Happenings in Melbourne Planning

September 2018

There is never a dull moment when it comes to planning in Victoria or SJB Planning’s office in Melbourne, and we know a State election is looming as road and rail tunnels are being dug, highways are being duplicated and grade separations to remove level crossings are well advanced; all in an effort to get Melburnians, in particular, moving again!

In the lead-up, the Minister for Planning, especially, has been very busy approving or considering planning controls which relate to:

  • The City of Glen Eira’s Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick Activity Centres where a variety of new mandatory and discretionary height controls have been approved on an interim basis – Amendment C157.
  • Proposed new interim built form controls for Bridge Road, Victoria Street and the Collingwood Mixed Use Precincts in the City of Yarra.
  • Overshadowing controls for public open spaces and additional heritage controls in the City of Melbourne – Amendments C278 and C326.
  • The Shire of Mornington Peninsula’s plan to back-zone the majority of its General Residential Zone (Schedule 1) to Neighbourhood Residential to prevent three storey residential development in most of the municipality’s urban areas – Amendment C219.
  • Amendment C238 proposed by the City of Yarra, which seeks to impose a municipal-wide development infrastructure levy and/or a community infrastructure levy through the introduction of a Development Contribution Plan Overlay—Schedule 1.

Also, stakeholders interested in the future of Fishermans Bend are keenly awaiting the Minister’s consideration of the Ministerial Advisory Committee’s review of interim controls for that area introduced in 2017. We are speculating that news on this front is now not too far away but, as to what the new and final controls might be, well, that is anyone’s guess.

The much anticipated Amendment VC148 was finally approved as part of the Government’s ongoing Smart Planning initiative. This amendment was explained as “policy neutral” and restructured Planning Schemes in Victoria so as to make their navigation and general use easier. It also removed unnecessary regulation, including removing a number of triggers for planning permits. Many in the industry have welcomed, for example, the removal of visitor parking requirements for residential developments planned proximate to the Principal Public Transport Network, although we understand that a number of Councils are working feverishly to have the requirement reinstated.

Of course, the system in Victoria is still one of great cost and burden for all participants; not just permit applicants. Time frames for deciding applications and subsequent processes such as the endorsement of plans and amendments are lengthy. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s workload is still pressing and the wait for hearings is now out to between 19 and 27 weeks. 

Expert evidence in VCAT’s Planning and Valuations Lists has been a substantial part of our professional efforts over the past six months with a number of our consultants having strong reputations in these fields and delivering great results for our client. There are few signs of this work slowing as 2019 looms. Increasingly complex planning controls, ever-growing lists of permit application requirements and higher expectations in respect of visual materials are now making even the simplest of planning applications and reviews complex, expensive and time-consuming, sadly, much of the related cost is being transferred to purchasers of new dwellings. It is no wonder that the community is concerned about the rising cost of housing.

On the home front, we have welcomed new staff, including Sarah Thomas (Senior Planner), who has joined us from the City of Yarra and Gemma Torpey (Planner) who joins us from Jacobs. We recently officially celebrated the July promotions of Adam Haines, Hew Gerrard and Elle Harrington - with a night out at Donovans in St Kilda. It was terrific that their partners could join us. David Hickey, one of the firm’s Senior Associates has continued with his rolling program of internal staff training aimed at all members of the office sharing a valuable professional experience with their peers, in an informal setting. As we head deeper into the second half of the year, we are looking forward to a number of Team SJBP weddings, births and, of course, the crescendo of planning applications and public notification deadlines which start with the very mention of the Armageddon known as “Christmas”. If you are a client who is concerned about the impact the festive season could have on your project planning you should contact your SJB Planning consultant soon!

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