February 2014 update.

FEBRUARY 2014 UPDATE

Despite our lack of website updates the Orrong Group Committee has been very  active in recent months with meetings with Council and politicians and our participation in VCAT hearings. Let’s briefly summarise what has happened over the last 6 months.

1.          Supreme Court Decision

Regrettably, the Court’s decision in September 2013 found no error in VCAT’s earlier decision to grant a planning permit to the developer/owner.

This was a disappointment.  We felt Stonnington Council and the community had a solid case.  The VCAT ruling that “the extent of the resident opposition was irrelevant” seemed to be a clear denial of our rights and, so out of order, that we felt it must be overturned.

Although the Judge stated that her decision should not be used as a precedent in other cases, any one involved in VCAT appeals is very aware how developers can cleverly use “precedents”. The Court’s decision to not overturn the earlier VCAT ruling now sets it strongly in planning policy and it will naturally be used against resident objectors in future cases.

When the VCAT decision was made in February 2013 it received significant media coverage.  In reply, the Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, stated on radio and in the papers that he believed the community views must be given weight and that there may be a need to review the planning rules.

So far, he has done nothing to address this issue.

It is now time to ask the Planning Minister “What do you intend to do to correct this situation which you have acknowledged as a problem”?

The Orrong Group has received many calls from other Victorian resident groups all interested in this aspect of our case.  We encourage these groups to take this issue up with the Minister.  We will circulate copies of the letter we send to the Planning Minister and the Attorney General as a guide.

2.          AMENDMENT c153- Proposed Plannning Scheme Framework For the Site

Remember, this proposed amendment to the Planning Scheme is to set building heights and density at 590 Orrong Road to 17 metres and 250 units, respectively, and has been approved by the Council.

Because Amendment c153 threatened to limit aspects of height and density on the site, the developer attempted, unsuccessfully, to kill it off via an appeal to VCAT by trying to argue that the Council had made administrative error in approving the Amendment.

The Council defended that appeal at a two day hearing on 5 & 6 September 2013.

The Orrong Group attended the full hearing.

We were pleased that Council’s legal team made good use of the Orrong Group’s main submission to the Government Planning Panel (Panels Victoria) to support aspects of the Council’s case. VCAT ruled that the Council was not required to repeat the whole process, but did need to give a clearer explanation of its reasons for arriving at the density levels set out in the proposed Amendment.

Council did this in early October 2013 and the revised submission was approved, unanimously, at a Council meeting in late October 2013; it was then immediately resubmitted to the Planning Minister for his approval.

So what is the significance of all this?

Although the Supreme Court’s decision now allows Lend Lease to continue with its development, it must do so strictly according to VCAT’s ruling and the existing planning permit and conditions.

This means that, if the Minister approves Amendment c153, and if Lend Lease (or any other developer who might take over this site) wants to make changes to its current plans (and developers often apply for changes to existing permits to make the development more profitable to them, but less palatable to everyone else), it will need to get approval from Council or VCAT, who will then be required to take Amendment c153 into account and give it significant weight.

This is why Council, with Orrong Group’s support, has continued with our collective determination to have Amendment c153 approved by the Minister, so it can go into the Planning Scheme, as soon as possible.

And this is also why the developer has displayed determination to try to stop this Amendment – happily, they have largely failed.

Leading up to this decision, the Orrong Group Committee met with all Councillors to go through the issues relating to this Amendment.  The Committee, having attended all VCAT and Panel hearings was in a strong position to offer a clear outline of the major points.  The Councillors listened to our case and confirmed they “would consider arguments from all stakeholders”.   We thank the Councillors for their good work and the balanced way in which they approached this complicated matter.

3.          THE PLANNING MINISTER and AMENDMENT c153

The Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, has now had this submission for more than a year!

As you will see from our earlier updates, we had hoped that the Minister would make a decision on it well before the Supreme Court hearing.

Nothing has happened.  The Amendment still sits before the Minister awaiting his approval.

On 31 October 2013, the Orrong Group Committee met with MPs, Clem Newton-Brown, Andrea Coote and Georgie Crozier, at Parliament House.  M O’Brien was represented by his Chief of Staff.

We asked the MPs to urge the Planning Minister to make an urgent and positive decision on Amendment c153.

It is now over 3 months since the revised submission was sent to him, and 12 months since the original was presented.   We have no idea why he has delayed so long!

On 5 December 2013, Stonnington Councillors met with the Planning Minister to discuss “Planning Melbourne” and the Residential Zones proposals.  At Orrong Group’s request, the Councillors raised with the Minister the present position with the Amendment c153.  See attached copy of our letter of 4 December 2013 to the Mayor and Councillors & copied to the local Coalition MPs.

The Minister made no comment on his plans for Amendment c153 and, from all appearances, he has done nothing.  This appears to us to be intentional.

We will, again, write to the Minister (and again contact our local MPs) to impress on him (and them) to make an urgent and positive decision on Amendment c153, and see no reason for his continuing delay.

We say “positive” because we want the Minister to support the Council proposal for 17 metre height and 250 density level limits.

4.          SO WHY, AGAIN, IS AMENDMENT c153 SO IMPORTANT?

Question:  Is Amendment c153 still of any use given that the developer now has a planning permit for a massive development of 19 buildings up to 13 storeys”?  Answer: Yes!

Remember, this is because:

(a)   the developer can still try to make changes to their current permit, and these changes could be to increase height and density.  An approved Amendment c153 in the Planning Scheme would have a bearing on any application for changes to the permit and, hopefully, prevent any increased height and density or reduction in open space and set backs.

(b)  the land could at any time change ownership and a new owner/developer may wish to make changes to achieve a greater yield i.e. higher, more units etc.  With this Amendment in place, they would have a battle to achieve this.

So, yes, Amendment c153 is very important and we must have the Council proposal approved by the Planning Minister and put into the Planning Scheme ASAP!

Before and after the last 2010 election, the Minister made many statements on how local government knows best on developments in their areas and decisions should be made by Councils.

We think it would be most appropriate to remind the Minister of his statements and ask him why he has not implemented the promised changes to allow our local government to make the decision on Amendment c153 that it wishes to make.

Let’s all work for this and tell the Minister and the local MPs we expect a positive decision without further delay.  After all, this is a state election year!

 

5.          Preparing for The Worst!

In the unhappy case of construction starting in the near future under the existing permit, what do we need to address?

Demolition and Construction Plans

The developers must submit a demolition and construction management plans to obtain a building permit from the Council’s Building Branch.  This would have to cover methods of demolition and site clearance including contamination clearance, a traffic plan for cranes and truck entry and exit, protection rules for entry to the site from Orrong Road (NOT Osment Street), building times (start and finish) and many others.  This development could go on for 5 to 6 years.  Imagine the impact on surrounding houses and shops! We repeat – 5 to 6 years.

We would like help from those experienced in large building developments to give us some guidance on these matters.  To all nearby residents likely to be affected, please write to your Ward Councillors and the Mayor and set out your concerns.  The OG is keeping in touch with the Council Building Branch.

OTHER MATTERS

New Orrong Group Post Office address.  If you have sent mail or donations to that address and the letters have been returned, we apologize.  You may wish to re-send them to the new PO address at: Orrong Group at P.O. Box 1277 Hawksburn, 3142.

Stonnington Neighbourhood Zones.   We hope you all let the Council know your views.  This is our only chance to preserve Stonnington from inappropriate high-rise development.

Already we notice a large number of 5 to 6 storey apartment blocks going up in Malvern Road and High Street Armadale/Prahran.  One developer for an apartment block planned for Malvern Road, opposite Beatty Avenue, is using as a precedent, the approval of 590 Orrong Road – surprise, surprise.

We suggest you talk to your ward Councillors ASAP to ensure your area is listed as a Residential Zones.

We welcome feedback and you may contact Orrong Group via Email:- orronggroup@gmail.com, letter:- P.O. Box 1277 Hawksburn 3142, Phone:- 0409 174 194.

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