Bill to strip back planning rights hits Parliament

A bill to strip back the rights of community members’ to intervene in the planning process is now before the Victorian Parliament, promising Victorians a planning system that puts developers first and leaves ordinary citizens increasingly sidelined.

The Planning and Environment Amendment (VicSmart Planning Assessment) Bill 2012 was introduced by the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, and will soon be debated in Parliament.  It will pave the way for a new ‘streamlined’ planning permit process, which strips away the rights to notice and appeal that communities have enjoyed for decades.

The details of that process are not set out in the Bill, which leaves the heavy lifting to the planning schemes.  This means is that the types of permit applications that will be subject to the new regime is to be left to the Minister to specify in amendments to the Victoria Planning Provisions.

However, the Government has already announced the changes in its response to the Victorian Planning System Review. The Government’s plan is to create 5 ‘tiers’ of planning application, the first three of which cut away the community’s rights to be notified of the proposal, to object to the proposal, or to apply to VCAT for a review of the proposal.

Whereas the Ministerial Advisory Committee who conducted the Review recommended that these tiers be developed in consultation with the community, we are not aware of any public consultation on the form of this Bill.

The Bill goes a fair way towards implementing the reforms set out in the Planning System Review, including:

  • removing the right to request further information, for certain developments;
  • removing the decsion-maker’s obligation to consider objections from the community, for certain developments;
  • removing the need for VCAT to have regard to a whole range of factors (foreshadowing the new ‘code assess’ stream).

That’s a long way away from the recommendations that we at the EDO made to the Planning System Review, which called for bipartisan support for community rights of notice and appeal, and which emphasised the value of these rights in improving planning decisions and outcomes.

We look forward to hearing some robust Parliamentary debate on the Bill, and to proper public consultation on any further moves to strip away the community’s rights.

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