Oct 162012

The Age today reports on Planning Minister Matthew Guys on-air comment… “The volume of objections to new developments should be taken into account when considering planning applications”.

This comment was made in relation and Armadale development where Stonnington Council is challenging the recent VCAT decision in the  Supreme Court. Stonnington argues the tribunal “failed to give due regard to significant community input and has made a decision that is not supported by the local community or council”. More than 600 objections to the application were filed to the council, more than 440 objections were submitted to the tribunal.

With respect to the Newport Timber Yard development, the last application received 360 resident objections. It will be interesting to see how Stonnington Council fares in the Supreme Court.

Read The Age article here.


 Posted by at 4:09 pm
May 172012

The Age has written this article, reporting proposed changes to the state’s planning system. Below is the text in full.

No doubt the thin edge of a wedge allowing larger developments to bypass neighbourhood scrutiny and objections.


State moves to reduce building appeal rights
Jason Dowling
May 16, 201

AN OVERHAUL of Victoria’s planning laws will begin next week when Planning Minister Matthew Guy introduces legislation that could mean up to 11,000 building permits being assessed annually without the current notification to neighbours or appeal rights. The government said the changes would apply to ”small-scale, low-impact applications such as home extensions and small works such as fences”.

But a detailed ministerial advisory report released last Friday indicates the new system would also be used for new buildings and subdivisions.

Council and community groups say the public is being kept in the dark on the extent of the planning changes, known as ”code assess”, including what rights of appeal will remain and if residents will be notified if next door decides to add a second storey.

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said the changes were code for ”unchecked development in our suburbs”.

”It will strip away a person’s fundamental right to say no to inappropriate development,” he warned.

Mr Guy told a parliamentary committee yesterday the planning changes would be for ”small” building applications.

”Where we have those small-scale low-impact applications, that’s where I see in residential areas a code assessment model brought forward and that may be for a pergola [or] home extension,” he said. ”Home extensions constitute around 20 per cent of the 55,000 permits that go through the planning system every year,” he said.

Mr Guy said most people did not care if they had no say over their neighbour renovating.

”The vast majority of Victorians want to have a say on planning, not around someone’s pergola or home extension. It is whether an eight-storey building can be built next to them, for instance,” he said.

The Property Council’s Victorian executive director, Jennifer Cunich, said the planning changes should include the fast-tracking of multi-unit developments. ”We would ask that the whole system looks at multiple storeys,” she said. ”If we are just going to play around at the sides then we are not going to improve the system.”

But Ian Wood from Save Our Suburbs said there had not been enough community consultation about the planning changes. He said giving the community notification and appeal rights on planning ”leads to better planning outcomes and more accountability”.

Mary Drost, from community group Planning Backlash, said the government should make clear the planning changes before they were introduced to Parliament.

RMIT planning expert Michael Buxton said the government’s planning review was a missed opportunity.

”For example, one way to reduce work loads [of councils] is to introduce mandatory height controls in various areas so developers know that here we can build a 30-storey tower, there we can build a seven and there it is only two, and that would reduce the workload for councils overnight, that kind of certainty,” he said.

Bill McArthur, president of the Municipal Association of Victoria, said while councils welcomed planning changes to reduce red tape, they would not support the fast-tracking of multi-unit developments.




Note: The above text by The Age – copyright remains that of the respected owners.

 Posted by at 9:27 am
Mar 202012

The Age has written this article, reporting proposed changes to the state’s planning system. Below is the text in full.

The future is here
Marc Pallisco
March 17, 2012

Planning changes can’t halt suburban high-rise creep.

Ten years ago the Bracks Labor government was preparing to release an internally praised but community criticised planning policy that, in practice, revolutionised the way Melburnians viewed apartment living.

The now redundant Melbourne 2030 strategy aimed to accommodate about a million extra people by permitting high-density development around all transport nodes within the city’s  existing boundaries, regardless of that site’s proximity to the CBD.

Cost-effective because it reaped the financial rewards of a rising population without the need to invest in new infrastructure, the policy was imposed aggressively by various levels of government until 2011 when, according to RMIT academic Dr Paul Mees in his report Who Killed Melbourne 2030? it was ‘‘buried, unmourned and unloved’’.

Source: REIV.
Source: REIV.

Responsible for the fatality was the incoming Liberal government, led by architect Ted Baillieu. Self-professed ‘‘interventionist’’ Planning Minister Matthew Guy said a replacement strategy would be released late this year, but in the meantime, he has identified precincts in Port Melbourne, North Melbourne and Richmond where he will legislate for more intense apartment development in the medium and longer term.

But chat to industry players, including planners, developers and agents, and it would appear the core elements of Melbourne 2030 are very much alive and well right now.

In Box Hill, for example, where apartment development has been rampant in recent years, the owners of a Station Street site where a 38-level tower was proposed under Melbourne 2030, but never approved, have just lodged plans to replace the site with a 33-level building.

Agents say in 2002, before Melbourne 2030 was introduced, an apartment tower even a
quarter of this size would have been unheard of in the area.

Today, apartment towers of 10 or more levels exist or are being considered in plenty of middle and outer-ring suburbs such as Glen Waverley, Reservoir and Ringwood. Even in the regional township of Cowes, for example, 142 kilometres from Melbourne, a permit was granted in 2010 for a nine-level tower.

‘‘Given that Melbourne’s population is continuing to grow rapidly, many of the key principles of the Melbourne 2030 plan remain in action by default,’’ said Clinton Baxter, director of commercial real estate agency Savills, which has sold many residential development sites to builders since the state government changed.

‘‘Melbourne will need an additional 620,000 households to cater for another million people by 2030, and developers expect to be encouraged to continue high-density development within
particular locations that offer public transport, shopping and community infrastructure,’’ Mr Baxter said.

‘‘This expectation and confidence has been maintained since the Baillieu government came to office.’’

Mr Baxter said developers responded to buyer preferences such as apartments in the suburbs, and planning authorities needed to regulate to allow for demand-led population growth.

‘‘If this objective can be managed while retaining the wonderful character of Melbourne’s established suburbs, then we all stand to benefit,’’ he said.

But retention of character, particularly for streetscapes around suburban train stations, proved hard to maintain under Melbourne 2030 as developers snapped up prime sites, including historic homes, with the view to replacing them with flats.

Various councils, a former planning minister and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal regularly cited the strategy (along with such other justifications as affordability and jobs) to
approve apartment projects the community did not want, nor understand it may have needed.

Interestingly, however, developers and agents said that, often, those who complained about high-density residential proposals were the ones who subsequently ended up buying apartments within them.

This was proved at Camberwell Junction about two years ago, when Queensland developer FKP revealed that 90 per cent of apartment sales within the Aerial project it fought locals to develop were sold to investors who live within five kilometres of the site.

The mismatch of demand for apartments, versus limited supply of them, may be one reason the best performing suburb in terms of median value is the relatively middle-class suburb of Bentleigh East, about 14 kilometres southeast of town.

According to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria’s most recent December 2012 quarter research, the median price for a unit or apartment in Bentleigh East is $700,000 — up 7.7 per cent from last year. By comparison the median house value in Bentleigh East, according to the REIV, is $677,500 — down 7.5 per cent.

Bentleigh East ranked above what may be considered more blue-ribbon suburbs, and where apartments are in larger supply, including Armadale, Brighton, Docklands, Port Melbourne
and Toorak.

Challenging those who argue that buyers cannot afford to buy into Melbourne’s inner-city any more, the REIV found several precincts, including Carlton, Footscray and Thornbury, ranked in the top 10 most affordable suburbs for units and apartments.

Catherine Cashmore of Elite Buyer Advocates is not surprised Bentleigh East (and another middle-ring suburb, Mount Waverley) ranked in the REIV’s top 10 for unit and apartment median
value, but she warned prospective buyers to compare apples with apples.

She said the way the REIV compiled its figures, inner-city apartments were defined under the same umbrella as large villa units, which might include a portion of land.

However, Ms Cashmore said, in recent years Bentleigh East had fallen in line with the Melbourne 2030 policy in regard to apartment construction. She said the shop-top-living concept was taking place, starting at the suburb’s Centre Road retail strip.

Developers were finding buyers for apartments within their projects, despite the bleak economic backdrop, she said.

Like Mr Baxter, Ms Cashmore believes planning attitudes under the current government are similar to those of the former Bracks-Brumby government.

‘‘It costs less to build houses than it does to build infrastructure,’’ Ms Cashmore said. ‘‘To build a community is particularly expensive when government factors in the price of schools, parks and other amenities.

‘‘This is one of the reasons governments and councils end up building where existing infrastructure is,’’ she said. ‘‘The precedent [to make more efficient use of sites within the Urban
Growth Boundary by increasing density] has been set.’’

 Posted by at 2:57 pm
Mar 152012

The Age has written this article, reporting proposed changes to the state’s planning system. Below is the text in full.

Is this a good or bad thing for communities? The devil will be in the detail of course.


Planning reform blocks appeals
Jason Dowling
March 15, 2012

A DRAMATIC overhaul to the state’s planning system will soon mean residents will not be notified of thousands of new development proposals or be able to object to them.

The government says the new planning system to be introduced in State Parliament by July will cut red tape, reduce waiting times and free up council resources for complex planning issues.

Under the changes – one of the biggest overhauls of the state’s planning laws in a decade – councils and communities will define what development is allowed in their area, including height and density, and then applications matching the definition will be fast-tracked through the planning system.

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said the new system would reduce community consultation in planning decisions.

“Communities will be locked out and watch helplessly as historical buildings and tree-lined streets are attacked by [Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s] wrecking ball and replaced by high-rise skyscrapers,” he said.

The new planning system is expected to apply to more than one in five development applications and will require them to be processed within 10 working days with no notification or appeal rights for neighbours.

The system, called “code assess”, will initially be used by local councils for processing low-level planning issues such as extensions and dual occupancy developments.

But the system is also intended for key development areas across Melbourne – Box Hill, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Footscray, Frankston, and Ringwood – to process development applications that could include apartment towers of more than 20 storeys.

Mr Guy said the new system would add “certainty and clarity” to planning.

He said guidelines for development set by councils and communities would be mandatory and developers would only be able to appeal a council’s decision if it was inconsistent with the area’s new planning code.

“It will determine what can be built and where,” he said.

Bill McArthur, president of the Municipal Association of Victoria, said the planning system needed improvement but warned, “clear policy and objective criteria must be agreed with the community before removing public notice and third party appeal rights”.

“Until this happens, councils will remain concerned about including some single dwellings, extensions and multi-units in a fast-track process,” he said.

Mary Drost, from community group Planning Backlash, said councils and the community should set the rules for development in their areas and developers should not be able to appeal the decisions under the new accelerated planning process. “If it’s out – it’s out,” she said.

Victoria’s building and development industry has long advocated for an accelerated planning application system. The Property Council’s Victorian executive director, Jennifer Cunich, said changes to planning laws would help economic growth.

Gil King, of the Housing Industry Association, said developments that met existing planning guidelines were chewing up council time and resources in a drawn-out approval process.

“This will actually make it clearer, if it meets the requirements it will be approved much more quickly, it will streamline the whole process.


Note: The above text by The Age – copyright remains that of the respected owners.

 Posted by at 9:32 am
Mar 072012

What a fantastic turn out for last Sundays rally in Armstrong Reserve. Thanks to all those who attended, especially considering the spontaneous planning of the rally the rather short notice given to Neighbours and invited guests.

More than 100 residents turned out to express growing concern over Victorian planning and arbitration systems, and take action to let government know real change is needed to these systems, change which is acceptable to the community… not in conflict with community wishes.

A speech was given by Darren Williams, a long time resident of the community and a significant player in the establishment of The Substation community arts centre. Darren’s speech was met with applause from the crowd.

Of the guests invited to hear what residents have to say, attending were MPs Colleen Hartland and Wade Noonan. When invited to comment, both expressed support for the community to fight this inappropriate development.

Afterwards much of the crowd spent time talking about similar issues with the planning process and discussing experiences with VCAT and other inappropriate developments in Newport and Williamstown.

Many residents pledged financial support to help fight the current Timber Yard issue at VCAT. Our fighting fund is growing. More on that later.

Information was distributed: on which authorities to write to requesting immediate change to the planning system in line with community expectations.

Thanks again everyone for a great show of strength and determination.



An article about the rally was published in today’s Hobsons Bay Weekly…

Newport high-rise protest puts planning control in focus.


 Posted by at 4:08 pm
Feb 292012

Save our town from bad planning policies - we need you.

Let’s show the government and opposition we’re sick of current planning and arbitration policy that only benefits big developers’ profit margins.

An open invitation to hear us has been sent to Premier Ted Baillieu, Planning Minister Matthew Guy, local Members of Parliament, Hobson’s Bay Mayor, Councillors, and the press.

This may be our last chance to tell them these policies needs to favour the community first over developers and government.

So we need everyone available to come.

Bring as many family, friends, and neighbours to Armstrong Reserve (Wilkins St) Newport, Sunday 4th March at 4pm sharp.
The rally will only take a ½ hour, but being assembled at 4pm is critical.

 Posted by at 1:39 pm
Sep 182011

The Attorney-General Robert Clark announced today that developers may opt to pay to fast-track their multi-million dollar development VCAT hearings.

You could argue this is better than the previous Major Case List initiative where tax-payers funded developers fast-tracked hearings, but having any legal system (user paid or tax-payer paid) which favours powerful and affluent groups over everybody else is fundamentally unfair and disadvantageous to the general community.

How does this impact upon us in relation to the Timber Yard Development? If the timber yard developer (Peter Cahill) proposal is rejected by Council and he proceeds to VCAT, he can pay to fast-track the hearing. This leaves objectors and Council with less time to prepare cases opposing the development.

Have a read of the following articles about this issue.

Rich jump planning queue

The Age, Peter Munro, 18/09/2011. PDF copy here Rich jump planning queue.


User-pay VCAT deemed unfair

The Age, Kellee Nolan, 18/09/2011. PDF copy here User-pay VCAT deemed unfair.


Interesting to note, the first article quotes John Cicero who is the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s state president. This is the same John Cicero who was the planning lawyer representing Peter Cahill regarding the Timber Yard Development at the last VCAT hearing, and offers the opinion that developers should have their fees paid for by the government and tax-payers. Maybe if developers were not so greedy and selfish they would not be clogging up VCAT with ridiculous proposals such as Cahill’s proposal for the Timber Yard site.




 Posted by at 6:35 pm