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.