The Department of Planning has released 5 response papers on the proposed changes to the Planning & Environment Act 1987 and the planning system. The papers can be obtained by logging on to www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning
The response papers contain bureaucratspeak on "the objectives of planning, the amendment process, the permit process and new thinking on state significant major development as well as other moderization initiatives". Amongst the rhetoric there are proposals that will give the Planning Minister a lot more power to control planning. For instance, in paper No.2 "The amendment Process", on page 9, there are changes that will enable the Minister to authorize any person to be the "authorized person" for certain steps in the amendment process.
We enterpret that to mean the Minister could appoint a favoured party identity or even a developer to make changes to government or local planning policies that could favour a particular development, taking local councils out of the process. Imagine if a developer who wants to build in a heritage or landscape protected overlay area in your neighbourhood is appointed by the Minister as the "Responsible Authority". He could virtually do whatever he wants and your council could do absolutely nothing about it.
In the permit process Response Paper there is a proposal to introduce assessment tracks that will diferentiate between straightforward proposals and proposals that require a more complicated assessment. The rhetoric suggests that the current notice and review ( providing the right to object) process will be retained but then goes on to say some adjustments are proposed to make the process more efficient?????
Possibly the worst outcome is the proposal to create a new category to identify state significant and major developments giving the Minister control procedures that will effectively take councils out of the planning process. Examples include high value developments( ($100m+ in metro Melbourne and $50m+ outside metro Melbourne), tourism developments and developments such as wind farms, ports (Melbourne, Geelong, Hastings, & Portland are identified) and boat harbours or marinas These proposals will give the Minister absolute power.
The fifth response paper is about setting a fee structure that will be based on actual costs of delivering a planning service (we interpret that to mean much higher fees and the wording could allow for charging a fee for lodging an objection). This section also covers Section 173 Agreements and e-planning.
Because the papers are difficult to interpret without thorough background knowlege of the existing Act ( which we don't have) we will consult further and update this information when we better understand the full implications.
You can be assured though that the general community and residents will not be the winners in this exercise but It is very clear that the development industry will support these proposals to the hilt.
Comments on the proposals may be emailed to PEActreview@dpcd.gov.au
Act now befor it is too late.
If you don't say anything they will think you don't care.