New MVCC Planning Scheme Hearing

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A new Moonee Valley Planning Scheme has been the subject of a two-day Planning Panels hearing.

Key issues raised included the work still outstanding on the 13 neighbourhood plans, and the absence of clear guidance on housing growth and related zoning while this work remains incomplete.

The new planning scheme is the “framework for further work” according to Council’s legal representative – who conceded that many elements of the new scheme may also change as the further work is undertaken.

New Amendments will also be required once the additional work is complete – and so the same long Amendment process will be required about four times to complete the 13 neighbourhoods (in lots of 3 or 4).

Chaired by Tim Hellsten, the two-member panel heard submissions on the Amendment C193MOON from Moonee Valley Council and four submitters. Michael Kirsch was the second panel member.

The hearings attracted interest from neighbouring councils as Moonee Valley is the first council to translate its existing Municipal Strategic Statement (clauses 21 and 22) to the new planning scheme structure introduced by the State Government in July 2018.

MVCC is also seeking to embed the MV2040 Strategy into its planning scheme.

The new planning scheme structure sets out each state policy with an accompanying local policy – rather than bundling all local policy in clauses 21 and 22. There is an overarching local policy statement (Clause 02), followed by separate clauses attached to each relevant state policy.

All the local policies must be sure not to duplicate or contradict state policies.

The content in the local policies must also be within the scope of the Planning Act, and be clearly drafted using correct planning tools.

The Minister can reject the proposed scheme if it does not comply with these, and other rules, including a new word limit.

The hearing did not provide an opportunity for each clause of the new policy to be fully explored. The panel hearing was convened as a result of unresolved submissions to the exhibition of the new scheme. The intention of the hearing was to try to resolve outstanding concerns. The panel will make a recommendation as to how these matters should be resolved.

Key issues raised at the hearing concerned guidance regarding housing growth and the content of neighbourhood maps included as ‘Strategic Framework Plans (cl. 02.04).

Both of these issues relate to the fact that the planning scheme in its proposed form is incomplete.

The current proposal does not contain the 13 neighbourhood plans that will contain all of the detailed strategic work for each of the 13 20-minute neighbourhoods designated under MV2040.

MVCC says it is committed to undertaking the work to complete these plans, but in the meantime, there is an absence of detailed zoning, housing or land use planning direction, apart from rules and directions already attached to structure plans, existing zones and DPOs.

The only specific policy guiding housing growth is as follows:

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Cl. 16.01-2L proposed C193MOON

I was one of two resident submitters and I was critical of the drafting of this proposed policy. I questioned the direction that areas with open space should be assumed to be capable of accommodating higher scale developments.

I criticised the statements as offering little clarity about Council’s intentions for residential growth (what is walking distance? what is ‘residential growth’? what is the difference between scale, density and growth?).

I asked how the housing growth policy statements relate to the categories of minimal, incremental, and high change residential areas mentioned in the state policy.

It is intended that work on the neighbourhood plans over the next three years will detail areas for housing growth, but in the meantime, there is little certainty.

The detailed neighbourhood plans will be incorporated into the planning scheme through policy statements and maps. At the moment, placeholder maps have been included replicating, to some extent, the maps found in MV2040.

I submitted that these maps included details that went beyond the scope of a planning scheme – including proposed extensions or replacements of sporting pavilions. I submitted that locking these capital works projects into the planning scheme offered little flexibility for council to respond to community consultation or budget constraints – or just changed circumstances.

I also cross-checked various maps in the proposed scheme against the long-term capital works budget and demonstrated some major and minor inconsistencies.

Council was adamant the maps showed different things, but were not inconsistent (??), and are “confident the maps represent what they should”. The maps look like this:

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Proposed Aberfeldie neighbourhood implementation plan Cl.02.04 C193MOON

While this is a useful map for future capital works planning, my submission was that it contains content that is outside the scope of land-use and development as demanded by the Planning Act.

Other submitters made points about the need for completing the neighbourhood planning work immediately; the need for stronger recognition of the Moonee Valley Racecourse as a key development site; and the meaning of the population forecasts for housing planning given they are forecasts not targets.

Oh – and for people following the Airport Overlay issue, the new planning scheme includes an intention to investigate the application of an Airport Environs Overlay in the vicinity of Essendon Fields Airport. This intention has been included in each draft of the new planning scheme.

The job of the panel now is to make recommendations about how Council should respond to the submissions – and any other concerns they may have about the new planning scheme. They have 30 days to report back to Council.

Council then has 28 days to make the report public with its response.

Council then decides whether to seek Ministerial approval of the new planning scheme – as Amendment C193MOON. The Minister will then decide whether to approve it.

THEN the work on the 13 neighbourhoods begins.

As part of my submission, I also commented on how difficult it was for people to access information about the new planning scheme. Many of the early documents were voluminous with copious ‘tracked changes’.

The fact that there were only two resident submitters at the hearing suggests that there could be improvements in making it easier for residents to participate in planning Amendment processes.

If we’re going to have 13 neighbourhood plans subject to Amendment processes, there will at least be plenty of opportunity to get community engagement right!

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