Labor promises reform to consider planning objections

Date: October 20, 2014 – 12:15AM
Henrietta Cook

The number of objectors to proposed developments will have be taken into account by the state’s planning tribunal if Labor wins the election.

In a pledge likely to appeal to voters in seats where planning is a sensitive issue, Labor has vowed to change the state’s planning laws to give locals a greater say in controversial new developments.

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said the changes would let the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal listen to the community.

“The move would see significant community responses like that at Tecoma McDonald’s or against the Orrong Road Towers in Prahran taken into account in decision-making at VCAT,” he said.

“This is about ensuring that development works in the community- we are putting people first.”

Under Labor’s promise, the Planning and Environment Act would be changed so that “where appropriate” VCAT must have regard to the extent of community opposition to planning proposals.

They hope this will restore confidence in third-party participation in planning decisions.

Labor’s proposed changes would not apply to minor renovations or major projects where consultation is already a requirement.

The contentious Orrong Road apartment towers in Armadale and the Tecoma McDonald’s are two high-profile planning cases where VCAT has been criticised for approving development despite vocal community opposition.

No McDonald’s in the Dandenong Ranges campaign spokesman Garry Muratore said the fast food giant would have never been granted permission to build in tranquil Tecoma if the volume of community opposition had been taken into account.

“We knocked on the door of every single house in Tecoma and found that nine out of 10 people didn’t want McDonald’s. That was something VCAT should have taken into consideration, as should McDonald’s. The weight of the public opinion should matter.”

In 2011 the Shire of Yarra Ranges voted unanimously against the fast food giant’s proposal to open a restaurant on the main street of Tecoma. But McDonald’s successfully appealed the decision in VCAT, despite hundreds of submissions from the fired-up community. The chain restaurant’s initial application to council attracted a record 1100 objections.

In their decision, VCAT said, “We acknowledge there is considerable opposition to this proposal…However the tribunal has consistently found that planning decisions are not to be based on the numbers of objections. Our decisions must be based on the planning merits.”

Mr Muratore said Labor’s proposed changes would give VCAT clarity and restore the democratic process.

“Although we aren’t critical of VCAT’s decision – they made that decision within the current legislative framework – if this had been in place this development wouldn’t be able to go ahead.”

In the marginal seat of Prahran – which Labor hopes to take from  Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown at next month’s state election – community concern has been brewing for some time over a four 12-storey tower development on Orrong Road.

The developer Lend Lease’s plans for the site were rejected by Stonnington Council, which was inundated with more than 600 objections. VCAT overruled its decision in 2012 – despite receiving 450 objections – and the council later lost a Supreme Court challenge to the decision.

“The number of objections to the proposed development was an irrelevant consideration,” VCAT said in its decision regarding the Orrong Road proposal.

Under current laws, social effects must be taken into account when assessing proposed developments. But this does not include the volume of objections.

9 Responses to “The Race Is On – #2”

  1. Annonymous Says:

    One term government – hit and run strategy.

  2. Annonymous Says:

    Dream on!!!

  3. public locked out of Caulfield Racecourse Says:

    sign says racecourse closed until 2015. Only entry is taking your chances via the tunnel. Guess they must have got the lease approved plus CRRT permission to do this.

  4. Anon Says:

    Nothing will get built. A populist policy that would be a legal nightmare.

  5. anon Says:

    Pre-election promises from a deperate labor party are worthless

    1. Anonymous Says:

      If anyone is “deperate” it’s Nappers whose splashing around like a lost whale and making about as much sense.

      Only an extreme right wing reactionary would oppose a policy that puts people first.

      1. anon Says:

        It aint a policy it’s a promise

        1. Anonymous Says:

          Check first Mr Southwick. It’s part of their policy.

  6. Bruce P. Says:

    For nearly 20 years, regardless of who was in office, both the Liberals and Labor have focused on increasing dwelling density and road transport without regard for adequate transport, education or health infrastructure.
    They have achieved this by
    . whittling away third party objection rights
    . ignoring the cummulative impacts on traffic congestion, parking, parkland, heritage/neighburhood character, public safety, overcrowded schools and hospitals.
    . allowed, despite claims to the contrary, VCAT to set planning policies.

    With the State Election looming, both parties are busy regurgitating the election promises from the 1990’s because although their presentations have become much slicker and promises abound very little has been achieved.

    I despair of the Liberals recent (taxpayer funded) electioneering on improvements to transport and health while at the same time pushing through the East West Link and neglecting to mention funding. I equally despair of Labor when they consider that “consideration of number of objections” even vaguely addresses the planning issues.

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