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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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Performance based planning provisions define outcomes to be achieved and guidelines for development – there is some flexibility in decision making. Presently the VPP are a mixture of both prescription and performance with more emphasis on the latter. Many matters considered in planning decisions cannot be readily prescribed. Social and economic needs, the cost of housing, the ability of younger and older people to live or remain in areas over their life cycle, and the development of local employment opportunities are important considerations. Planning also should allow for innovation; for instance environmentally sustainable development principles demand new approaches to building design and water cycle management. There must be a balance between prescriptive provisions and performance based provisions that allow for variation and innovation. Despite the objectives of the VPP for a performance based approach, there have been, and continue to be, many requests from councils to introduce prescriptive provisions. However, there has been no guidance from DSE on when prescriptive provisions may be appropriate. Some Panel reports have considered this matter. The Panel report on Queenscliff Initial Report - December 2011 108 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee C7 in particular argues that a number of tests should be applied when considering whether prescriptive provisions are appropriate.

It is appropriate that guidelines are developed which assist stakeholders determine when prescriptive provisions are appropriate’.

Finding: Guidelines should be developed to assist planning authorities determine when prescriptive or mandatory provisions are appropriate and how they should be expressed.” (Underlining is this Committee’s emphasis)

Consequently, the Making Local Policy Stronger report recommended:

“5. Clarify when prescriptive provisions can be used.

Develop guidelines to clarify when prescriptive rather than performance based provisions are appropriate and how they should be expressed.” The Committee considers that further thought needs to be given to the manner in which provisions within the planning schemes are drafted. This may include a review of the September 2010 DPCD Practice Note on Making Local Policy. The Practice Note provides guidance on the preparation of local

policies. In part, it states:

“Use zones and overlays to deliver the policy objective where possible.

Where possible, the use of schedules to zones, overlays or particular provisions should be used instead of local policies to express local policy objectives.”

However, the Practice Note finishes with the following:

“An LPP should be written with a performance based approach in mind rather than a prescriptive one. This is more than simply avoiding the use of ‘must’ or removing references to numbers. It means there is a clear and logical progression from policy basis to objectives, to the policy itself and the criteria against which proposals will be assessed.” Another Practice Note on Writing Schedules states that “changes should be enabling rather than prescriptive.” The Committee questions whether the current Practice Notes are consistent with the findings of the earlier reports.

KEY FINDING Performance Based Provisions versus Prescriptive Controls The Committee considers that the current balance in the system favours flexibility and performance based controls too heavily, to the detriment of certainty. This should be reviewed.

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9.6 Growth Area Planning and Interface Areas 9.6.1 Growth Area Planning A number of submissions raise issues directly associated with Growth area planning occurring within and on the edges of the Urban Growth Boundary.

Growth area planning has changed over the last few years. Previously, growth areas were largely planned on the basis of rezoning of rural land to an appropriate urban zone such as the Residential 1 Zone or an Industrial Zone.

This was generally coupled with a Development Contribution Plan Overlay and a Development Plan Overlay.

Large areas of Melbourne’s outer and interface areas were developed on the basis of this model. The old model also involved the preparation of outline development plans or structure plans which in turn led to the preparation of more detailed development plans for parts of the growth area prior to the granting of planning permits for subdivision.

The Urban Growth Zone (UGZ) first came into effect in June 2008, through Amendment VC48 to the VPP and planning schemes. The UGZ has been applied to most undeveloped urban land inside the Urban Growth Boundary. This zone was not applied to areas that were already in a Township Zone which has created ‘island communities’ uninvolved in the precinct planning process, such as Beveridge and Kalkallo.

The UGZ is a purpose built zone which comprises two parts; Part A applies while there is no precinct structure plan incorporated for the land and Part B applies when a precinct structure plan is incorporated.

The Part A provisions resemble the Farming Zone except that they allow certain ‘pioneer’ uses to be considered provided the responsible authority is satisfied that the granting of a permit would not be prejudicial to the preparation of a precinct structure plan.

The precinct structure plan (PSP) replaced local structure plans as the primary tool for planning in greenfield areas. The PSP is a document which is required to address seven elements relating to the establishment of an urban area.

Once finalised, it is incorporated into the scheme and operates under the UGZ.

Planning permits must be generally in accordance with a PSP and implement any conditions or requirements set out in the schedule to the UGZ and having regard to very recent changes, any conditions or requirements set out in the PSP.

The implementation of a PSP is usually accompanied by two other incorporated documents, namely a Development Contributions Plan (DCP) and a Native Vegetation Precinct Plan (NVPP).

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There have been numerous panel hearings which have considered the implementation of PSPs, DCPs and the NVPPs. While there have been varying degrees of difficulty in the various plans, a key feature of these PSP hearings

has been:

Concerns over the drafting of provisions;

Concerns over the level of infrastructure costs and specifications;

Concerns about the issue of Native Vegetation and Offsets; and Concerns over the staging of development.

Not surprisingly, some of these hearings were more efficient than others.

However, in all cases parties seem to get frustrated at what they regarded as the higher levels of detail that seemed to occupy the preparation of the various plans.

Nevertheless, once the various amendments are put in place, the issue of planning permits is a relatively straight forward exercise with third party exemptions in place and most information requirements set out in the various amendment documents which in turn leads to streamlined applications.

The Growth Areas Authority (GAA) was established in 2006 as part of the Victorian Government’s plan for outer urban development. The GAA is an independent statutory body with a broad, facilitative role to help create greater certainty, faster decisions and better coordination for all parties involved in planning and development of Melbourne’s growth areas. The GAA reports directly to the Minister for Planning.

The goals of the GAA are to:

Develop communities in growth areas that are socially, environmentally and economically sustainable;

Work with industry and local councils to ensure economic, employment and housing priorities are achieved in Melbourne’s five growth areas; and Improve the operation of regulatory and administrative processes over time to reduce costs and increase efficiencies for developers and local councils.

The GAA has acted as the planning authority for a number of PSP amendments.

There has been tension between the GAA acting as the planning authority and councils, whose municipal areas were being planned by an independent organisation. Some councils also expressed concerns about DCPs being put in place without adequate consultation with those councils, notwithstanding the significant financial implications to the local councils.

Initial Report - December 2011 111 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee Concerns have been put forward by some councils that the GAA is not the most suitable organisation to be undertaking the role of the planning authority. For example, Hume City Council (Submission No.401) considers

councils are best placed to undertake this role:

“Councils have closer links with the community, a better awareness of the social and geographical characteristics of the area, and will be ultimately responsible for the ongoing maintenance and administration of the Precinct Structure Plans.” Consistent with comments made within the Hume City Council submission are those comments made by Casey City Council (Submission No. 281) which highlights the role of Local Government in the precinct structure planning


“the importance of Local Government in growth area planning. Local Government has demonstrated in the past the ability and expertise to manage growth area planning. By applying local knowledge and considering community input, officers believe this can help shape a better, smarter plan and create vibrant new future communities. The development contributions process also requires review to ensure new communicates are well served by required infrastructure (transport, open space and community facilities). It is critical that if retained this is driven from Local Government as custodians of Development Contributions Plans. The Growth Areas Authority (GAA) has been useful in this process however Local Government is best placed to ensure a seamless development process from planning to implementation is fostered.” The GAA has a significant number of precinct structure plans underway at present. In the majority of cases the GAA has taken on board the role of planning authority. Many of the PSPs are being introduced by a process which by passes the normal planning scheme amendment processes under section 20(4) of the Act. While some informal consultation takes place in this process, there is no opportunity for independent review. This is ostensibly because of the concern about delays in the processing of the planning scheme amendments.

Another concern expressed by growth area councils is that Growth Area Corridor Plans were still under preparation while PSPs were progressing at a rapid rate. Consequently, some PSPs are being undertaken in isolation in the absence of an overall framework.

Wyndham City Council (Submission No. 348) expresses the concern that:

“While Precent Structure Plans continue to be prepared at haste, Growth Area Framework Plans, which should set key regional and

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municipal infrastructure targets, are relatively sluggish in their preparation. The risk, again, is that decisions made at the precinct level will undermine aspirations still being determined in the crucial realm of the Growth Area Framework Plan.” The Committee notes that draft corridor growth plans have been announced recently and there is an informal consultation period which is in place before these are finalised.

The Committee heard submissions from Urbis (Submission No. 216), the Property Council of Australia (Submission No. 311) and the Urban Development Institute of Australia (Submission No. 407) that the precinct structure planning process needs further streamlining. The UDIA submission


“Precinct structure plans are expensive to prepare and maintain, complex, inflexible and bring forward too much detail too early in the development process. They take a long time to prepare and their approval is often the outcome of a cumbersome and protracted process. Development Contributions Plans are burdened with the same issues as PSPs.” It is submitted by these groups that there should be no need for a precinct structure plan if the Growth Area Framework Plan (now called the Corridor Growth Plan) has been completed to a satisfactory level. These submittors believe that in many situations the need for a precinct structure plan should be redundant and more emphasis should be placed on the Growth Area Corridor Plan or a plan similar to an Outline Development Plan.

After the completion of the higher order plan some submittors argue that proponents should be directed through the development process via planning application process. Supporting this view, the UDIA makes the following


Introduce a hierarchy that goes from the Growth Area Framework Plan to a Co ordination Overlay then to a planning permit;

Introduce a Specialist Advisory Body to resolve disputes over co ordination plans; and Make the GAA the responsible authority for further amendments in major and principal activity centres and refer unresolved submissions to the Specialist Advisory Board.

Growth area councils do not all share this view and again seek a greater involvement of councils in the development of the planning tools for the growth areas. The Committee considers that to prepare a full cost recovery DCP, it is necessary to have a level of detail that is reflected in PSPs.

Initial Report - December 2011 113 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee Submittors state that regardless of the hierarchy of the planning documentation required in the growth areas, there is a common belief that there is little co ordinated planning going into infrastructure in the growth areas. This is reiterated in the submission of the Interface Councils (Submission No. 88).

It is clear that there appears to be genuine support for the orderly and timely planning of the growth areas. There are other arguments such as those put forward by Moreland City Council (Submission No. 409) and Yarra City Council (Submission No. 426) that support urban consolidation and higher density development within existing urban zones to lessen the footprint of urban growth and expansion.

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