Three-storey houses can now be built “as of right” in some villages and townships across the Mornington Peninsula as a result of Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s recent radical, unheralded and unconsulted changes to residential planning laws across Victoria.
Shire councillors were told at this week’s (13 June) meeting that not even a yellow planning application notice will be needed on a property fence for such building to begin, including in parts of Dromana, Somerville, Hastings, Baxter and Bittern.
Mr Wynne’s changes override the painstakingly negotiated planning scheme tailored for the Mornington Peninsula. Minister Wynne has treated this area precisely the same as crowded inner-Melbourne suburbs such as Collingwood and Brunswick with, in Bandicoot’s view, all the deftness of a wrecking ball.
Richard “Wrecking Ball’ Wynne
The shire plans an intensive campaign against this threatened despoliation – a campaign that is also gathering force across metropolitan Melbourne and environs and is certain to spread statewide, threatening the future of the Andrews government.
Mr Wynne introduced new residential zone schemes after reading a report from an advisory panel that dealt with metropolitan Melbourne and regional cities Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong, as well as Latrobe valley cities, councillors were told in a report written by planning services executive manager David Bergin.
“However, the advisory committee report did not make a recommendation to increase the height within the General Residential Zone to 11 metres (three storeys) and without any further consultation with Local Government or the broader community the Minister decided to change the height controls,” Mr Bergin stated in his report.
His report continued: “The Minister decided to introduce a number of changes to the suite of residential zones … on 27 March, 2017. The Minister decided to increase the height of houses in both the Neighbourhood Residential Zone from 8 metres (mandatory control) and General Residential Zone from 9 metres (discretionary control), to … 9 metres (up to two storeys mandatory) and 11 metres (up to three storeys mandatory) respectively.
Below: part of the crowd at the 8 June Parliament House planning protest
“It is of great concern that [Mr Wynne] has introduced significant changes to the General Residential Zone without any consultation,” Mr Bergin said. “The significant increase in height that is allowed within the new General Residential Zone provisions is at complete odds with his own State policy direction that is contained within Plan Melbourne.
“Furthermore, this change has rocked the foundations of the various planning policies and controls that have been in place on the Mornington Peninsula for the past 40 plus years that have successfully protected the valued character on the Peninsula.”
The shire is now finalising its Housing and Settlement Strategy, to nominate where moderate growth can occur, Mr Bergin stated. Then the shire will seek to rezone and protect most residential land, to “control the scale and heights that maintain the existing valued character of each town and settlement”.
It is, Mr Bergin wrote in his report to councillors, “critical [that] the recent changes to the General Residential Zone do not fundamentally change the highly valued character of the Mornington Peninsula permanently”.
The shire must act swiftly to protect the shire until the Housing and Settlement Strategy is in place, he stated.
“Furthermore, it would be appropriate to prepare an interim Design and Development Overlay [a control mechanism] for a number of our towns which are not currently protected.” A report on this will come to council next Monday at the shire’s first planning meeting.
Mr Bergin’s report urged the shire to begin a “strong advocacy campaign” with the state government to protect the peninsula, “to ensure the values and character of the Mornington Peninsula are protected from inappropriate development”.
The campaign will include public meetings, letters, social media and media releases to print and electronic media and more radio appearances such as mayor Bev Colomb’s recent afternoon interview on ABC radio.
Cr Colomb also raised the shire’s concerns at the 8 May planning protest rally outside State Parliament, providing a statement that was read out to the big crowd.
Mr Bergin told Cr David Gill he was concerned for townships with land over a certain lot size, which need only building approval for new houses. “So there will be no challenge [to construction]. They’ll be erected without anyone knowing … they need only surveyor consent, to ensure that the building doesn’t fall down, basically.” Pictured: Cr Gill
He said the state government probably gave little consideration to the unique qualities of the Mornington Peninsula, or for those of any other area of Victoria, when deciding to impose a uniform residential zoning plan on every community.
Cr Colomb told councillors the shire was “still waiting for the Planning Minister to allow us to have a meeting with him”.
Mr Bergin said he did not think the government “will look to change its position”, but could vary building heights, possibly reducing the 11 metres to nine metres – three storeys to two. The existing eight-metre height limit in coastal areas might be held at nine metres by negotiation, but it will be “a tough battle”.
He said he had talked to a number of community groups, from Dromana to Sorrento, to “clearly identify how the community can help us – or themselves, realistically – achieve and protect the character on the peninsula that we all enjoy and the character we want to maintain”.
The shire website and Facebook page already had material posted on them, he said.
In answer to Cr Colomb, Mr Bergin said it was possible that shire planners would attend a planning meeting on 22 June at the Hastings Hub at 7pm to discuss these matters. The main speaker will be planning expert Professor Michael Buxton, who at the 8 May Parliament House protest was highly critical of the Wynne planning changes.
(See earlier post on the Mornington Peninsula Bandicoot Facebook page that offers video clips of Professor Buxton, pictured, and two other speakers at the rally and provides full details of the Hastings meeting.)
Mr Bergin said the sudden shock introduction for the Wynne planning changes had meant that “we’ve basically had to take someone offline for at least the last month, which then stops other work getting done, as you’d appreciate”. Much other shire time had had to be devoted to trying to reverse the Wynne changes.