13 April, 2011

Report on Meeting with Urban Planning Special Committee

Boroondara Council's draft Activity Centres Strategy is fundamentally flawed because its genesis is the former government's obsession with its Melbourne 2030 planning policy, population growth and the setting of arbitrary population targets for councils to meet. Our council has always resisted the setting of population targets arguing instead that the growth in our city should be a response to the capacity of our infrastructure and our capacity to accommodate change. In any case the former government's planning policies have now been scrapped by the new government, so why is our council obsessed in pushing these discredited and discarded policies?
Council claims its Strategy will direct development to our shopping centres away from our residential areas but this is just not so because the draft Strategy does nothing to control medium density in our residential areas. Developers will continue to buy sites for development anywhere they like and they like our residential areas. So councils Strategy will fail on all counts.
The council's summit on its Activity Centres Strategy was heavily criticised at a meeting with the Urban Planning Special Committee (UPSC) attended by over 150 residents. It was made very clear that the process was manipulative and there was no opportunity for residents to ask a question of the councils presenters nor were those attending able to speak.
We say this is not the way a consultative process should be handled.
However, the UPSC meeting, arranged after our negotiations with Council, did allow residents to make presentations to the committee, just under 40 speaking against the Strategy to create 48 Activity Centres with only three who spoke in favour. Many criticised the council's communication process making the point that they were unaware of the Strategy until alerted by various resident groups.
On behalf of 16 resident and community groups from across Boroondara, BRAG made a 20 minute  presentation which criticised the draft Strategy as it would  neither enhance nor protect the character of our local shopping strips. We pointed out that it was misleading for council to suggest that this Strategy will protect our residential areas from unacceptable development.
We put forward an alternate strategy, which was devised after consulting three town planners, including Professor Michael Buxton of RMIT, who recommended we push for council to immediately protect our residential areas with a Residential 3 Zone, which replicates Residential 1 Zone, except that it includes provisions that limit the building height of dwellings and residential buildings to a maximum of 9 metres. We also recommended that it include a previous council proposal to amend this provision that if 3 storeys were applied for then the roof line must follow the roof lines in the street( in effect this forces the 3rd floor to be an attic within the roof area thus removing the possibility of a three storey flat roof dwelling being approved).
There were other recommendations including reduction of proposed height limits overall and to remove totally the smaller "local Centres" from the plan as well as those with heritage overlays such as Maling Road, Canterbury Village and Auburn Village. A copy of the full presentation is set out below.
The UPSC referred the residents views back to the councils officers in the Strategic Planning Department for further consideration and report back to a meeting arranged for the 30th May . We are not confident that there will be any real changes to the draft Strategy - but we live in hope.
We urge residents to attend the meeting at the council chambers on 30th May 2011.

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