KINGSTON councillors have opted to accept an invitation by Planning Minister Matthew Guy to engage with a “special fast-track” panel to consider council and community feedback on proposed new residential zones throughout Victoria.
Mr Guy added an extra layer of bureaucracy to a state-wide consultation process on amending residential planning zones but said the formation of the panel would help the process.
Councillors voted at this month’s council meeting to consult with the new panel.
The State Government has imposed a 1 July deadline this year for councils to finalise planning zones in municipalities and Mr Guy has set up a residential zones standing advisory committee in December last year as the deadline looms.
The planning minister released proposed new residential zones for a 12-month consultation period with councils and communities in July last year.
Existing residential zones will be replaced with three new residential zones: a Neighbourhood Residential Zone maintaining minimal change of area character, a General Residential Zone allowing “moderate change” to encourage some development in areas with good access to transport and services and a Residential Growth Zone allowing “substantial change” where medium density housing and diverse housing types are possible, including townhouses and apartments.
Some Victorian councils, including the City of Glen Eira, have decided to accept a “direct translation” of the State Government’s proposed zones without community consultation.
As revealed by The News last month, the Victorian planning department advised Kingston Council in late October last year that council could not exhibit its planning scheme amendment submitted after community consultation (‘No go for home zone plan’, The News, 15/1/14).
A State Government spokesperson at the time told The News that Kingston Council should not seek “a wish list” with regards to planning zones.
The spokesperson advised the State Government is not pushing for an “arbitary zone per cent” to be open to development, but indicated a “direct translation of council’s existing planning policy” was preferable.
Cr Rosemary West said council had gone into the state government’s process on implementing new zones with the best of intentions but it had turned into “a tortuous process”.
“We were planning to consult residents and basically let residents have a big say in what kind of planning zones we have and where they go,” Cr West said. “People make it very clear they wanted changes.”
Cr West said she did not know whether Mr Guy had not approved Kingston Council’s draft proposal because “there was something wrong with the draft” or whether “he decided too many councils would ask for changes”.
Cr Ron Brownlees said it was unfortunate that the process “got taken out of our hands” and council now had to deal with “what we’ve got within a very tight time-frame.”
Cr Brownlees said additional community consultation should happen, but may not now occur due to the looming implementation deadline.
Cr Steve Staikos said he did not think it was appropriate that council decide “it is all too hard” to Kingston residents’ views.
“I don’t think it’s good enough for our council to ignore what the community has had to say,” Cr Staikos said.
“If we’re going to consult, let’s give them the decency to say we might adopt our plan to accept some of that.”
Council city development general manager Rachel Hornsby advised councillors at the meeting that the residential zones standing advisory committee would make a recommendation to Mr Guy after council’s draft proposal was submitted.