13 May, 2012

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.

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