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21 April 2020

Draft New Planning Controls for Non-Government Schools

The Minister for Planning had previously committed to reviewing the town planning provisions as they related to non-government schools. This was in response to the vastly different town planning approvals pathways between government and non-government schools, and an acknowledgement of the importance and complementary role that non-government schools play in our society.

Last year Ratio was invited to a ‘symposium’ hosted by DELWP to discuss issues associated with non-government schools, along with other consultants and non-government school representatives. At that time frustration was expressed with respect to the onerous hurdles that most non-government schools had to negotiate every time they sought to improve their facilities. Various suggestions were made, including:

  • Introducing more high level policy support for non-government schools (including in the Green Wedge Zone).
  • Introducing a new ‘Education Zone’.
  • Streamlining the planning approvals process.
  • Limiting third party objector and / or appeal rights.

In response to this feedback, in December last year the DELWP introduced a new interim clause into the planning scheme (Clause 53.19 – ‘Non-Government Schools’). The clause made the Minister for Planning the responsible authority for development projects that were funded, or partly funded, by the ‘Victorian Government's Non-Government Schools Capital Fund’. This effectively enabled a more efficient town planning approvals process, but was limited in its application.

Following on from this, DELWP is now seeking feedback on permanent provisions for non-government schools. The intent is that these will implement a fast-track process for some non-government school applications and broaden the Minister for Planning’s role for specified applications. 

In summary:

  • Non-government school applications (which do not benefit from VicSmart process) will be subject to public notice, but exempt from third-party review (ie - no VCAT objector appeal rights).
  • The Minister for Planning will be the responsible authority (and Councils the ‘recommending referral authority’) for all new non-government schools (primary or secondary), and buildings / works applications to existing non-government schools (primary or secondary) costing $4M or over.
  • Clause 19 updated to explicitly support establishment and expansion of schools and to acknowledge that these facilities will have a different form to their surrounds.

More specifically, the proposal seeks to:

  • Expand upon the existing provisions at Clause 19.02-2S (‘Education facilities’) by including the following new strategies:
    - Facilitate the establishment and expansion of primary and secondary education facilities to meet the existing and future education needs of communities.
    - Recognise that primary and secondary education facilities are different to dwellings in their purpose and function and can have different built form (including height, scale and mass).
  • Amend the Residential Growth Zone so that applications for building / works associated with primary or secondary schools with an estimated cost of up to $500,000 are subject to the ‘VicSmart’ application process (ie - Fast Track eligibility, typically being exempt from notice and review, and permits issued in 10 days).
  • Amend Clause 53.19 (Non-government Schools’) so that it:
    - Now applies to applications under any provision of planning schemes to use / develop land for non-government primary or secondary schools, and not just those funded by the ‘Victorian Government's Non-Government Schools Capital Fund’.
    - Exempts such applications from third party review (VCAT), although public notice (advertising) of the application will not be exempt.
  • Introduce a new sub-Clause 66.02-13 (‘Non-government primary or secondary school’), which states that the relevant municipal council will be a ‘recommending referral authority’ for applications to use or develop land for a non-government primary school or secondary school under Clause 72.01.
  • Amend Clause 72.01-1 (‘Minister is responsible authority’) so that the Minister for Planning will be the responsible authority for (noting this will not be retrospective):
    - The use and development of land for a new non-government primary school or secondary school.
    - Buildings and works applications to existing non-government primary or secondary schools with an estimated cost of $4 million or greater.

For those associated with non-government schools, or that acknowledge the importance of all education facilities to our society, the proposed provisions are greatly welcomed. There is no doubt they will assist in streamlining the town planning approvals process, and which will potentially bring greater consistency to decision-making.

DELWP has invited Ratio, as a relevant stakeholder, to comment on the draft provisions by close of business Friday 8 May 2020. We will review the proposal in more detail to see whether additional refinements would be helpful.

 

Author: David Crowder, Director: Planning

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20200421 non government schools