Light touch VPP reforms – a statutory perspective

Cameron Gentle

Senior Associate - Urban Planning

Cameron has extensive experience in both the local government and the private sectors, having worked within the Victorian planning system since 1996. His experience extends across a range of urban and regional statutory and strategic planning matters including medium and higher density residential development, large scale commercial and industrial development, subdivisions, development plan approvals, planning scheme amendments and VCAT. Prior to joining Hansen, Cameron’s work in local government provided insight into coastal planning issues, firsthand experience in applying the metropolitan green wedge policy framework, experience in applications concerning extractive industries, growth area planning and issues pertaining to regional Victoria. Within the private sector, Cameron’s experience has also been varied having managed and contributed to projects for both public and private sector clients. Notable projects include apartment and office towers in Docklands, development approval for a school in Tasmania, a greenfield subdivision on Melbourne’s fringe and a series of strategic plans for metropolitan rail corridors. Cameron combines his broad experience and detailed understanding of the planning system with an open minded and practical approach to achieving timely and positive outcomes on all projects.
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Having used the revised Victorian Planning Provisions for the past three weeks following the gazettal of VC148, Hansen’s overall response to the reforms are positive but early indications are that the changes are unlikely to have significant implications for applicants or decision makers.

Although we see changes such as applying reduced parking rates in Clause 52.06 on sites close to public transport, removing outdated particular provisions, and making service industry and takeaway food premises in the Industrial 1 Zone exempt from requiring a permit as positive, these reforms do not represent any major shift in policy or approach, and are unlikely to result in major changes to land use and built form outcomes.  Significant work remains to make long overdue updates to provisions relating to a range of matters such as parking rates and definitions.

In relation to other changes to the statutory controls, we make a number of observations:

Clause 52.06 now allows specified reduced rates to be applied to certain uses within a Principal Public Transport Network Area (PPTNA). A map showing the PPNTA is incorporated into each planning scheme and highlights land within a 400m radius of the public transport network.

However, applying the reduced rates based simply on distance from public transport is a somewhat simplistic approach in our view. Evidence shows that people walk further than 400 metres to get to public transport, especially train stations. We also know the distance people walk is affected by factors such as topography, provision of pedestrian paths, weather protection and sensory stimulation such as street trees. We would therefore hope that a development on a site outside the defined lines of the PPTN map, but with still within comfortable walking distance of public transport, is not disadvantaged by the introduction of these provisions, and the discretion to allow a reduction in car parking requirements on a case by case basis continues to be applied.

The introduction of an exemption from requiring a permit for a reduction in car parking requirements of 10 spaces or less* under Clause 52.06 is a welcome change and will make life easier for businesses otherwise exempt from requiring a planning permit to establish in existing buildings in commercial and activity zones.

Clarification that the permit exemptions for signs specified in Clause 52.05 overrides all other provisions in the scheme is therefore welcome, removing this longstanding uncertainty and eliminating unnecessary applications and debate.

Including a statement of significance for new heritage sites is a positive step. Providing this information up-front  within the planning scheme, rather than buried in a separate document, will make the Heritage Overlay easier to use. The ability to include heritage design guidelines for a heritage place is also a positive step and provides for a further improvement in the usability of the Heritage Overlay.

The replacement of Clause 52.03 with the Specific Controls Overlay is a welcome reform as a site will now be identified on a planning scheme map. Under the previous VPPs, these sites were essentially hidden within the scheme and important provisions potentially missed.

We look forward to further reforms, particularly those focused on redundant and outdated provisions such as signage and car parking rates.

* within existing buildings, with no increase in gross floor area, and not within a Parking Overlay requiring a financial contribution.