10 June, 2012


The first draft of the Boroondara Neighbourhood Character Study (NCS)published by Council was very flawed with inaccurate generic precinct descriptors. BRAG took this issue up with the Council's CEO and, at a subsequent meeting, we were able to convince the council officers to review the descriptors to provide better protection for our residential areas.

The Mayor has now sent out a brochure to households providing information on how to find the reviewed Precinct Statements for your individual neighbourhood by going to the link:www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/our-future which asks for your feedback.
These descriptors for each of over 70 local areas* are designed to ensure that new built form is respectful of the neighbourhood character, 
so it is critical that residents check the wording for their own area and let council know of any concerns

Our view of the changes is that they have been simplified but retain a generic element that could allow developers to manipulate them to their advantage.
Note: A previous study covered *158 local areas and described the fine grained character in detail. This new study is much more general in nature which will not provide the same degree of protection. We urge you to check the new descriptors for your local area very carefully.

13 May, 2012

New Planning Strategy for Melbourne

We are being given an opportunity to have a say on Planning for the future of Melbourne. A Ministerial Advisory Committee is currently considering it's recommendations for a new planning strategy to replace the failed Melbourne 2030 and its update, Melbourne @ 5 Million. A preliminary report gives a lead on how it might be which has some good points depending upon how the changes are likely to be implemented. In the meantime we can have some say by going to a new website www.planmelbourne.vic.gov.au 

Already the Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, has announced a new planning feature called "code assess"- for fast tracking low level planning applications that meet pre-determined regulations that are developed after community consultations. There will be much less red tape and this system will cover fencing, garages, additions and the like but just how inclusive will the consultation process be we wonder? In these cases there will be no notification or appeal rights for neighbours, This could be OK if the community consultation is done properly and residents are satisfied with the level of regulation control.

BRAG has always pushed the point that residents must have a say on how their area is developed. In the past this has not been the case with the restrictions imposed by Melbourne 2030 and the way VCAT handled appeals. However , this new approach may offer us a better deal. BUT, the devil will be in the detail so we will be doing our best to influence the final plan to suit residents, not the developers as in the past.

We urge you to say what you think on the website. If you don't they will think you don't care!

A few suggestions to think about :
No densification or high-rise in our residential suburbs.
New developments should be sympathetic to the existing streetscapes -i.e. maximum two storey or if a third is required it must be within the streetscape roof line ( attic).And the most important point is the elephant in the room, population growth. Its the rate of immigration that is driving the planning problems so there must be a sustainable population policy (which of course is a Federal issue).
For more, scroll down to the Item below "Victorian Planning System Review"
1st September 2011 for a list of our recommendations in our submission to the Committee.

Victorian Planning System Review

The Victorian government has appointed an Advisory Committee to consider all parts of the planning system and has asked for submissions about what works and what does not work, and how it should be shaped in the future.
Planning is in chaos with the previous Brumby government's very contentious changes that were constantly being made to try and bolster its failed Melbourne 2030 planning blueprint and the later Melbourne @5million policy which was also a failure. We had so many changes being contemplated that most of us, including our councils, did not know which way to turn.
We see this latest attempt to review planning policy as an opportunity for the Baillieu government to gain goodwill by putting up a more friendly and acceptable set of planning objectives which, in our opinion, must return local planning policy to councils and ensure that developers are not allowed to run riot in our suburbs.
BRAG has made a submission to the committee that sets out our concerns and lists a set of pointers to achieve equity and fairness. However we believe that as part of any planning policy, a sensible and sustainable population policy must be defined that is sensitive to the restraints of Australia's land fragility as well as our natural and renewable resources.
No longer can we allow population growth to drive development as an easy way to manage the economy. Such a policy is no more than a Ponzie scheme which requires more and more immigrants to keep the demand for housing going, requiring more and more immigrants to purchase the housing stock which in turn creates a need for more and more housing ............ but this cannot go on forever. The time to change our economic strategies is now and the committee is in a position to make some recommendations in this area.
A summary of BRAG's recommendations in its submission :
  • A sustainable population policy( we commend Kelvin Thomson's 14 point plan )
  • Controls on the changes to the Urban Growth Boundaries
  • Regionalization policy (to include intention to plan now for a new major city in Victoria (we suggest Portland)
  • Scrapping Melbourne 2030 and Melbourne @5 million
  • De-politize and overhaul Department of Planning
  • Scrap undemocratic Panels and planning committees
  • Meaningful and real consultation process of planning issues
  • Positive protection for heritage
  • Return planning power to councils
  • Empower councils to set their own height controls
  • Limit areas for high rise development
  • Provide positive plan for protecting public land and open space
  • Ensure that developers are required to provide for adequate open space.
  • Protect suburban residential areas from opportunistic infill development
  • Regulate to protect neighbourhood character including set backs, height, bulk and site coverage and ensure that any new development is sympathetic to its surroundings
  • Retention of third party rights (to be notified, object & appeal)
  • Stop VCAT from acting as another planning authority and restrict it to being an appeal body (only). Better still create a genuine body independent of government or developers. The members of this body should not be planners, have neither interests nor involvement in any form of planning or the development industry and have only the authority to consider appeals against the planning process or councils' interpretation of their own regulations.
As a final comment, we hope this is not another "ticking the box exercise - pretending to consult the public but ignoring the submissions and doing what was proposed in the first place." This is exactly what the Brumby government consultation process amounted to. We expect more of Ted and his government.

15 March, 2012

Camberwell Market Car Park Under Threat - Again

Boroondara Council's Strategic Planning Department has produced a draft Open Space Strategy document which is looking at the open space and parks in the Municipality but hidden in the draft are these words:
Car Park at Camberwell Market
"Additional local open space is required in the west of this gap area,preferably at the Camberwell Market site by conversion of part of all of (?) the car park to open space"
The Camberwell Market car park has been under pressure many times from developers to move it underground and develop above. Back in the seventies National Mutual proposed building a shopping mall to rival Chadstone (as it was then) but the residents mounted a massive backlash, threw the councillors out and voted in councillors more sympathetic to the residents' concerns. The new council reneged on the deal to support the developer (Podgornick) and settled the matter in court by having to purchase all the land previously owned by National Mutual.
The only way to convert the car [park to open space would be to put it underground which opens up a real possibility of commercial development above and a small section made into a public plaza
We say that open space is scarce in the area because development has been allowed to take place without providing a public plaza or any additional open space. Take the Tower at the Junction for instance, boundary to boundary and no plaza or public space provided. The same at the very congested "Well" development. Our attempt to convert the Camberwell Station precinct to provide a landscaped public plaza was defeated at VCAT. Instead we could get a ten story commercial development with a new entrance to the station referred to by the developer as a plaza. Its nothing other than a station entry.
Our view is that the right mechanism for supplying new open space is by demanding maximum and appropriate open space around new developments or demanding an appropriate levy to enable council to purchase additional open space but this rarely happens.
So now we have another attempt to turn our car park into who knows what. We are suspicious that the wording in the draft Open Space Strategy document is just another attempt to develop on the market car park.
We have asked council to explain what is really meant by this new proposal but so far there has been no response to our request. We will keep our members informed.