Deputy Premier gives hope
THE State Government has indicated planning rules could be relaxed slightly in South Gippsland.
Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said councils need more flexibility to determine development in their own municipalities, rather than be governed by a state-wide policy.
He has urged South Gippsland Shire Council to submit examples of planning permit applications that would be considered under the C51 planning scheme amendment for review by Victorian Planning Minister, Matthew Guy.
The Minister would then advise council about the direction it should be taking on what Mr Ryan labelled a “vexed issue”.
The development comes after The Star last week revealed council last year overestimated the number of properties eligible for a planning permit under the C51 planning scheme amendment.
Mayor Cr Warren Raabe and council CEO Tim Tamlin met Mr Ryan, the Gippsland South MLA, at Port Welshpool last Thursday to discuss the new government’s planning direction.
“Gippsland South is different to the west of the state around Horsham and Hamilton. It just makes a mockery to have the same planning laws apply in these two different situations,” Mr Ryan said.
Cr Raabe said the government wanted councils to have influence over their own planning schemes.
“As a consequence of that, the State Government would be willing to listen to any proposed changes that we would want to make under our Rural Strategy,” the mayor said.
The discussion came after the Coalition had entered the state election with a policy to ensure planning rules offered more flexibility than those set by the previous government.
Council has now made some changes to rules governing development in Farming Zones under C51, after seeking legal advice about council’s interpretation of wording under the amendment.
That advice was sought at the urging of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) after council’s refusal of a permit was taken to VCAT by an applicant.
Council obtained the advice of former VCAT head, Stuart Morris, QC. The changes have been approved by the State Government and will be noted at the March council meeting.
Cr Raabe said the changes include more concessions for lots of between 0.4 and 2ha, with the upper limit extended to 2.1ha to include old lots of five acres – equivalent to 2.0235ha.
“We have said the old five acres are small lots that fit in the Rural Living Zone, so the five acre lots would be valid for a planning permit if they meet all the usual criteria, but these won’t be considered against the provisions of the Farming Zone,” Cr Raabe said.
Another change will be concessions for people with vacant multiple titles under 2.1ha.
Further, more complex changes will be announced at a public briefing in March.
Cr Raabe said council’s director of development services, Phil Stone, was now “revisiting the numbers” of planning permits eligible for permits under C51, in the wake of Mr Morris’ advice.
Allen Bartlett, director of Prom Country First National of Meeniyan and Mirboo North, was surprised at the lack of community lobbying calling for the new State Government to relax C51.
“I never expected there to be a change of government at the last election, but I’m surprised that there has been no strong representation made to the current State Government, who I imagined would be far more sympathetic to the impact C51 and C48 has had on landholders in South Gippsland,” he said.
Mr Bartlett said such representations could have come from council, individuals, groups and the Victorian Farmers Federation.
Mr Bartlett said he was surprised council’s estimation of the number of properties eligible was inaccurate.
“I’m curious to know if there were much smaller numbers out there, whether there could have been more opportunity for council to negotiate more strongly for increased benefits for people affected by C48,” he said.
Such benefits could have included extending the size of properties eligible for a permit application to 15ha and extending the date parameter, Mr Bartlett believed.
“As well as the newcomers to this area, it’s also about a lot of longstanding residents who believed they could have built on that 10ha allotment in the corner of their farm,” he said.
The former government’s introduction of C48, with a blanket ban on the creation of lots less than 40ha, shattered dreams virtually overnight.
Mr Bartlett knew of farmers who had planned to realign title boundaries on two properties in a bid to raise funds, but C48 stripped about $500,000 in land value.
But he did not think C51 had changed people’s fortunes around to a large extent, such as farmers wishing to sell acreages towards their superannuation.
“I do not think C51 has necessarily advantaged a lot of people. The people that could have benefited most under C51 perhaps have not been, particularly the farmers who always believed they would be able to take off five or 10 acres from their properties,” Mr Bartlett said.
“C51 attempts to rectify C48 in a minor way but I do not believe it has gone far enough to help us in South Gippsland.”
Read Barry Gilbert’s letter to the editor on page 12 this week to find how C51 has affected his plans.
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