How a Council can undermine community consultation on planning – case study

The following case study reveals how Yarra City Council consistently subverted attempts by residents to persuade the council to address repeated flaws in the assessment of development applications.  Residents who were members of the Community Advisory Committee on Planning were not seeking to revise previous permit decisions but simply to persuade the council to at least learn from past mistakes by initiating procedures to improve future DA assessments.

There are lessons here for anyone dealing with council bureaucracies over contentious issues such as flawed permit application assessments.

This case study was undertaken as part of a Masters course in Planning at RMIT.  Further information is available from the author, who can be contacted at

NB 1:   The case analyses mentioned in the study that were referred to the DN Planning Audit can be found on this website under the Flawed Cases File.  There is also a link below to Council’s legal opinion admitting that there was no legal reason to prevent access to all documents in closed planning files.

NB 2:   On p.16 of the Study, Yarra Council is quoted as saying that all records of the 2003-2004 Community Advisory Committee meetings and all Council meeting records prior to 2003 were removed from the Yarra website in 2005.   However, as of Feb.2016, online records of council meetings are available dating back to 2007, confirming that Council’s real reason for deleting the 2003-2004 records only one year later was to remove information critical of the council, not because (as claimed) there was “not enough space on Council’s computer system”.

Open Case study Report here

Open References for the Report here

Public Access to Planning Files at Yarra – policy

Public Access to Council’s planning files – email letter from Maddocks Lawyers to Yarra CEO, 22.4.04  (note in particular pages 9 – 12 re access to closed files and relevant internal council memos)