Changes to statewide planning provisions are set to prevent some government-funded projects from being put to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, but a prominent councillor is concerned the community's voice could be stifled by the new legislation.
Amendment VC211 of the Victoria Planning Provisions has removed the right of objectors to appeal council decisions to VCAT for government-funded projects under $10 million in an effort to fast-track projects.
The City of Ballarat said the legislation meant council could progress projects without fear of being subject to delays of up to six months due to VCAT hearings.
IN OTHER NEWS:
The goal of the legislation is to fast-track projects by reducing delays in planning approval processes to spark economic recovery through the construction sector.
According to the state government's explanatory report, the amendment is 'expected to have positive social and economic effects by streamlining the planning process to facilitate the timely delivery of local government projects, with associated job creation and economic activity, to support Victoria's social and economic recovery from the coronavirus'.
The amendment was gazetted on Tuesday, September 14 and was made operational that same day and affects every planning scheme in the state, including the Ballarat Planning Scheme.
In a media release, City of Ballarat chief executive Evan King said the exemption would ensure council could deliver key projects.
"We know construction by local contractors, in particular, is a major stimulus to our economy and this exemption will ensure the City of Ballarat can continue to deliver on key projects in partnership with the state government," he said.
"That does not mean council will in any way reduce the opportunity for community consultation and feedback before our major projects reach the planning permit stage.
"The new requirements apply to any application that is still under consideration prior to the gazetted amendment, such as the Lake Wendouree and Victoria Park Link Lighting Project."
Central ward councillor Samantha McIntosh said it was important the community's voice was heard throughout any planning process.
"The removal of the opportunities for objectors to appeal to the council decisions that might go to VCAT just takes that localness away. It takes away that opportunity for the residents to feel like their voice is being heard," she said.
"The community have been used to that process and the community feels confident with that process and when that part of the process is taken away, they feel that there's an important voice that there's not being heard.
"It's important that when changes are made to the planning scheme that the local community is considered. What is decided upon at Spring Street or anywhere else is not necessarily going to have the same knowledge or localness as those people in our communities."
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.