Update: so what (the hell) is going on?

In short; a lot has been happening.

lend lease

Sure the waiting added tension at first but now it’s just…a long time to wait.


On the last day of the hearing, 17 April, the Judge reserved her decision. The Judge did not give any indication on when the Court would arrive at a decision.  It is now over 2 months since the hearing and we have not received any updates on a likely date for the decision announcement. It has been suggested that it could take up to 6 months.

So, at this date, we are still waiting and hoping for a positive decision i.e. that the Council appeal will be upheld, with the Judge recognising the errors of law in the July 2012 decision to grant Lend Lease and Larkfield a planning permit for their massive development.

The VCAT ruling “that the extent of resident opposition (to a planning application) is irrelevant” must in our view, and that of the Council, be ruled a serious error of law. To leave this in a Tribunal ruling would be a denial of natural justice and make ineffective any community involvement in future planning applications.

We are particularly anxious to hear how the Supreme Court handles the VCAT error of fact in stating it received only 100 Statements of Grounds to the appeal.  Evidence obtained by Council and the Orrong Group proved that 450 individual statements were lodged with VCAT. What happened to the missing 350 statements?

There has been widespread interest from many resident groups throughout Victoria, all recognising the significance of this appeal. They share concern about the seemingly unfettered power of huge developers, the power of an unelected body such as VCAT and the intransience of the planning minister in resolving this situation.

Let’s hope that this appeal will bring these issues to a head with support for democracy and the rights of the community.


If the Court rules in favour of the Council’s appeal it is likely that the Court would refer the case back to VCAT for review.  At the hearing the Council barrister asked the Judge to order that the case be heard before a freshly appointed VCAT panel.  We support this request.  It would be inappropriate for the same panel to review its previous ruling, given the nature of the error of law\

If the Court dismisses the Council appeal the owner (the Hargreaves family company- Larkside) and Lend Lease could activate the permit granted by VCAT last July that has outraged the community.

We all must be concerned that the owners may return to VCAT to seek an amendment to this permit– no doubt for a higher and denser development.  It is therefore imperative that the Amendment c153 for maximum height and density levels for 590 be approved by Minister Guy immediately. Once this amendment is incorporated in the Planning Scheme, VCAT would have to pay regard to this amendment in considering any further proposals for the site.

AMENDMENT c153:- see web reports of February and April for background to the amendment (formerly called an Urban Design Framework).

The Orrong Group letter of 2 April (copy attached) to the Minister urged him to make a positive decision on the Council’s submission i.e. to agree to the proposed recommendation for maximum height and density levels and incorporate the amendment in the Planning Scheme

We asked the Minister to decide this as a matter of urgency.  We understood that, under Ministerial Direction number 15 of October 2012, a decision was required to be made within 40 working days – in this case, the 24 April 2013.

The lack of a response from the Minister to our letter (and several phone calls and emails to his office) is disappointing.  We understand that, to date, no response has been received to the Mayor’s letter of 12 April 2013. Why this delay?


Well, surprise, surprise:-. Lend Lease and Larkside have apparently discovered a rarely used section of the Planning and Environment Act (Section 39) which they believe allows them to lodge an appeal with VCAT against the process adopted by Stonnington Council and Planning Panels, Victoria in developing Amendment c153.

The Council has requested, from VCAT and the appellant, details of the exact “defect in procedure” that the appeal is based on. This information has not been provided to date. No date has been set for the hearing and it could be some months away.

We have heard from other sources that the Minister believes he is prevented from making a decision on the Amendment because the owners/developer has issued a “writ” against him. Checks have confirmed that no such “writ” has been filed.

We are of the view, that the owner and developer have lodged this appeal as a ‘stalling tactic’ to prevent the Amendment being incorporated in the Planning Scheme.


Recently the Minister announced that he would return responsibility for decision making on Planning Applications for a number of high profile cases to Local Government. He stated that Local Government was in a better position to decide on developments in their local areas.

A question?- why does the Minister retain his power to decide Planning Amendments such as c153. Surely these types of decisions could be left with local government?

The Council has spent more than 2 years on developing this amendment in consultation with the local community and ‘other interested parties.’  It has held many information sessions and over a period of 3 years, the community has informed the Council, by way of hundreds and hundreds of emails, phone calls, submissions and public meetings on its ideas for the type of development it considers appropriate for this site. This amendment proposes a very reasonable size residential development with well considered limits to height, density and site coverage.

The Minister should now agree to the Council amendment and direct its incorporation in the Planning Scheme.

The Orrong Group intends to ask our four local Government MPs to persuade the Minster of the importance of this amendment. The Orrong Group will of course be writing again to the Minister.


With Amendment c153, the community could contact their local politicians and ask that them to make representations to the Minister for Planning.  The community could also write directly to the Minister, Hon Matthew Guy, urging him to urgently agree to the Council’s amendment and to urgently incorporate the amendment in the Planning Scheme.


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