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Christine's Thoughts on ‘Smart Planning’ and the Victorian Planning Provisions Discussion Paper

This is dismantling planning schemes, removing impediments to what developers want, and allowing development on developers’ terms. What is happening under “Smart Planning” has no relationship to either of those words. Read it and weep – or get angry, and loud. This is essentially about making a single planning scheme for Victoria, controlled by the State government (and whoever may have its ear). You are having YOUR planning scheme stolen from you.

We have all been through the Elaine Carbine’s “Making Local Policy Stronger” farce 10 years ago, when all that happened was significant loss of local policy. Local policy, particularly “old” policy (i.e. something that says what it means and has teeth – like our Statement of Planning Policy No. 8) is intended to be weeded out to fit into the new format. This single planning scheme will comprise primarily State policy, which as we have all lately seen, can be changed by a stroke of the Minister’s pen.

There is also substantial cost to councils involved. To get to where so-called “Smart Planning” is intending to take us, planning schemes will have to be re-written, and if your council is currently doing a planning scheme review, they will have to start again.

Other niceties include:

• Moving the peri-urban areas from “Regional Victoria” to “Urban Growth”,
• Moving “Open Space” to “Community Infrastructure”,
• Deleting Municipal Strategic Statements [MSS], and “simplifying” what used to be in them.
• The whole section on Metropolitan Melbourne is deleted, with some parts transferred to other State policies, meaning these are now applied across the State instead of just metro Melbourne.
• Local policies will also have to be justified by identifying in the policy (“Policy Context”) the local issue that triggered the policy.
• There won’t be a policy-neutral translation of existing policy to this new format, local policies will have to be changed or deleted to fit with the format.

Local policies will have to fit in with State policy themes. If you’ve got some other issue locally – too bad. Can’t have a policy.

Watch out as well for a second attempt to introduce that idiotic “verbs matrix” that surfaced circa 2013/14 which restricts the use of verbs with which policy statements can begin, and dictates verbs that can be used.

All along the way, VicSmart infiltrates every part of the State Planning Policy Framework, together with “streamlining” permit triggers (i.e. primarily to remove them).

The whole thing is “user” (read developer) driven, and Professor Buxton’s information exposing who is making these decisions, confirms why the public has been shut out of the so-called “Smart Planning” processes.

A new Departmental unit to “vet” local policy is to be set up – ‘policy police’?

They haven’t even shown us what they are intending to do.

From our perspective, we are asking if it’s time to say the government’s promise to protect Macedon Ranges is a broken one. It can’t be protected with all of this going down, and Green Wedges are also under direct attack.


Some additional specific issues for change include:
• Removing permit triggers for houses on lots between 300 and 500 sqm and use the building code to assess instead of planning system.
• Making more commercial uses to not need a permit in the Mixed Use zone
• Making motor repair shop and convenience shop as-of-right in the Industrial 1 zone.
• Making takeaway food premises, indoor recreation facilities and motor repair premises as-of-right in the Industrial 3 zone.
• Replacing the Urban Floodway Zone.
• Automatically rezoning land in the Urban Growth Zone when a precinct structure plan is approved, instead of requiring a planning scheme amendment to change the zones.
• Reviewing the use of Environmental Significance Overlay to identify ‘buffers’
• Increasing permit exemptions for single dwellings in Environmental Significant and Significant Landscape Overlays
• More permit exemptions in Heritage Overlays for ‘minor buildings and works’
• Review whether the Neighbourhood Character Overlay should be deleted.
• Review merging all current flood controls (Urban Floodway Zone, Floodway Overlay and Land Subject To Inundation Overlay) into a single control
• Increase permit exemptions in the Land Subject To Inundation Overlay
• Increased use of VicSmart where the Special Building Overlay is the only permit trigger for an application
• Amalgamate all Airport Environs Overlays with the Melbourne Airport Environs Overlay -
• Car Parking – provide car parking exemptions in selected zoned (commercial, mixed use and industrial) sor section 1 uses in existing buildings
• Consider making all car parking applications (Clause 52.06) exempt from notice requirements in all circumstances.
• Review (again) all separation distances (Clause 52.10) for uses with amenity impacts.
• Review requirements for service stations.
• Review provisions for car washes to ensure they reflect current practices and “modern” car wash designs, including crossover dimensions
• Review removing liquor licensing from the planning scheme, and no permit in Commercial 1 and 2 zones.
• Review the role of the planning scheme in gaming applications.
• Review permit triggers in the Land Adjacent to a Road Zone Category 1 or Public Acquisition Overlay
• Review removing the particular provision for post boxes and dry stone walls.
• Clause 57 Green Wedges – assess whether would be more “transparent” if deleted and requirements (and restrictions?) transferred to zones.
• Consolidation of planning scheme General Provisions – this means moving them all to one place at the back of the scheme (where they are now). The change is to have a single set of application requirements, and a single set of decision guidelines – a generic version to apply in all circumstances instead of being tailored to the specific issue or requirements they apply to.
• Reviewing referral requirements (currently determining or recommending) and removing unnecessary regulatory burdens.
• All planning scheme DEFINITIONS – review. Be less prescriptive by removing ‘overly specific’ terms.

These thoughts come from Christine, of MRRA.

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