Anger over Govt power grab on planning

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/05/21/2251325.htm

Residents are fighting against this kind of proposed development for Camberwell. (Supplied)

Audio: Planning Minister Justin Madden talks to Ali Moore about the shopping strip changes. (ABC News) Map: Camberwell 3124
 The Victorian Government is taking some planning powers away from local councils in response to an audit which was critical of the Melbourne 2030 Planning Strategy.

The independent audit has found the plan has not stopped urban sprawl, and public transport investment has been insufficient.

In response to the audit, the Premier, John Brumby has announced a $25-million overhaul of Melbourne 2030.

Under the changes, planning control over the 26 principal activity centres will be taken from local councils and handed to new committees comprised of council and State Government representatives.

The new committees will be set up immediately in five 'major activity centres' including Preston, Camberwell, Coburg, Doncaster and Geelong.

The Government will also set housing growth requirements for every metropolitan council.

The Planning Minister Justin Madden said the changes will see planning decisions better reflect State priorities.

"We're not stripping any powers from councils at all. What we are doing is separating the decision-making process from the policy making process," he said.

"Councils will still have the ability to control or determine what happens in these zones. They'll still be able to make policy in them. But it will be a partnership approach ... that will be shared between representatives of the State government and representatives of local government with an independent chair."

Actor and anti-development campaigner Geoffrey Rush has condemned the changes.

"It will give the developers open slather," he said.

"Who likes the progressive development of Melbourne on an aesthetic level and on a level that you know keeps the character of the city intact. It could ruin that."

Camberwell activist Mary Drost is angry about the plan.

"We have a good council here in Boroondara, I mean they work hard," she said.

"This is local democracy being overridden by the State system. The bureaucrats in there are determined to push as much development through as they can."

The Opposition's Planning Spokesman, Matthew Guy, says the move will encourage high-rise developments and change the face of the suburbs.