Victorian Government announces $25.5m to deliver a smarter planning system

A NEW 'Smart Planning' system will give Victorians a quicker and simpler way to navigate the state's planning process, Planning Minister Richard Wynne announced last week.

"Since it was last reformed 23 years ago, planning provisions and schemes have significantly expanded to include a massive 75,000 pages across 7000 documents, with an additional 15,000 maps," the Minister said in a statement.

Parliament of Victoria
Above: Parliament House, Melbourne / by Wei-Sung Liao.

The Victorian Budget 2016-17 includes $25.5 million to create a more straightforward approach to accessing planning applications and decisions, with expected savings for property owners, investors and the state amounting to millions of dollars a year.

Under the proposed changes, online planning applications will be allowed for the first time and the number of small projects that require permits will be reduced.

Last financial year, more than 57,000 planning permit applications were made, worth around $24 billion of proposed economic investment in Victoria.

According to the government, key changes will include:

  • Improved zone controls to ensure consistency and reduce duplication;
  • Creating a new online portal for applications;
  • Faster approvals in commercial and industrial zones;
  • Understandable and accessible online tools for homeowners; and
  • Online planning scheme amendments and easy access to assessments for decisions such as windfarms, the central city, Environment Effects Statements and heritage applications.

The announcement was welcomed by Victorian President of the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), James Larmour-Reid, who said that while Victoria's planning system compares well to other States, there is always room for improvement.

"At present much of our planning system is still burdened by 20th century systems of communication and assessment," he said.

Mr Larmour-Reid added that PIA will also be keenly interested in examining the suggested reforms, which he said could deliver significant improvements in terms of reducing system complexity and processing times.

"If the review leads to improved decision making, reduced time taken for planning decisions and more transparent planning then it will be very worthwhile. The integrity of planning decisions as outcomes of a fair and balanced land use planning system requires the ongoing evaluation and subsequent improvement of planning controls and processes," Mr Larmour-Reid concluded.

The Budget also includes $2.1 million for strategic planning in regional councils in 2016-17, making sure councils have access to the right tools and skills for detailed planning work.

A further $50 million will be invested in the Victorian Government's Growing Suburbs Fund – formerly the Interface Growth Fund – to support infrastructure projects that cater for population growth within Melbourne's ten interface councils (Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Mitchell, Mornington Peninsula, Nillumbik, Whittlesea, Wyndham and Yarra Ranges).

Photo: 'Parliament of Victoria' / Wei-Sung Liao / Licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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