines and can demonstrate that the Application was properly commenced in the Major Cases List, it is premature to even be considering an adjournment request.
  5. Further, at the Directions Hearing held on 6 February 2012, in response to a question from the Deputy President about amended plans, the Applicant’s lawyer advised that the Applicant had no plans at that time to serve amended plans. Considering that the Applicant had been in possession of Council’s detailed response for over 8 weeks at that time, then what has changed now to cause the Applicant to want to provide amended plans?

The Residents submit that, rather than considering the Applicant’s application, VCAT should, instead, order that the Application be dismissed and referred to council as a new planning application (Section 77 More Appropriate Forum, VCAT Act).

Should you wish to discuss any of the above please contact myself or any other of the Resident Objector representatives, Darren Williams, Anthony Simmons or Alison Terry.

Yours Faithfully

Melissa Gojak



 Posted by at 4:33 pm
Mar 072012

What a fantastic turn out for last Sundays rally in Armstrong Reserve. Thanks to all those who attended, especially considering the spontaneous planning of the rally the rather short notice given to Neighbours and invited guests.

More than 100 residents turned out to express growing concern over Victorian planning and arbitration systems, and take action to let government know real change is needed to these systems, change which is acceptable to the community… not in conflict with community wishes.

A speech was given by Darren Williams, a long time resident of the community and a significant player in the establishment of The Substation community arts centre. Darren’s speech was met with applause from the crowd.

Of the guests invited to hear what residents have to say, attending were MPs Colleen Hartland and Wade Noonan. When invited to comment, both expressed support for the community to fight this inappropriate development.

Afterwards much of the crowd spent time talking about similar issues with the planning process and discussing experiences with VCAT and other inappropriate developments in Newport and Williamstown.

Many residents pledged financial support to help fight the current Timber Yard issue at VCAT. Our fighting fund is growing. More on that later.

Information was distributed: on which authorities to write to requesting immediate change to the planning system in line with community expectations.

Thanks again everyone for a great show of strength and determination.



An article about the rally was published in today’s Hobsons Bay Weekly…

Newport high-rise protest puts planning control in focus.


 Posted by at 4:08 pm
Mar 032012

Save our town from bad planning policies - we need you.

Let’s show the government and opposition we’re sick of current planning and arbitration policy that only benefits big developers’ profit margins.

An open invitation to hear us has been sent to Premier Ted Baillieu, Planning Minister Matthew Guy, local Members of Parliament, Hobson’s Bay Mayor, Councillors, and the press.

This may be our last chance to tell them these policies needs to favour the community first over developers and government.

So we need everyone available to come.

Bring as many family, friends, and neighbours to Armstrong Reserve (Wilkins St) Newport, Sunday 4th March at 4pm sharp.
The rally will only take a ½ hour, but being assembled at 4pm is critical.

 Posted by at 9:19 pm