Proposed changes to the Planning and Environment Act threaten to remove community involvement and add uncertainty and cost to Victoria's planning system, warns a Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) submission.
Cr Bill McArthur, MAV President said local government supported the need to continually improve the planning system - particularly with the challenges of a growing population and current economic downturn - but not at the expense of good planning outcomes or democratic involvement.
"Communities should be concerned. The erosion of council roles in the planning system means less community input to the decision-making process.
"There is a significant risk that strategic planning could become proponent-led, allowing developers with a vested interest to drive planning outcomes.
"People are passionate about protecting the character of their neighbourhoods. It's disappointing that the reforms seek to undermine the important role of councils and existing local planning policies that have taken significant time, cost and care to develop with local communities' and State Government input.
"There is no evidence that the proposed reforms address those parts of the planning process that are broken and need fixing. Many of the reforms relate to process changes, and in some cases reflect current practice, so it's questionable that legislative change is even required.
"The MAV submission has called for some of the proposed reforms to be abandoned and for other changes to be made and agreed with local government," he said.
Major concerns identified in the MAV submission include significant proposed changes to councils' role as Planning Authority; loss of provisions useful to applicants, such as secondary consents; and the Minister potentially authorising any person to prepare a planning scheme amendment.
Cr McArthur said local government was concerned that, while well meaning, the reforms could add further time and uncertainty, as well as extra administrative burdens to the planning process.
"For example, recent MAV analysis of councils' planning scheme amendment data show that while amendments generally take around 50 weeks from receipt to finalisation, those with panels took on average 220 days longer, while Ministerial approvals took 50 per cent longer than council approvals.
"Improvements to the planning system must aim to increase timely decisions and lead to good planning outcomes with transparency and certainty for applicants, communities and other stakeholders.
"Councils are the cornerstone of Victoria's planning system, but the proposed reforms could further erode community involvement in planning, with more power given to the Minister and developers," he said.
The above article is a media release issued by the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) on Monday 15 February 2010. For more information visit www.mav.asn.au.