PREFERRED CHARACTER STATEMENTS

Part of any planning scheme review is the imperative to locate any gaps or deficiencies in the scheme and to plug such holes. Councils generally approach this task by diligently analysing VCAT decisions and determining the grounds that VCAT stated in rejecting council positions. The next step is to return to the planning scheme and determine how it can be bolstered to ensure that the grounds available to VCAT are closed off or at the very least, made far more difficult to ignore.

Needless to say, there is nothing in the current Discussion Paper which provides even a hint as to what the ‘problems’ might be. Yet, decision after decision makes it absolutely clear – the failure of council to provide any statement as to ‘preferred neighbourhood character’ in housing diversity (ie GRZ, RGZ) and totally inadequate ‘policy’ in minimal change (NRZ) areas – where ‘waffle’ replaces fine grained statements.

Yes, we repeat! Even large areas within the Neighbourhood Residential Zones are in the same boat as residents living in GRZ or RGZ zones.

Here are two recent VCAT decisions for developments in the so called ‘protected’ areas of Neighbourhood Residential Zones. Some areas have council’s version of ‘preferred character statements’ which amount to nothing more than waffly, motherhood pronouncements, whilst other areas in the NRZ do NOT HAVE even this pretence of such a statement.

The Council’s concern also relies on a misplaced emphasis on preferred character rather than existing (or prevailing) character. It is correct that the minimal change area policy has a specific objective relating to preferred character. However, there is no formal statement of preferred character in or under the scheme for the relevant character precinct in which the land is located. The objective relating to preferred character is to ‘encourage development that is responsive to its site and context, integrates with and enhances the prevailing neighbourhood character. (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/306.html

The Glen Eira Planning Scheme does not include a preferred neighbourhood character statement for this area, and the Clause 22.08 local policy broadly encourages dual occupancy developments in this location in a side-by-side layout, provided that they respect the existing neighbourhood character of the area.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2015/870.html

Thus, further question that residents should consider asking their elected representatives are:

·       What gaps in the Planning Scheme has VCAT identified through its decisions? Will council address each and every one of these gaps?

·       Will council introduce preferred character statements for all of Glen Eira that are detailed, specific, and work to ensure that neighbourhood character is protected? If not, why not?

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