Last week at a Property Council of Australia lunch in Victoria the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, presented to a sell-out crowd.
The first part of the presentation centred on the State Budget and as expected, the “fully funded” delivery of the Melbourne Metro Rail Project was a big focus. The Minster spoke of the construction of the underground Arden Station as being a big opportunity to support infill redevelopment in the Arden-Macaulay precinct, with the future Station to improve connections to the Melbourne CBD.
The Minister advised that the State Government owns large amounts of land in the Arden-Macaulay precinct and that his Department is exploring the possibility of selling off parcels of land at below market value on the condition that any development must provide a percentage of affordable housing.
This is a real opportunity and is no doubt inspired by the former role of the Minister in the Housing portfolio.
The allocation of $25.5 million in the State Budget for reforms to the planning system labelled ‘Smart Planning’ was another focus of the presentation. A notable reform proposed is the removal of the State and Local Planning Policy Frameworks and the replacement with one Planning Policy Framework.
In our experience, Local Planning Policy Frameworks for municipalities are not updated regularly enough (often due to limited Council resources) and when they become outdated, have less or even little relevance to planning permit applications.
We welcome this change especially if it reduces the amount of ‘red tape’ assessment required for applications.
Another positive reform proposed as part of ‘Smart Planning’ will be the ability to submit planning permit applications and to monitor the approvals process, online.
This should allow applications to be lodged more quickly with a Council and depending on the reliability of the new system, should reduce the amount of chasing of Council planning officers to obtain updates on the status of an application – assuming of course the online process is updated regularly and of sufficient detail in terms of status / progress.
In terms of polices and guidelines, the Minister is aiming to introduce the final CBD built form controls along the with final apartment design guidelines in September 2016.
A concern that was raised during question time was in relation to third party appeal rights and the ability of objectors with little to no planning merit to hold up the approval of planning permit applications. The Minister advised that he would not be considering any reform to third party appeal rights.
Another concern raised from the audience was the time it is taking the Minister to approve planning scheme amendments, with an example given of a particular amendment being with the Minister for seven months.
In response, the Minister advised that he had inherited a backlog from the previous government and is working through it – but the excuse of inherited backlogs is a bit thin.
This article appeared on Collie's website. Michael Collie is Director at Collie Pty Ltd, a multi-disciplinary Southbank-based firm with interests in strategic planning, development planning, urban design and landscape architecture.