Minister not even sure of own planning reforms

Planning Minister Guy has revealed that he or his department don't understand how some of the New Zone changes are actually going to work if they're brought into effect.

The minister has strongly attacked criticism of his recent planning Zone reforms ("Vocal minority peddling porkies on planning zones changes"), in particular by Prof. Michael Buxton, as we have mentioned before ("Planning for Disaster" – see earlier story below).

But, as professional planner Steven Rowley explained in The Age on Oct.6 ("Minister's zone chaos made manifest"), the minister seems to think that as-of-right incursions of shops and medical centres into residential areas would still need permits issued by councils and that residents could object "at that stage".

In fact, under the new zone provisions, these buildings would only need building permits which are issued by private building surveyors, not councils. Being commercial buildings instead of residential, they would not need to meet Rescode standards.  No amenity protection, no third party notice or appeal rights for residents…..

The only likely planning permit trigger would be for parking but if this is the only reason a permit is required, there would again be no notice or appeal rights for objectors.

There also appears to be nothing to prevent the owners of such a commercial building, once built, deciding that they'd prefer to transform the existing building shell into apartments.  With minor internal changes (kitchens, WCs, etc), such a non-conforming building would then have a right to be used as a residential building, even under existing planning controls.

It is significant that not only the majority of community submissions but most councils and even the Planning Institute have concerns about the strategic justification of the new reforms and the problems they're likely to cause.  Even federal Liberal Greg Hunt is worried ("Senior Lib admits Green Wedge fears")

All this just serves to illustrate that the present planning reforms are poorly thought through measures following a simplistic deregulation agenda.  Where is the pre-draft consultation with parties other than industry (behind closed doors)?  The independent expert input and peer review?  The publicly-released strategic research that should underpin any major planning reforms?  And where is the informed community consultation process?

All the new planning reforms will modify the new Metropolitan Planning Strategy, yet they all put the cart before the horse.  The small lot housing code, VicSmart, New Zones, etc have all been made public (some even gazetted) BEFORE the still-awaited release of the Metro Strategy  – in fact, the discussion paper on the MPS was only released on Friday Oct.26.

Our summary of that discussion paper and the comments of speakers at the launch will be uploaded to our website shortly.

You can view the Discussion Paper here and join the discussion through online forums, submissions and on Twitter with the username @planmelbourne and hashtag #talkmelbourne.  Feedback received from the community and industry groups are supposed to help shape the final Metropolitan Planning Strategy, which will act as a blueprint for Melbourne’s future for the next 40 years. Comments will be accepted until Friday March 1 2013.

Over the next few months a series of community and industry forums, information sessions and roundtable discussions will be held regarding the Discussion Paper.  The draft Metropolitan Planning Strategy is expected to be completed by Autumn 2013, with the final completed in Spring 2013.


PS:  For interesting and incisive comment on current planning issues, see the website of professional planner Steven Rowley –