Should Cremorne Plaza or any high rise development be judged on storeys or height?

To better understand the likely reasons why the DAC have approved the building proposed at the Cremorne Plaza site we need to understand it could have been as high as it is without it being 7 storeys.

 

A 5 storey therefore, indeed a 4 storey development (all of which I suggest would have been accepted publically even if only begrudgingly) could still have been proposed at the height of the approved development. This could be if each storey or at least the ground floor retail space had higher (even significantly higher) floor to ceiling heights.

Those arguing that the development should have been only 5 storeys therefore have, I would suggest, a tenuous argument at best. I say that firmly believing that they would not have an argument if the height remained the same but less storeys were provided.

What this development did do however was increase the height of the development from what the development plan understood a 5 storey development would be, justifying the public concerns. But a height that was not governed by the number of storeys but by the space available to it by the envelope defined in our development plan.

The height of development on this site was governed therefore by the depth of the development site. The plan stipulates a 30 degree slope from a height of 3.0 m on the boundary bordering the adjacent zone, remembering that council was overridden during the development plan amendment a year ago on its proposed 2.0 m starting height.

This site being significantly deeper than that envisaged by the plan has enabled a height greater than anticipated and this I believe is the real issue for not only the approval but the disquiet among the community. The block depth is 76 m, well in excess of the (from memory) 50-60 m the development plan was based on.

This depth has allowed for greater heights than that envisaged by the plan. With the height available and low floor to ceiling heights the developer was able to get more storeys than the plan stipulates.

Cremorne Plaza Redevelopment gets Approval in spite of Community Opposition

A week ago now the State Government’s Development Assessment Commission approved the controversial development proposal for the Cremorne Plaza Site notwithstanding significant community opposition to the proposal.

 

Cremorne PlazaApproval was granted according to the minutes of the DAC meeting because the development was not SERIOUSLY at variance to the City of Unley Development Plan.

 

Many in our community will dispute this by focusing on the development being a 7 storey development in a 5 storey zone.

Some have argued during the debate before and after the approval was granted that it would not have been approved had Council been the approving body.

Whilst the development was approved by a state government body (DAC) rather than a council body (DAP) I wonder what the result would have been had it been determined by us. 7 stories on the face of it does seem particularly at variance with a zone calling for 5 storey. That is a 40% variance.

I ask though is the number of storeys a relevant parameter. If it had been a 5 storey development not many would have argued because it would have seemingly complied. That would be irrespective of how high the building which no-one has focused on during the debate on the development.

How many people would have spoken up had the building been the same height but 5 storeys. I will examine this further in a subseuent blog post.

On a positive note I understand the Developer and DAC did listen to Council and we saw some improvement in the number of carparks amongst other things.

Assuming the development does proceed then we will see in a few years time an increased population in Unley that can only be a good thing for those who serve the community, be it businesses with increased turnover and profits or community clubs with increased memberships.

 

Planning Minister Guns for Councils rather than focus on the System

It has taken me a while to get to read the storey from earlier this week titled Planning Minister John Rau wants councils to be restricted to approving only small developments such as carports, fences and tennis courts. Now that I have read it I am taken aback at the shear ignorance of the head of Planning in this State.

Mr Rau, let me tell you it is not who is running the system that is at fault it is the system itself. And I warn those in the public who have ad a bad experience and think Mr Rau is on the money be careful what you wish for. Don’t don’t blame the deliverer blame those who designed the system and that is the State Government, the same body that are embarking on a plan now that will cost more and deliver no better results.

I remember being taught when I first started in management that when you find something is not working in the business look to adjust the system rather than blame whoever is using the system. You and your panel, as I see it after reading their brief, have not done this.You are creating another level of bureaucracy and let me warn you after spending much in the way of tax payer money you will not see improvement in the system.

Let us establish one thing right up front. The system and those running the system get it right from the point of view of decisions being overturned by the court. 99.95% of projects that come through the system and not overturned by the courts indicate the current process gets it right.

The problem as the article in the Advertiser put it is the length of time that it takes to get the approval. As someone who works both sides of the system I believe I know the problem and he solution is and it is simple.

Yes it takes too long and yes, as a builder, I too have suffered in Burnside. I have also seen, as an elected member serving on the City of Unley Development Assessment Panel, that the reasons for inviting representation from the public and the selection of who gets that chance is flawed.

You pick that carports, fences and tennis courts as the only thing that Councils are qualified to judge. Notwithstanding the statistics I quoted above that disputes this even these structures can be held up in the system because of the nature of the public representation.

Here it is Mr Rau.

Instead of encouraging neighbours to talk before a job comes to council and I talk of projects such as carports etc the system (designed by Government) requires public representation form people who in living only up to 60 metres away but who cannot even see the development the right to challenge the proposal. That is what clogs up the system.

It is a system that gives rights to people who are NOT affected by a proposal to voice their opinion and democratic right. It is based on giving that person a belief that they can influence development in their street. A democratic right if you will.

The truth is their representation is often not based on the planning principles the panel has to judge the development by and therefore is ignored by the panel. The truth then is they come away confused, frustrated and upset that their opinion was ignored.

Anyone who knows this having experienced it or anyone whose project has been delayed by this don’t blame your council. It is the system that created it and that is a Government responsibility. They created that environment, not the Council.

Most of these smaller type projects exist in the back yard and are likely to impact on only one neighbour. Yes ONE neighbour. If we went BACK to a system that encourages a home owner to seek the approval from their neighbour before submitting it the system would not get clogged up so much dealing with the smaller and more insignificant jobs which the current system does.

We had this once and we could easily reintroduce it. Trust me, having worked it from both sides, I know. Back in those good ol’ days I would get the neighbour to sign a copy of the plan for a verandah that exists on the boundary, take the proposal into council and get an approval the same day in some councils and no more than a week in most.The same development with the same result takes under the current regime of public representation no less than three months.

Understand that the system is the problem not who runs it Mr Rau. And stop kicking local government.

Thank God Mr Rau is not the Minister for Local Government. If he were we would likely no longer exist in favour of a body that has no connection to local communities.

Greens come to defence of Inner Rim Councils

The Greens, through Mark Parnell MLC, have come to the defence of local government and the inner rim councils. 


He has foreshadowed a motion in the upper house which he will be bringing to a vote on the next Wednesday of sitting after the winter break, being around the middle of September
The motion concerns the Governments preempting the Expert Panel report on planning reform. They did this by determining that the planning approval powers of the inner rim councils be transferred to the development assessment commission for all developments over 4 storeys in height. 
The presumption we are told is that councils are not equipped to deal with this scale of development. 
Not that we have had much such development in Unley but we have shown in my opinion that we most certainly can. The recent redevelopment of the old Julia Farr Centre for a multi storey residential retirement village is proof of this.
Mark called for submissions from the affected councils, and their elected members, to demonstrate that we at local government supported his bill. We did, across the board, showing that he was not pushing his own barrow.
In his report he made reference to Unley’s joint submission and to separate submissions by Cr Hewitson and myself. I responded in your(our) defence because your(our) opportunity to contribute to what is developed is under threat by the Government’s action.
His speech can be found on his website.
PS. He has correctly identified that the Expert Panel’s ideas will also need great scrutiny as well, as I indicated recently in another blog post. I will comment more on that in a future blog post.

The Expert Panels Ideas for Reform

The Exert panel has handed down, as I reported earlier today, its interim report. Except it is not a list of recommendations. Recognizing them as controversial they deem them their ideas for everyone to consider.

The panel went to great pains at the AIUS luncheon today to express that they expect criticism, that they expect the Minister to be not happy to hand over some of his current powers, for councils not to be happy etc etc. They woud be worried they say if they dont get criticsim.

What Brian Hayes QC and his panel members did today was raise a whole heap of questions as far as I am concerned rather than a blueprint for making the system better. I will blog later on my thoughts regarding the proposal.

Suffice it to say that they believe there should be a State Planning Commission, set up as a statutory body. This body would replace two current Government Departments. By doing this they believe it is appropriate to switch the time invested by elected members, State and Local, from administrative tasks to visionary tasks.

Under this body there would be a series of Regional Bodies made up form representatives from State & Local Government and with Independent Members, one of who should be the Chair. Such bodies would be funded partially by the State and partially by Local Governments.

They have not proposed how many Regional Bodies there would be. They are asking us to tell them how many there should be. So reports in the media today that there is only 3, or 14 are incorrect.

Each regional body would in turn appoint only independent members to their own Regional Development Assessment Panel (DAP). That means no elected member of any council would be admitted to the panel.

They also propose that there be consistent zoning between local or regional development plans.

There is much more to take in and I will leave that for now.

In the meantime, as the Panel members are saying it is best that the community has a say early in the piece, so you have an opportunity to have your say about their ideas. Have your say.

Check out the report on their ideas or check out their website and make your observations to the panel via that website or by writing to them at GPO Box 1815 Adelaide SA 5001.

I will be and I expect Council will likewise. We have until 26th September.

Planning System Shakeup

The Advertiser today posted a storey about the pending release of the interim report by the Expert Panel headed up by Brian Hayes QC which is expected to be the biggest shakeup of the planning system in SA in a generation.

The panel will be releasing their 172 page (more reading for this elected member) today at a luncheon I will be attending. The report will be released for the purpose of public consultation.

As someone involved in the building industry and as a Councillor I have particular interest in what they are proposing.

Rather than repeat what the “tiser” has suggested in  its article this morning I will await what the panel tells us at lunch time and report back to you accordingly.

As always, watch this space.

Hands off Mr Rau

While the Expert panel appointed by the Deputy premier works through developing a new model for approving development in this state John Rau determined unilaterally some time back to take certain classes of development out of the hands of Councils.

Not only has he indicated we are incompetent to handle large scale developments but he is also suggesting by his saying we don’t even get to contribute to the debate that we are not capable of contributing to a healthy outcome.

And he did this in contravention of an agreement between the state government and local government which indicates the state government  would  consult on all decisions they may make that affect local government.

In doing what he did he has been quite vocal on the role of elected members on DAPs suggesting they are likely to make political decisions rather than in accordance with the relevant development plan. That is notwithstanding he can act unilaterally and override DAP decisions where he has a differing view as he did recently with a development on South Terrace for the St Andrews Hospital.

Do as I say not as I do.

Enter Mark Parnell MLC who is making good on a pre-election promise to disallow the regulations so that a proper debate can be had.

I moved a motion in Council last night supporting Mr Parnell who is seeking support from Councils for his move. This was supported unanimously from memory.

We should wait on the Expert Panels findings which are due soon. Of course you have to ask the question, how much are they being influenced by the Minister by the actions he has taken.

I finish this blog post with a question to you. Who would you prefer assesses an application for a 4 or 5 storey development next door to you? Council or a bunch of people without an intimate feeling for your neighbourhood, your street?

Who Owns a Development Plan

Following from my recent post regarding the upcoming Development Plan Amendment DPA2 I feel it prudent for you to understand who owns the Development Plan attributable to a given Council and the process behind how it evolves.

Is it Council?
Is it the State Government Minister for Planning?
Or is it you?

We all own a part of it but at the end of the day it is the Minister who “owns” the plan. The Minister has the final say and can arbitrarily determine what is to be included notwithstanding the contribution of Council or its residents and ratepayers.

It is only out of courtesy that he involves council in the development of a plan. As we have experienced with recent development plan amendments we had to fight hard to get concessions on the recent DPA 3A for Greenhill Road and Unley Road. And that was with the help of residents who went public to fight for what they believe.

And we found that the work we did on many a property in the Heritage development plan amendment were simply struck off when presented to the minister through his department (you guessed it-DPTI)

Of course the cynic in me would say, with all the talk of the alternative government proposing to cap the rate increases of councils, get the council to do the public consultation and then we (the government through their minister) what we want.

Here’s the rub guys. If you want to influence what can and cant be built next to you your best and only real chance of influencing it is to get involved at the development plan amendment phase. Yes YOU can be at least a part owner of the Plan.

You are wasting your time if you do a NIMBY and only try to influence it when your neighbour is proposing to build something you don’t agree with.

DPA 2 is on the way.

So, in keeping with my last post on this topic if you live in Black Forest, or in Clarence Park (west of East Avenue) then you need to get involved  now. Public Consultation is on the way and you need to be involved.

If you dont you may be very disappointed when your neighbour wants to redevelop and build a 3 or more storey building next to you.

When People can Influence Planning

Not just a statement, the heading above is also a question. Yes – When is the best time for people to influence planning for the built form in the area in which they live?

Is the best time to challenge the planning relevant to your street? When your neighbour proposes a development you are not comfortable with or when the planning that governs that development is formed.


A leading question I guess, and one I hope to answer in this blog post.

Many people have not looked at the Development Plan operating for their street until they wish to redevelop their property or more importantly when their neighbour does and they feel this will compromise their amenity. And when they do they are likely to find the Council or their Development Assessment Panel (DAP), if the development application gets that far, has a different interpretation of the plan.

On many occasions variances from the plan, noting it is not prescriptive and can’t be, are often viewed by neighbours as exorbitant while viewed by the Council staff and the members of the DAP as minor. If an application is viewed as NOT SERIOUSLY at variance to the plan by the Council Planning Staff or, if it gets there, by the members of DAP the application is likely to be approved.

It can happen that the Development Plan allows for construction that varies from that which currently exists and this can be a challenge the residents in the street. This was the case I believe with one such application at this month’s Unley DAP meeting.

This brings me to the point of this blog post. One application this month is in an area that is likely to have a much denser development and therefore out of character with the existing level of development if it is approved by the State Government’s Minister of Planning. The street in question is included in a new Development Plan Amendment.

With this Development Plan Amendment (known as DPA 2) soon to go out for community consultation I am keen to make sure the residents in this street get the opportunity of knowing what might be able to happen in their street if they do not input into the amendment.

If they don’t provide input into the amendment they could see development occur in the future that compromises their interpretation of the amenity of their street way more than the development approved this week will. And they will likely make representation at the time of the new development application only to be disappointed as I know they were this week, but more so.

And unfortunately they are likely to see the Council and the DAP as irresponsible when in fact the approval is in accordance with the plan they might have been able to influence.

I will be chasing up the residents in this area when the public consultation is approaching to encourage them to participate when they have a chance to influence the type of development that could occur next to them.

Will the Local be put back into Planning in SA post the State Elections

The Minister for Planning John Rau, the Shadow Minister Vicky Chapman and MLC Mark Parnell were interviewed by Mike Smithson of Channel 7 at a lunch hosted today by the LGA.

The Mayor & I attended this luncheon to hear what each had to offer in the Planning arena and their views of Council involvement.

Readers of this blog would be well aware that the Minister has overseen two planning initiatives in the current term of Government. They are the various development plan amendments to accommodate the Governments 30 year plan. The other is an overhaul of the Planning assessment regime.

For those of you interested in your built neighbourhood please read on.

The Minister was quite clear in determining that Councils should have a role in the Policy making of Planning, the development of the Development Plans but not in the assessment of individual application against that policy.

Vicky Chapman on the other hand felt it was up to Government to set policy and that Council is best served to carry out the assessment function.

Clearly a stark contrast between the two.

This hopefully gives readers a guide on which way to vote if you have a passion about how your street should look now and into the future.

Here’s my take to remind you what I have said in previous posts.

John Rau says we should be involved in policy but not in assessment.

In truth under his watch we have been the mechanism through which he conducted public consultation on what at the end of the day was his plan not ours on the various Development plan amendment we have participated in during my item on Council.

In my opinion what this did was focus anger from the public toward councils in the early days, until they woke up and understood it as his plan.

Quite frankly, while Unley finally won a number of major concessions, it was the Ministers plan not ours, although we did get a say. This to me means he agrees pretty much with his counterpart Vicky Chapman, that the State sets Policy, which I presume limits Local Government involvement. So I struggle to see that they vary on this important issue.

On the question of assessment Vicky Chapman has undertaken that a Liberal Government will put assessment of buildings 4 storeys and above back in the hands of Local Government after having recently been stripped from us.

John Rau is of the opinion that elected members presence on the councils DAP compromise the process as they have a conflict of interest. His approach, using a central Development Assessment Commission (DAC) filled only with professionals is the best approach.

Once again I disagree. A DAC has no local knowledge of the nuances of a given suburb or street. They are more likely to make a clinical decision which I suggest is poor process.

My take then is State Governments should take advantage of having a Local Government involved in both the Policy area and the assessment arena. Only Local Government is close to their community. Only Local Government has an understanding of the impact of development on transport, parking, the impact on the infrastructure. They should be at the core of both Policy and of assessment.

So where to from here?

You may or may not agree with my take so over to you. The choice is yours on March 15, one month from today.