Arising from the Victorian Government’s Smart Planning program, Amendment VC148 (VC148) was gazetted on 31 July 2018 introducing significant changes to all Victorian Planning Schemes (Planning Schemes).
According to the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (the Department), the VC148 aims to simplify and modernise Victoria’s planning policy and rules to make planning more efficient, accessible and transparent. It does this by making significant structural changes to the configuration and content of Planning Schemes.
What does the Amendment do?
The key features of VC148 are the introduction of:
- an integrated Planning Policy Framework (PPF) at clauses 10 to 19 which will enable the consolidation of state, regional and local policy into one planning policy framework and the removal of clause 21 and 22 policies
- a Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) instead of the Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS)
- a new Victorian Planning Provision (VPP) with VicSmart built into the provisions, rather than tacked on as separate clauses
- a consolidation of the operational provisions at Clauses 70 to 74.
New Planning Policy Framework (PPF)
The most significant structural change of VC148 is the replacement of the State Planning Policy Framework (former Clauses 9 to 19) with a new PPF (Clauses 10 to 19). The PPF will be the new location of all policy content in Planning Schemes and is said to enable the better alignment of local planning policy with state and regional planning policy. The new PPF structure provides for three tiers of integrated planning policy: state-wide, regional and local. In practice, the letters ‘S’, ‘R’ and ‘L’ are being applied to the numeric Clauses, e.g. Clause 15.01-1S or Clause 19.02-1R, to reflect the policy origin.
The reforms provide for a MPS and removal of the MSS. In conjunction with the new MPS, the PPF will include all policy content from the Local Planning Policy Framework (LPPF) in each Planning Scheme. A new Clause 23 will give interim effect to Council’s LPPFs (including existing MSSs).
Reformed Victoria Planning Provisions
The changes to the VPPs are partially structural and partially substantive.
In addition to the renumbering of several provisions, the particular provisions from Clauses 52, 53 and 57 have been organised into three categories as follows:
- provisions that apply only to a specified area (Clause 51)
- provisions that require, enable or exempt a permit (Clause 52)
- general requirements and performance standards (Clause 53).
The key substantive changes, as explained by the Department, are identified as including:
- Changing Clause 52.06 (Car Parking) to reduce car parking requirements for uses in commercial areas and for land within walking distance of the principal public transport network (PPTN).
- Removing Clause 52.12 (Service station), Clause 52.13 (Car wash) and Clause 52.14 (Motor vehicle, boat or caravan sales).
- Deleting permit requirements for low-impact uses in industrial zones.
- Amending Clause 43.01 (Heritage Overlay) to require the schedule to the overlay to specify a statement of significance for each heritage place.
- Amending Clause 43.04 (Development Plan Overlay) to clarify exemptions.
- The re-badging of Clause 52.05 as the ‘Signs’ provision together with a range of amendments to this Clause.
- Replacing Clause 52.03 Specific Sites and Exclusions with a new Specific Controls Overlay.
- Including and clarifying permit exemptions at Clause 52.29 (Land Adjacent to a Road Zone 1, Category 1, or a Public Acquisition Overlay for a Category 1 Road).
- A new Clause 59 for VicSmart applications and requirements. (There are no changes to the processing of VicSmart applications but State VicSmart classes are now located in the zones, overlays and particular provisions, rather than from Clause 90 of the Scheme).
Other changes to note include the re-labelling of reference documents to ‘Background’ documents and the inclusion of the PPTN Area Maps as an incorporated document.
What does VC148 mean for Councils?
For the time being, the MSSs and local planning policies in Councils’ Planning Schemes remain unchanged. Transitional provisions in the newly introduced Clause 23 will ensure that LPPFs continue to operate until such time as the local policy is integrated into the PPF. So, while the PPF has been introduced into all Planning Schemes, the local content still operates in its existing form.
This means that a significant body of work lies ahead for all local councils. As this process unfolds, councils will need to be careful to ensure that the effect of transitioning the existing local planning policies into the newly created PPF does not dilute the meaning or effect of the local policy. This is the risk with a model that seeks to slot local policy under a set of prescribed, state-initiated headings. The extent to which other clauses in the Planning Scheme, such as the MPS or the schedules to Zones, Overlays and Particular Provisions will be able to absorb some of this potential policy loss remains unclear.
In the short term, it is imperative that councils review all pending and Tribunal bound decisions, to ensure assessment occurs against the re- worked state policies. Council’s internal processes should also be updated. If a proposal no longer requires a permit, for example under Clause 52.06-3, it would be prudent to notify the applicant accordingly.
The process concerning planning scheme amendments is likely to become clearer upon the Department’s release of further practitioner guidance. For heritage related amendments, Clause 43.01-5 provides for a three-month transition period for planning scheme amendments already in progress. Otherwise, we strongly encourage council planners to familiarise themselves with the suite of explanatory and advisory information that has been released by the Department, including a range of online tools that serve to outline the nature and extent of the changes.
While VC148 is being branded as making planning in Victoria more efficient and less complicated and, VC148 has also implemented changes to existing state planning policy. This aspect of VC148, we think, has not been so clearly broadcast.
|Ann-Maree Drakos | Lawyer
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