Despite Planning Minister Madden’s disregard for community consultation, there are some general signs that the planning approach promoted by SOS is starting to gain more official recognition.
The recent Local Government Policy Review has recommended a stronger role for local policies, and the Melbourne 2030 Audit Review (while it had terms of reference that were too narrow) is also likely to recommend some positive changes.
The Federal Government has also commissioned a major climate change response report, which, together with increasing public pressure from water shortages and increasing energy prices, will hopefully encourage some of the planning reforms that SOS has been advocating.
Those reforms include the need for ALL development applications to require a planning permit for reasons of neighbourhood character, amenity impact, and environmental issues etc (none of which can be adequately addressed by a building permit alone) [refer to “VCAT undermining state ESD policy”, SOS N/L 23, May 06 p4].
The new Upper House standing committee on Public Administration and Finance should also help by drawing council administrative planning problems to public and parliamentary attention. SOS has consistently argued that this should have been the role of the Planning Division of VCAT all along – to oversee accurate, efficient and competent function of Council permit assessment processes, rather than conduct duplicate hearings (ie, starting from scratch) by taking matters out of the hands of councils and making its own decision, often without giving due weight to local policies.