Meeting the Need for Sustainable Housing; Melbourne, like Other Major Cities in Australia, Has a Rapidly Growing Population Which Is Expected to Reach Five Million before 2030. in Her Fourth Diary Entry Katherine Price Reports on How the Planning Regime Is Being Reformed to Ensure That New Development to Meet Housing Needs Is Delivered in a Timely and Sustainable Way

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Byline: Katherine Price

Melbourne is consistently recognised as one of the most liveable cities in the world and on current trends it is expected to attract almost one million new residents in the next 20 years. Actively managing this growth and change is imperative in order to avoid housing supply and affordability issues and ensure the city retains its competitive edge.

Planning policy in Australia is administered at a state level and in Victoria, the Planning and Environment Act 1987 is the primary legislation for development decisions. There have been numerous amendments to the Act over the past 20 years, however, these have happened in a relatively uncoordinated, unplanned and confusing manner. Considering that more than 55,000 development applications - representing over $17 billion of investment - are lodged in Victoria each year, it is widely held across the industry that a major overhaul is long overdue.

Reform of the planning system was a key facet of the new Coalition Government's manifesto on which it was elected to power in November 2010 and a number of initiatives are already underway, including introducing Code Assessment, establishing an Urban Renewal Authority, reviewing the Urban Growth boundary and improving the Developer Contributions system.

Introducing Code Assessment Of the 55,000 applications that are considered annually by planning authorities, approximately twenty per cent are non-contentious, therefore, in order to streamline the process the Government is proposing to introduce a Code Assessment procedure.

Under Code Assessment, straightforward permit applications will be assessed by the local planning authority against specified performance standards and objective assessment criteria which will be outlined in planning schemes. Where applications are consistent with the framework, consistent with the zoning of land and have limited or no off-site impacts, council officers will be empowered to make a determination without secondary consent from the Government Minister, which is a prolonged and unwieldy process.

The result will be an improvement in net completions across smaller sites however it is also likely that the procedure will put a lot more pressure on planning departments, not least because the current drafting dictates that Code Assessments applications be determined within 14 days!

Establishing an Urban Renewal Authority In July 2011, the Government enacted legislation to establish a new Urban Renewal Authority, officially named Places Victoria, to coordinate its urban renewal focus.

The authority has a clear mandate to deliver urban change in strategic locations and will coordinate all areas of planning including tax arrangements, public transport, infrastructure and infill development. Places Victoria will take over the role of the former administration's land development agency, VicUrban, and will carry on all its current projects, the most significant being the Docklands Precinct - a 200 ha waterfront development in the heart of Melbourne which is half way through its 20 year redevelopment to become a home to 17,000 people as well as a workplace to 40,000 and a destination for visitors.

Under the Government's regionalisation program, Places Victoria will also have a specific directive to implement renewal projects in regional Victoria, which previous governments have been criticised for ignoring. …