East Gippsland Shire Council is critical of a recent Victorian Government decision to change the planning rules for major developments, including large housing proposals.
As part of its Housing Statement, released 23 September, the government has amended council planning schemes across Victoria to shift decision-making powers to the Minister for Planning for some major developments.
Major housing developments over $15 million in value and including a component of affordable housing would be decided by the Minister under the changes and there would be no right of appeal by the public.
The changes also apply to other major developments over a specified dollar value, including recreation, agriculture, industry and mining.
East Gippsland Shire Council Mayor Cr Tom Crook said, “These changes take decisions away from local councils and communities, and place more power in the Minister’s office.
“Councils were not consulted by the government and the changes were implemented without warning,” Cr Crook said.
While developments of over$15 million in value are rare in East Gippsland, Council has called for better consultation by the state government over changes that may take away local planning responsibilities.
“Council agrees with the Municipal Association of Victoria that local communities should not be locked out of the planning process with no third-party appeal rights in respect of these applications,” Cr Crook said.
“We do not object to streamlining approvals processes, but there is no evidence to suggest that local government planning is contributing to the housing crisis, with 120,000houses approved and awaiting construction in Victoria,” Cr Crook said.
“Taking away council planning powers will not solve the housing crisis, but it will disenfranchise local communities,” he said.
Other changes foreshadowed by the state government include a new planning code for second dwellings on residential lots. As yet, details of the changes have not been provided, but a statement by former Premier Daniel Andrews, which said that houses that occupy less than 60 square metres would not need a permit, has not been enacted through policy changes.
To avoid confusion, anyone wishing to build a second house on their property should seek advice from Council’s Planning department.