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«December 2011 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee Initial Report. Geoff Underwood, Chair. Catherine Heggen, Member. David ...»

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Initial Report - December 2011 70 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee The introduction of the Planning and Environment Act in 1988 offered tremendous potential for innovation in planning schemes. This potential was not realised, largely because the existing schemes were ‘rolled over’ to become new planning schemes under the Act. In fact, the system became more complex through actions, such as the splitting of the Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme (MMPS) into around 50 individual municipal schemes. This resulted in a massive increase in the number of zones in the metropolitan area, with little thought as to whether differences in control were indeed necessary.

An underlying theme of all the reforms has been the achievement of micro economic reform by reducing administrative costs and increasing efficiency. This is not a policy of any one government but sensible public administration.

With the election of the Kennett Government in 1992, the Government

had a clear policy to create jobs and prosperity through:

Facilitating investment by substantially simplifying and clarifying the development approvals system; and Improving the organisation for planning to help decision making processes produce positive outcomes.

The Government did not change the objectives of planning set out in Section 4 of the Planning and Environment Act but looked to how these objectives could be better achieved.

Shortly after the Government was elected, the Perrott Committee commissioned a series of projects to produce recommendations on reform of various aspects of the state’s planning system, over six months from late 1992. These project teams reported directly to the committee rather than through the department structure and brought together staff and people from outside the department. This mix brought new ideas and a fresh look at the system.

Some of the findings of the Perrott Committee were that:

1. The system was increasing in complexity both in the proliferation of zones and development approval instruments. There were 206 separate planning schemes and over 26,000 pages of ordinance. In the Melbourne metropolitan area alone there were over 150 residential zones and over 250 commercial and industrial zones.

2. Administration of the planning system was getting out of control.

There were 4,871 separate amendments to planning schemes from 1988 to 1993 and over 42,000 development approval applications a year.

3. There was a lot of input for little output.

Initial Report - December 2011 71 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee

4. The focus was on running the system for its own sake rather than focussing on what the system was to achieve.

5. The outcome of the Perrott Committee’s work was a series of recommendations to the Minister for Planning who announced details of the government’s reform program in August 1993.

There were two key planning reform objectives:

1. Better planning schemes a. facilitation and certainty b. simplicity and consistency c. fewer, more consistent, performance based zones

2. Better approvals procedures a. permits as the usual form of planning approval b. streamlined notice requirements for applications c. new arrangements for objections d. certainty for permitted development e. better service by authorities f. government facilitation of approvals g. more efficient appeals system h. changes to legislation

This would be achieved by having:

a policy basis for planning schemes and decision making;

consistent state wide controls and provisions, with the ability for local discretion within an explicit policy context; and monitoring of system effectiveness.

This system aimed to achieve the potential of the objectives of the Planning and Environment Act by concentrating on the outcomes the planning system is seeking to achieve, expressed through policy statements, rather than layers of control with unclear purposes.

The planning reform program therefore aims to achieve better processes through the introduction of better planning schemes. The emphasis on policy as the basis for controls should lead to thinking about the outcome rather than merely administering a control.” One of the common themes throughout the submissions was that the standardisation of the planning scheme was a good thing about Victoria’s planning system. In fact, it was probably the most frequently identified aspect of the planning system that was considered to be a positive factor.

–  –  –

The Committee considers that the standardisation of the planning schemes is a highly desirable objective.

Another benefit of the current VPP system is that it is designed to be able to have appropriate ‘add ons’ and ‘options’ fitted to meet the needs and aspirations of the State or a municipality (though not so much a region).

However, the ease with which this can be done (and is done) is one of the disadvantages of the VPP system as it has resulted in the fragmentation of the standardised system, with many variations between the different council planning schemes.

The structure also allows for permit triggers relevant to a parcel of land to be stipulated in more than one place in the planning scheme for a variety of matters that in years gone by were not regarded as planning issues. These permit triggers might be found in the zone or in several overlays or their schedules, through to the particular provisions and the general provisions.

Given the multiple locations that a permit trigger or other requirement can appear in a planning scheme, a vendor's statement (prepared under section 32 of the Sale of Land Act 1962 to be served on any person who wishes to purchase a property) will often not reveal all of the relevant provisions affecting a parcel of land for a potential purchaser.

In an example provided by the City of Melbourne, a development proposal occupied a page of text of planning scheme provisions outlining parts of the scheme that triggered the need for a planning permit.

As well as having to look for permit triggers in more than one location, decision guidelines are often found in numerous places. For example, relevant decision

guidelines could be expected to be found in:


the MSS;

the decision guidelines of the zone;

the decision guidelines of the overlay;

the decision guidelines of any schedule to a zone or overlay;

the Clause 22 local policies;

any relevant particular provision;

any relevant general provision; and any relevant incorporated document.

–  –  –

While there are many decision guidelines, it is not always the case that they are all considered. Given the multiplicity of decision guidelines there is a tendency by all participants to cherry pick aspects that suit their position.

Many submissions comment on the VPP. Moyne Shire Council (Submission No.

422) stated:

“VPP tools have expanded and are not considered to be ‘fit for purpose’ with councils having to find ‘work arounds’ such as using multiple overlays or varying ResCode through building controls...

The VPP are confused in directing both the Responsible Authority and the Planning Authority Decision guidelines in various provisions are of highly varying utility.” There are many unclear purposes expressed as objectives and strategies found within a multiplicity of provisions, including the state and local planning policy framework.

The VPP system has produced a series of planning schemes which contain multiple layers of control. The Committee notes that with more complex planning schemes, it is often difficult for even a professional planner (let alone someone unfamiliar with the scheme) to determine if a planning permit is required.

ISIS Planning (Submission No. 502) comments:

“...the Victorian planning system has become too complex. The system has become clogged with planning applications, many of which are unnecessary and do not achieve a net planning benefit.” The complexity of the planning schemes seem to be beyond the understanding of the average person and elected representatives. This is unacceptable in any modern planning system.

It is interesting to compare the statistics that the Perrott Committee used in its report which sought to quantify the extent of the issue it was endeavouring to address.

However, to illustrate the point the Committee notes:

The system is extremely complex;

There are an increasing number of zones and overlays and associated schedules, with 32 VPP zones currently in place and 23 VPP overlays;

Across the State there are 1579 different zone schedules, 2161 overlay schedules and 840 Clause 22 local policies, together with a host of incorporated and reference documents;

Initial Report - December 2011 74 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee There are now 82 planning schemes each with an average of 730 pages comprising approximately 60,000 pages in total, with the longest planning scheme being 1377 pages long;

There are approximately 400 planning scheme amendments across the State per year; and There are in the order of 54,000 planning permit applications per year excluding secondary consents and section 72 applications to amend a permit these later type of applications have not been counted but it is assumed that they would also run into many thousands of applications.

KEY FINDINGS The Victoria Planning Provisions

The Committee considers:

The current state wide standardised structure of planning schemes is strongly supported; and There is a question whether the VPP, in its current form, continues to fulfil its intended purpose in an efficient and effective manner.

The matters that will be considered by the Committee in the next part of its

work will include:

Whether the current structure and composition of the VPP is appropriate?

Are each of the components necessary?

Are other components required?

What are the principles for determining whether a matter belongs in the VPP; and in particular in Clause 52?

Is it possible to avoid or reduce the multi layering of controls?

Can certain elements be presented differently (ie. grouped or compacted) to make them more useable?

In Part 9.5 of this report, the Committee looks at specific components of theVPP.

8.3 The Municipal Strategic Statement Section 7(3) of the Act requires each planning scheme to include a Municipal

Strategic Statement (MSS). Section 12A of the Act provides:

“12A (3) A municipal strategic statement must contain a. the strategic planning, land use and development objectives of the planning authority; and b. the strategies for achieving the objectives; and

–  –  –

The current MSSs are prepared under this provision. Clause 20 of the VPP


“20.01 Operation of the Municipal Strategic Statement The Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) is a concise statement of the key strategic planning, land use and development objectives for the municipality and the strategies and actions for achieving the objectives. It furthers the objectives of planning in Victoria to the extent that the State Planning Policy Framework is applicable to the municipality and local issues. It provides the strategic basis for the application of the zones, overlays and particular provisions in the planning scheme and decision making by the responsible authority.

The MSS provides an opportunity for an integrated approach to planning across all areas of council and should clearly express links to the corporate plan. The MSS is dynamic and enables community involvement in its ongoing review. The MSS will be built upon as responsible authorities develop and refine their strategic directions in response to the changing needs of the community. When preparing amendments to this scheme and before making decisions about permit applications, planning and responsible authorities must take the MSS into account.”

Section 12B relates to the review of planning schemes. It provides:

1. “A planning authority which is a municipal council must review its planning scheme a. no later than one year after each date by which it is required to approve a Council Plan under section 125 of the Local Government Act 1989; or b. within such longer period as is determined by the Minister.

2. A planning authority which is a municipal council must also review its planning scheme at any other time that the Minister directs.

3. The objective of a review under this section is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the planning scheme in achieving a. the objectives of planning in Victoria; and b. the objectives of the planning framework established by this Act.

4. The review must evaluate the planning scheme to ensure that it Initial Report - December 2011 76 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee a. is consistent in form and content with the directions or guidelines issued by the Minister under section 7; and b. sets out effectively the policy objectives for use and development of land in the area to which the planning scheme applies; and c. makes effective use of State provisions and local provisions to give effect to State and local planning policy objectives.

5. On completion of a review under this section, the planning authority must without delay report the findings of the review to the Minister.” It should be noted that there is some support for the current format of Municipal Strategic Statements, as indicated by the comments in the Colac

Otway Shire’s submission (Submission No. 540):

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