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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Making developments consistent

On 29 February 2016, the Drysdale & Clifton Springs Community Association (DCSCA) made a submission to the Victorian government's Advisory Committee on Managing Residential Development.

The DCSCA submission consisted of 13 recommendations designed to increase:
* the  efficiency and consistency of residential development and of the planning process in general
* the attractiveness of new residential developments to existing and incoming residents
* the protection of the natural and built environment, for the benefit of  current and future generations.

Background to the Committee’s work
In July 2013, the State Government announced that it would replace the existing residential zones (Residential 1, 2 and 3) in all Victorian planning schemes with three new residential zones:
  • Neighbourhood Residential Zone
  • General Residential Zone
  • Residential Growth Zone.

The State Government asked each local council to say by 1 July 2014 how it would apply the new zones in its planning scheme. If a council didn’t respond by the deadline, all of its residential land would be declared a General Residential Zone by default. On July 1 2014, the State Government introduced the three new zones. In the process, residential land was zoned “General Residential” by default in a ‘considerable portion’ of Victoria’s planning schemes.

Councils have applied the three new zones inconsistently, with much local variation. Consequently, in February 2014, the State Government established the Residential Zones Standing Advisory Committee to advise local councils how to apply the three new zones. The Committee produced a general report on the zones’ application, plus 25 specific reports in response to 25 proposals.

Purposes of the Committee
1.   To consider the process by which the new residential zones were implemented
2.   To review the current application of the zones that allow for residential development in the context of managing Melbourne’s and Victoria’s residential growth in a sustainable manner and improving housing affordability
3.   To advise on the level of evidence and justification needed when preparing relevant planning scheme amendments
4.   To recommend improvements to the residential zones
5.   To provide councils, the community and industry with an opportunity to be heard.

The Drysdale & Clifton Springs Community Association Inc. (DCSCA) has had extensive experience of the management of residential development in the local area, which it believes will assist the Advisory Committee in its work. It has distilled its experiences into this submission, which consists of thirteen recommendations.

1. Each Australian state government should have a public document outlining its vision for a sustainable state; and the Federal Government should have an equivalent document outlining its vision for a sustainable Australia.
These documents should address issues including demography, transport infrastructure, land allocation, water management, power generation and distribution and communication services.

2. Require developers of new residential areas to provide services in the first stages of its development, rather than providing them as development proceeds.
Such services include, e.g., education, health, sports, recreation, Emergency Services, public transport, shopping and community spaces.

3. Require the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning to consult pro-actively with the appropriate organisations and groups when considering any changes to residential development and re-zoning and respond in detail to each comment made in those consultations.
Such organisations and groups include, e.g., the EPA, Emergency Services, the CFA, the Education Department, Worksafe, VicRoads, the TAC, water and power suppliers, local indigenous groups, public transport operators and user groups, local recreational, sporting, environmental and community groups.

4. Require the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning to encourage new developments to be environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Features contributing to environmentally friendly and sustainable development include significant open space; scenic trails, footpaths and cycle paths separated from traffic; existing significant trees and wildlife corridors, plus control of invasive species and vermin; protecting water courses from extra/polluted runoff; mandatory solar panels and water tanks at each property.

5. Require the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning to devise and implement a standardised procedure (e.g. a designated computer programme) for assessing any planning applications; and require each local council in Victoria to implement this procedure.
This will help to ensure that councils assess planning applications consistently.

6. Require developers of new residential areas to provide footpaths and cycle paths (ideally separated from road traffic) as a high priority; and to avoid compromising any existing cycling infrastructure.

7. Review the planning requirements for service stations containing hazardous materials and discontinue the “3,000m2 exemption rule” applied currently to the petroleum industry.
As the internal combustion engine declines and disappears, so too will petrol stations, many leaving ugly, toxic sites that will be expensive to clean up. Planning policies should prepare for this.

8. Require each local council to give an Environmental Classification to each planning application it receives.
The classifications would be based on specific criteria, e.g., storage of hazardous materials; proximity to a water course, dam or coastal high water line; demonstrable risk to groundwater, flora or fauna. Suggested Environmental Classifications:
            “Low” - meets none of the specific criteria
            “Sensitive” – meets one of the specific criteria
            “Highly Sensitive” – meets two or more of the specific criteria.

9. Require the EPA to assess all “Sensitive” or “Highly Sensitive” planning applications; and approve such applications only with EPA approval.

10. Require an applicant who receives EPA approval for a “Sensitive” or “Highly sensitive” application to do no work on the site until the EPA and the council approves a Site Environment Management Plan (SEMP) for the site.
11. Amend the Planning and Environment Act 1987 Section 52 Notice of Application to require additional notification to specified bodies when a planning application is contentious.
Examples of contention include potential inconsistency with local planning policy and/or potentially increased risks to groundwater, flora, fauna and people. Risks include storage of hazardous materials; proximity to a water course, dam or coastal high water line; proximity to a major intersection, an area of congestion or a school.
Information about a planning application should be sent to the owner/s and the resident/s of the nearby properties; signage giving that information should reflect the significance of the application; and signage should be displayed until the application is approved/rejected, when the sign should be amended to include the decision.

12. Amend the opening paragraph of the Victorian Planning Provision Clause 65 General Provisions Decision Guidelines to read: “Because a permit can be granted does not imply that a permit should or will be granted.”; and require the responsible authority to list on its signage about an application any relevant local and state planning policies.

13. Require each council to provide on its website information that is easily accessible by the community about each planning application, its environmental classification and its status (approved/rejected); and to leave this information on its website for 10 years after an application has been approved/rejected.

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