Responsibility for assessing and approving certain types of planning applications in Victoria should be taken from local councils and handed to independent planning panels, a leading building industry lobby group says.
The Master Builders Association of Victoria (MBAV) has called for responsibility for development approvals to be taken from local government and given to either a dedicated agency staffed with professional planners or to regional planning ‘hubs’.
MBAV CEO Radley de Silva says current assessment processes suffer from numerous shortfalls.
Process are too slow and are inconsistent across different councils, he says.
“The other thing is that in one sense, councils have a conflict of interest,” de Silva says, referring to the pressures upon local councils from local constituents who oppose development against the broader need to increase housing supply.
“There is the interest of the whole community (for more affordable housing and greater housing choice) versus individual pressures on them from within their municipal boundaries.
“These impact upon decisions which are short-term and not in the long-term interest of the broader community.”
de Silva says an example can be seen through high-density areas which are well connected to services and transport corridors.
Whilst it is necessary to have more development in these areas to accommodate a growing population, he says these are the areas in which approvals are most difficult to obtain.
de Silva’s comment follows a recent analysis of approval processing times published on the Domain web site.
Whilst the statutory time frame for planning decisions sits at 60 days, average decision time frames across all councils stood at 69 days, whilst 10 councils in metropolitan Melbourne had a median response rate of above 100 days.
de Silva dismisses suggestions that Master Builders’ proposal would weaken opportunities for councils or communities to oppose inappropriate development.
Community members would be able to lodge objections with the planning panel as they do now in the case of decisions assessed by the local councils, he said.
Councils themselves would also be free to lodge submissions with the panel, he added.
“The objective is to streamline processes and eliminate any unnecessary burdens,” de Silva said. “It is not to eliminate any opportunities for review.
“We are the fastest growing population in the country. Unless we change how we are doing things, we will create more problems for ourselves.”
The Municipal Councils Association of Victoria did not respond to requests for comment.