Planning, Environment and Development Update – Recent Industry Insights and Changes at VCAT

In our earlier update, we reported on the collaborative work of industry representative bodies, the establishment by the Victorian government of the Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce (Taskforce) and the introduction of temporary legislative measures to allow the continuation of planning and court and tribunal processes in Victoria during the period of COVID-19.

The implementation of the legislative measures and the work of the Taskforce has been even more important in light of the recent restrictions in Metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.  The planning and development industry is prepared for the additional lockdown period and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and Planning Panels Victoria (PPV) are progressing matters.

Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) and Victorian Planning Authority (VPA)

Last Tuesday 7 July 2020, the Urban Development Institute of Australia (Victorian Division) (UDIA) facilitated presentations by Julian Lyngcoln, Deputy Secretary Planning, DELWP and Stuart Mosely, CEO of the VPA.
DELWP and the VPA are continuing to work collaboratively together and with industry bodies and stakeholders though the challenges of COVID-19 supporting the development and construction industries, with response, recovery and progress at the forefront. In addition, systems and workloads are being reviewed. We learned that:

  • Planning remains open for business to keep economic activity happening, the temporary legislative measures introduced allowing continuation of local government requirements in the planning application process and the business of VCAT and PPV to operate remotely;
  • The fast track assessment team of the Taskforce has identified shovel ready priority projects, having received 300 projects for assessment and has reported to the Minister for Planning on reform opportunities;
  • The Minister for Planning has intervened and made decisions on 91 new and amended planning permits since March;
  • State infrastructure will play an important role in recovery and stimulus in addition to private sector development;
  • Whilst the VPA’s role is in the greenfields areas and its current work program includes prioritising precinct structure plans and infrastructure sequencing, it may have capacity to add new projects including structure planning for change areas and working with DELWP on policy considerations extending beyond infrastructure contributions; and
  • Victoria will see a positive reform legacy out of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the pipeline of reform of the building regulatory system and the next stage of Better Apartments and the Green Wedge Land Project, amongst other projects.

VCAT – Reform Initiatives of the Planning and Environment Division (PED) - a new Environment and Natural Resources List

In April 2020 the government announced new funding for VCAT.

VCAT is implementing new initiatives as part of its PED reforms.  It recently posted an update on its website about the latest initiatives.

VCAT announced a new list in the PED to deal with environment and natural resources.  The two lists in the PED separate matters as follows:

  • The Planning List will continue to hear and decide applications involving disputes over the use and/or development of land, most of which fall under the Planning and Environment Act 1987; and
  • The Environment and Resources List, which will review decisions made about the use and development of natural resources such as water, rock, gravel, or sand, or decisions about activities or developments that can affect the environment, dealing with the special nature of applications under a range of legislation including for example, the Environment Protection Act 1970, the Water Act 1989 and the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development Act) 1990 .

Other initiatives and changes for the PED include a suite of new application forms and initiating orders, reducing the number of practice notes, a range of new fact sheets and the preparation of Tribunal books in some cases,  amongst others.  The VCAT website advises that the new application forms, designed to be more user-friendly, will be available as smart forms once the PED Digital Project is complete.  These initiatives include positive changes to increase the efficiency of the PED.

If you need planning advice or any other legal assistance in regards to property please don’t hesitate to contact Kristy Muhlhan, Principal and Accredited Specialist, Property Law who heads our Property and Development Legal Team via our switchboard on +61 3 9822 8588 or email our team HERE to find out how we can help you.

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