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Ashburton Residents reprove Vic Gov Planning 'Reform' dictatorship

We need stronger not weaker planning controls at the level of local government and more community involvement. We need to empower local government and communities by ensuring that projects other than minor modifications to existing properties are scrutinized by council in consultation with the community. It might be more time consuming and cumbersome however it will be well worth the additional effort if we can avoid a planning disaster while at the same time achieving better planning outcomes. To achieve a good result, we need to give Councils the right to veto or modify a proposed development application and in the case of a disputed application that cannot be resolved at the level of local government, I would like to recommend that we replace VCAT by appointing a democratically elected community jury with the power to veto or modify a project. Overpopulation, planning and overdevelopment and building safe, attractive and cohesive communities will be the over-riding themes in the upcoming election campaign. Any further action in relation to the proposed changes should be deferred until we elect a new government in 2018 to allow the people to decide whether or not they support further deregulation and privatisation of the planning process and the removal of appeal rights. (A. Walker, Ashburton Residents Action Group)

23 November 2017

In confidence and without prejudice

Submission – Smart Planning Initiative

Attention: Smart Planning Team

Introduction


I am a ratepayer and a local resident and I have major concerns that unwelcome and unwanted high-rise, high-density over-development poses an existential threat to our city and suburbs, living standards and quality of life.

The community must be given a greater say as to how their suburbs will be allowed to develop and this will translate into better planning outcomes and happier communities. Ratepayers elect councillors to represent them at the local government level and our councillors must be allowed to do their job.

We need tougher restrictions and more community input to help preserve Melbourne’s ranking as one of the most liveable cities in the world as this is under threat.

Neighbourhood Residential Zones

The neighbourhood residential zones were originally introduced by the Baillieu/Napthine government to protect our suburbs from the ravages of inappropriate over-development. These changes were welcomed by local ratepayers.

The height and density limits were designed to give local residents and investors, certainty and protection and ensured that those seeking to push the boundaries could no longer appeal to VCAT to achieve the planning outcomes that they desired for non-compliant projects. Since then there has been some pushback and the Andrews government has already removed mandatory height limits and replaced them with discretionary height limits in certain areas making the sky the limit. We cannot afford to further weaken the controls governing neighbourhood residential zones and mandatory height limits need to be reinstated as soon as possible.

Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4

I can understand the arguments in favour of simplifying the planning rules to allow minor modifications to properties such as erecting a fence, garden shed, carport, adding a small extension to a house or a bay window without a permit, however, when it comes to larger projects, we need stronger regulations, adequate scrutiny by local government and stronger appeal rights for local residents who value the liveability of their suburbs.

For the reasons stated above, I disagree strongly with the smart planning initiative (stages 1, 2, 3 and 4) as I believe it will open the door to a proliferation of unwelcome and unwanted overdevelopment projects in many of our suburbs and that local government and the community will be disenfranchised and excluded from the planning process. That is not acceptable by any measure. I also take offence at the statement that members of the public are incapable of understanding strategic planning. The public who are living with the consequences of unsustainable population growth and over-development understand the implications of strategic planning better than anyone.

Simplifying the planning process to allow larger projects to proceed without adequate scrutiny by local government is inherently dangerous as it would open the door to over-development, poor quality projects and we would run the risk of creating the slum precincts of the future with all the associated problems.

Conclusion

We need stronger not weaker planning controls at the level of local government and more community involvement. We need to empower local government and communities by ensuring that projects other than minor modifications to existing properties are scrutinized by council in consultation with the community. It might be more time consuming and cumbersome however it will be well worth the additional effort if we can avoid a planning disaster while at the same time achieving better planning outcomes.

To achieve a good result, we need to give Councils the right to veto or modify a proposed development application and in the case of a disputed application that cannot be resolved at the level of local government, I would like to recommend that we replace VCAT by appointing a democratically elected community jury with the power to veto or modify a project.

2018 Election

Overpopulation, planning and overdevelopment and building safe, attractive and cohesive communities will be the over-riding themes in the upcoming election campaign. Any further action in relation to the proposed changes should be deferred until we elect a new government in 2018 to allow the people to decide whether or not they support further deregulation and privatisation of the planning process and the removal of appeal rights.

A. Walker
Committee Member
Ashburton Residents Action Group
PO Box 45
Ashburton Vic 3147.