This posting is another in GERA’s series of postings on the recently implemented planning zones.  While our earlier post provided maps and summary information on all the zones (Where and What They Are) , this post will provide additional, lesser known, information on the content of those zones and their potential impacts.   As per our earlier posting, we advise residents of GERA’s  13/11/2013 AGM and Planning Presentation (Speaker to be Mr. Ron Torres, Glen Eira’s Manager Town Planning and Transport) – details.   This is an opportunity for residents to learn, and ask questions, about the newly implemented planning zones.

The Zones are part of sweeping reforms arising from rapid population growth and the resulting need to streamline the planning approval process.  The Zones build on the Minimal Change/Housing Diversity Area policy introduced in 2002.  With Melbourne’s population currently rising at an estimated 1,000 per week, GERA believes that the impact of the Zones implementation will be felt far quicker than the  impact of 2002 Minimal Change/Housing Diversity change was.  As with any sweeping change there will be winners and losers – only informed residents can determine which one they consider themselves to be.

As previously mentioned, within the zones themselves there are changes which we highlight to residents.  These changes, all of which will result in intensified development, are

  • Land Use – As the name implies land use refers to the proposed use of the land.  In each zone, possible land uses are assigned to one of three categories:
  1. Allowed – proposed use is “as a right” (no permit required)
  2. Permit Required – proposed use is subject to approval
  3. Prohibited

Included in the new zones are changes to the classification of land uses – some previously “Permit Required” land uses are now classified as “Allowed”.    For example,

– within the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) Medical Centres, Places of Worship, Education establishments which previously required a planning permit are now allowed (depending upon location and scale).  These developments, which satisfy the location and scale requirements, will not require a planning permit and will not be subject to NRZ schedule requirements (eg. 2 storey height limits).

– within the Mixed Use Zones (MUZ) Taverns no longer require a planning permit and are classified as “Allowed” subject only to liquor licensing requirements.

  •  Lot size – in all zones the minimum lot size has been reduced.
  • Floor Space Requirements (applicable to Commercial, Mixed Use and Industrial Zones) have been either reduced to increase the number shops/offices and the maximum floor space cap has been expanded to provide for larger establishments (eg. supermarkets).

Residents should be aware of these changes, while they do no prevent lodging objections to development proposals, they diminish the grounds for lodging  those objections.

  • Third Party Objection and Appeal Rights (TPOAR) – The Schedule to the Mixed Use Zone “Section 4 – Exemption from Notice and Review” grants local authorities (ie. Councils) the power to exclude TPOAR  via the zone schedule.  Glen Eira currently has none specified.  The State Government’s inclusion of the section and it’s intent is disconcerting.

Having highlighted the above items, it is appropriate to now comment on the information included in Glen Eira Council’s “New Residential Zones and Mandatory Maximum Heights – A Guide for the Community

  • Height Limits and Structure Plans

In the above paper Council acknowledges that their policy based planning scheme has inherent limitations as “Policies are not binding on VCAT” and that the same limitations apply to planning schemes based on structure plans  – “structure plans have the same status as policies and VCAT is under no obligation to apply them”.   Yet the majority of Council’s (most notably Glen Eira’s bench mark Councils) who have undertaken structure planning have successfully introduced permanent height controls in their planning schemes and also been successful in applying for interim height controls pending the implementation of permanent controls.  Additionally these Council’s report fewer VCAT appeals against decisions based on structure planning and VCAT overturning few decisions based on structure planning.

So what are Structure Plans – Structure Plans are plans which recognize that in planning “all things” are interconnected (with wide spread flow on impacts occurring across a broad spectrum) – this inter-connectivity is recognized and planned for.  (For a lay outline of structure plans refer to GERA’s 12/1/12 structure plan posting).  Structure Plans are tiered plans (for example, Municipal structure plans flow down to activity centre structure plans which recognise the “goals” included in the higher Municipal Plan and interpret or development them it a way that supports the unique characteristics and demands of each activity centre.  Likewise, each activity centre may have a subset of structure plans for distinct areas within the centre (eg. areas with heritage considerations, areas of commercial or retail activity).  Structure Plans while expensive and time consuming to implement make intrinsic sense and avoid the pitfalls encountered by policies which tend to be of a “one size fits all” and stand alone (do not recognise connectivity) nature.

It is also interesting to note that in the recent Stonnington 499 Orrong Road (a development that is dwarfed by the Caulfield Village development, a.k.a. C60) decision, Planning Minister Guy emphasized the significance of structure planning.   Planning Minister Guy has stated that the development of structure plans is integral to the Fishermans Bend development (insert link).

GERA welcomes the application of height limits on the residential zones, however, that does not preclude questioning why structure planning is not undertaken in Glen Eira or why structure planning was not undertaken for each activity centre, urban village, local centre or neighbourhood centre when the concept was Minimal Change/Housing Diversity Areas were introduced in 2002.

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