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In what can only be described as a pioneering planning scheme Amendment, the recently exhibited City of Moreland Amendment C190 seeks to allow specifically designed single and dual occupancy residential applications to be processed via the VicSmart fast track process.
Having never before formed part of any planning control in Victoria, the proposed Amendment C190 seeks:
- To allow single dwelling and dual occupancy applications to be processed within 10 days of lodgement (as per the usual VicSmart process).
- No public advertising or 3rd party appeal rights (including no objection or VCAT appeal rights for the community).
- Applications to be subject to a strict mandatory design criteria, needing to numerically meet the majority of Clause 55 standards (previously known as ResCode).
- Mandatory ESD standards and requirements to be met, including certification from City of Moreland.
- Mandatory requirement for a certified ’Silver Level’ performance achieved under the LHA Liveable Housing Design Guidelines.
The new provisions are proposed to apply in both the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) and General Residential Zone (GRZ), subject to meeting the strict mandatory criteria outlined above.
Although similar arrangements were in place that enabled the 1960’s walk-up-flats, in more recent times the Amendment represents a fairly revolutionary approach to managing residential infill development and is potentially a real game changer for the development industry. The fast track VicSmart process was originally formulated for minor planning applications, such as the construction of a front fence or swimming pool, where there is no need for community involvement or third party rights. Providing the option for single or dual occupancy applications to run via this fast track process, with no community involvement/VCAT appeal rights and a decision from Council within 10 days, will be a very attractive prospect for many developers and investors alike.
However, will these prescriptive controls work as they are intended? What practical difficulties may there be in meeting the strict design criteria? The benefits are unquestionable, but what about the unforeseen shortfalls or unintended implications?
Seeking answers to the above questions and in reviewing the Amendment C190, the following is a broad look at the pros and cons of including prescriptive planning controls for small scale residential development within the Victorian Planning Provisions:
- Developer and investor certainty, resulting in greater risk minimisation.
- Significantly faster decision times from Local Government.
- Reduced holding costs on land due to faster decision times and ability to begin construction in quicker timeframe.
- Likely increase in residential development/investment due to reduced costs and greater certainty.
- Subsequent increases in economic activity.
- Increased certainty, potentially opening up greater access to loans and financing.
- Subsequent increase in housing supply, assisting with forecast increase demands associated with population growth and housing affordability.
- More efficient use of Council resources and processes.
- Greater consistency in Council decision-making.
- Reduced demand for VCAT appeals, increasing VCATs capacity to schedule other hearings in a faster time frame.
- Clarity for the community in terms of when third party appeal or objection rights apply.
- Improved community expectations in relation to residential development outcomes.
- Potential for increased certainty for ‘volume builders’ in formulating compliant dwelling designs and corresponding efficient construction methods.
- More certainty for ‘Mum and Dad’ investors looking to redevelop their existing properties.
- Likely reduced construction costs due to reduction in dwelling size and required building materials.
- Reduced costs to consumer and potential for subsequent improvement in housing affordability.
- Reduction in design innovation, variety and expression, potentially creating uninteresting or visually dull neighbourhoods (again noting the 1960’s walk-up-flats example).
- Reduction in the ability to meet varied neighbourhood character elements due to strict design parameters.
- Potential for ‘under-development’ if a site is ‘capable of more’ (with associated implications on housing supply and affordability).
- Potential for criteria to be too onerous, thereby limiting the number of sites that might qualify.
Overall, the benefits of a prescriptive planning control are clear, as the certainty it brings to the process will be of great benefit to investors and those who wish to redevelop their land holdings. The benefits to Council resources, VCAT and the community are also evident.
We feel this is a very courageous move from Moreland and we hope to see other Victorian local governments and DELWP propose other pioneering amendments of this nature.
However, it is also clear that a range of complexities and challenges are prevalent, which might have unintended consequences. On balance, it will be a careful balancing act to ensure that the benefits outweigh the potential for adverse consequences.
We look forward to participating in the consultation process for this exciting Amendment and hearing the views of the development community and of course our valued clients.
We look forward to contributing to what we hope will be a very beneficial amendment and a real step forward for the City of Moreland and planning in Victoria.
Author: Saul Siritzky, Senior Planner
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