The Municipal Association of Victoria has accused the State Government of breaching an agreement made with local government over planning permit requirements for social housing and school building projects funded by the Rudd Government.
The Victorian Premier’s office did advise the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) in April that it would consult with local government on the mechanism to expedite planning processes for school and social housing projects prior to making a decision.
“The agreement with the ALGA has clearly been breached," MAV President Bill McArthur said.
"There has been no discussion with the sector."
Cr McArthur said the fast-tracking of infrastructure to stimulate the economy was supported but not at the expense of fair, transparent and inclusive planning processes.
“More affordable housing options are important, but with 5,000 development sites expected across Victoria in the next 18 months, the community has every right to provide input," he said.
“This Government has a clear emphasis on ‘jobs’ and ‘stimulus’ but is completely disregarding good planning and design outcomes, neighbourhood character, local amenity and the wishes of surrounding communities."
Cr McArthur said the decision showed contempt for the democratic input of communities as a key element of Victoria’s planning system.
"There will be no checks and balances such as public review, notification or third party appeal rights," he said.
“The MAV does not support the Minister removing community input for Federally-funded housing and school infrastructure projects simply to speed up one part of the development process.
“As stressed by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) to the Prime Minister and state leaders at the February Council of Australian Governments meeting, timely approvals for planning and council involvement in the assessment process are not mutually exclusive.
“Councils’ central role in planning decisions is to balance the views of all interested parties – experts, applicants, objectors and the broader community.
“This is a key step that adds value and delivers decisions that meet state and local policy objectives, yet the Minister has granted himself sole decision-making powers.
“The Minister cannot single-handedly do the work of 79 councils. Corners will be cut and good planning outcomes compromised in order to secure jobs and meet unrealistic Commonwealth timelines.
“Developments last several generations and can’t be undone when the economic crisis is over.
“Councils and communities across Victoria have every right to be extremely worried about the erosion of important democratic input rights. It is beyond disappointing,” he concluded.