Do we have what we think?
Russell Degnan

In my statutory planning tutorial a few weeks ago, a development was discussed that had been approved by the local planner, but refused by the council. It was then to go to VCAT, where the expectation was that the council decision would be overturned - under an objective assessment of the planning scheme.

The important question here is: how often is council overturned? And if - as it is - the majority of the time, who is really responsible for approving new developments?

The gradual centralisation of the planning system, in the process of giving much needed certainty, has also steadily reduced councils' arbitrary (and even strategic) power. That now lies in VCAT.

Now throw this Federal Government proposal into the mix. (And as an aside, isn't it nice to see the Federal Government taking an interest).

Fundamentally it is no different; technical decisions being made by an objective panel/ hearing. It may even be faster, but the devil is in the details (sadly lacking in the article). Who can make comments and when? What notice is given to residents? Is there an appeals process? What if the panel doesn't follow existing policy - or it is a largely subjective and controversial proposal?

The planning system is designed to accomodate the worst-case scenario for controversy, and does so as best as could be expected. But it is a labourous process for the mundane, the unobjectionable, and even the controversial that sits well within the strategic plan of the municipality. Recognising this first may be a better first step - rather than laying the blame at the door of councils'.

Sterner Matters 13th May, 2004 14:16:59   [#]