VicSMART: The New Planning Assessment System

Continuing the theme of leaving his mark on Planning in Victoria, the Planning Minister Matthew Guy has recently released the draft provisions for VicSMART.

What is VicSMART?
With nearly every local council Planning Department straining under high demand and a lack of resources, there is a need to speed up the decision making process where appropriate.

VicSMART is intended to remove the uncertainty around several “low impact” applications like fences, pergolas and decks. The aim is to reduce the time to decision down to 10 days. They will do this by removing third party appeal rights and the demand for further information. These applications will essentially become a “tick and flick” application, processed by a planning officer within a much shorter timeframe.

Did you know Council’s average more than 1,200 planning applications per year?

At the top end, Mornington Peninsula Shire processed 3,149 planning permit applications last year.. That’s more than 60 new applications every week!

The implications?
We believe there is merit in any proposal that reduces the impost on Council planners. Delays in decision making by Council has a massive impact on holding costs, project costs design and planning changes.

Trojan Horse

The Trojan Horse
We are slowly moving to a planning system more in favour of developers than communities. You’d assume we think this is a good thing right?

Our concern relates to the “Trojan Horse” effect this may have on Planning in Victoria. What is next? Unit developments getting through without public notification?
Are we going to see the same shifty Ministerial approvals system that applies to skyscrapers applied in our suburbs? Consider the uproar that will cause.

This knee jerk reaction will only swing the pendulum back the other way when people perceive that their rights have been taken away. If the Government removes the Public Notice and Third Party Appeal rights, we will see a return to the Save Our Suburbs campaigns of the mid 1990s against the then Planning Minister Rob Maclellan.

We encourage our developers to approach their neighbours and seek their feedback on the proposed development. I strongly believe that this simple act of courtesy reduces the number of objections to our developments, simply due to good manners and respect.

Most neighbourhood disputes relate to minor issues like fences or decks. If we disrespect our neighbours and gag their ability to be heard, we may find many more minor disputes ending up in the civil courts.

We encourage the State Government to think very carefully before removing people’s right to object. It may cause more trouble that it’s worth.

We are looking closely at the planning implications of these new changes. It was the intention of the planning reform process to “provide more certainty for residents and developers”. We hope this applies in practice, and not just in theory.

VicSMART – Your Say
The State Government is seeking public comment until 30 August 2013. Click here to  have your say.