‘Complex’ planning system eased

RED tape stifling construction development across Latrobe City should be eased by reforms just announced by the State Government.

Responding to the completion of a major review into the state’s planning system, State Member for Morwell Russell Northe said key reforms would be adopted to “help dramatically improve the existing system”.

State Planning Minister Matthew Guy said red tape was restricting the Victorian economy, particularly in the construction industry, and needed to be cut.

The Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee received 547 submissions to its review, including one from Latrobe City Council and one from local industry group Latrobe Vision.

The latter claimed prolonged planning processes negatively affected the local industry.

In its submission, council said the planning system had become “increasingly complex”, causing inefficient delays for both “responsible authorities and applicants”.

Mr Northe said key reforms would streamline the Victorian planning system.

“All stakeholders who have anything to do with the current planning system are frustrated by the processes in place,” Mr Northe said.

“Far too often we hear how time consuming and costly it is to get permits approved and it is our absolute desire to improve this cumbersome system.

“Even in terms of permit applications applying to smaller developments and home improvements, they still take far too long; it stifles the economy and at the moment this is unfortunately what we are seeing.

He said there has been a general downturn in the economy and the building and construction industry, and the current system does not progress developments in our local communities and it was a “crying shame”.

“We have people ready and willing to invest and put their hands in their pockets but the current system prohibits this and instead we have longer timelines and more costly developments,” he said.

Mr Northe said reforms around “a simple code assessment for the lower permit applications” would “expedite the whole process and enable councils to focus their efforts on some of the more substantial developments”.

Mr Northe said an “expert planning squad” has also been established by the government, which stood “ready to help and support councils with processes and assist in expediting development”.

“I have certainly had conversations with Latrobe City on the role of this squad and I encourage any regional council to understand it is available to assist them,” he said.

Key red tape reforms to be implemented include reforming the planning scheme amendment (rezoning) process – reducing the number of steps and the length of time involved.

Mr Guy said a code assessment track would be used for simple, low-impact permit applications and reform zones and planning provisions would simplify complex and lengthy regulations.

There would also be a review of the Farming Zone to give more flexibility to Victoria’s farmers and rural communities and an increase in performance accountability for local councils and state referral authorities, Mr Guy added.

This week developers and council were still assessing the State Government’s response to the review.