In Victoria, the role and use of the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy in facilitating projects through Ministerial intervention is likely to be significantly reduced, with a focus instead on key redevelopment sites such as the Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal precinct for which the Minister has amended the planning scheme and appointed himself as Responsible Authority.
The use of the ministerial call in power has been a reliable and well used tool to progress planning matters that require a special type of facilitation owing to their complexity or sensitivity. In many cases this intervention has extended past an initial involvement in the approval of development proposals to an ongoing responsibility for consideration of all applications made on a particular site.
While much of the use of this power is to facilitate relatively minor and required changes to the planning scheme, the use of this power has also been associated with highly controversial sites such as the Windsor Hotel by previous ministers. The use of the Minister as the Responsible Authority has been seen as an important mechanism to get the momentum going, obtain certainty and timely issuing of permits. It has also been the source of ongoing conflict with Municipal Councils and their constituents strongly of the view that the decision making power should be retained at the local level.
VIC Planning Minister shifts responsibility in speech
While there has been relatively little change in the overall numbers of ministerial call ins in recent times, at a recent Property Council Business Lunch the Planning Minister made a number of comments to the effect that the use of the call in power would be significantly reduced and that he would be removing himself from responsible authority status in circumstances he considers appropriate.
To his word, the following week he shed his responsibility in regard to an amendment to the Boroondara Planning Scheme, by removing himself as responsible authority from the Tooronga Village site. The Minister for Planning had assumed responsible authority status on this site some years ago to facilitate the development of the site after almost 25 years of failed development schemes. However, with only one of the five development stages complete, the transfer of this power back to Council was earlier than initially expected.
Notwithstanding the Fishermans Bend announcement involving the rezoning of 240 hectares of land (which was done with little or no consultation with Council), the actions at the Tooronga Village site, and others, appear to be a clear gesture of handing back decision making responsibility to Council.
For the vast majority of developments, the change in approach will have the effect that more proposals of significance will be considered and determined at Council level. This will bring community and Council engagement to a level of even greater importance in the facilitation of development approvals. Furthermore, the decision making times for projects of a more complex nature could be expected to be extended with a greater role for VCAT in ultimately determining these types of applications.
Rebecca West is a Director at Urbis with more than fifteen years experience in local government and consulting and has been with Urbis since 1999. She specialises in the field of statutory planning including the provision of advice on a wide range of development proposals involving assessment against both strategic and statutory policies.
She is an experienced planner with particular strengths in project facilitation, client focus and delivering positive outcomes. Rebecca has excellent experience and understanding of the broad range of factors which influence urban planning decision-making reviews.