7 April 2014

Council took a huge step backwards last Tuesday, when it voted to remove from residents in parts of Carlton and North Melbourne their right to be notified of and have a say on new planning applications planned next to their properties.Planning Scheme Amendment C196 (City North) rezones and applies new design and development overlays to the areas of North Melbourne, Melbourne and Carlton around the Haymarket and to the North of the Hoddle Grid.

Earlier versions of the Amendment proposed mandatory height limits in the new overlays, as well as mandatory setbacks along laneways, and, whilst it proposed that much of the area be rezoned to ‘Capital City Zone’ (a zone for high density development with a co-location of a broad range of as-of-right uses), Council sought to ensure that the right to be notified of developments, to object to, and to appeal applications, were kept inside the Schedule to the zone.

But what came back from the two person independent planning panel appointed by the Minister for Planning was a removal of all of the parts of the Amendment which the community fought hardest for:

– rights to notice and appeal have been stripped from the areas to be rezoned to Capital City Zone;

– mandatory height limits have become discretionary; and

– setback requirements along laneways, to activate and give laneways a human scale, have been deleted.

City of Melbourne Officers recommended to Councillors that they endorse all recommendations made by the panel.

What Council was left with was a Planning Scheme Amendment bitterly opposed by the community, and the area where residents’ and property owners’ rights to even be told of new developments planned next door expanded into a large area of the inner north.

Regardless, Council endorsed the recommendation from officers and voted to request the Minister for Planning to gazette the Amendment. The vote was 6 to 3.

Greens Cr Rohan Leppert sought to bring out the issue of notice and appeal rights as a standalone issue, separate from the other considerations of Amendment C196, to seek Councillors’ endorsement of the principle that the removal of residents’ and property owners’ rights to notice and appeal should not continue to expand.

Shockingly, that motion was defeated, 3 votes to 6 (the same blocks of votes as the previous motion).

Those Councillors voting to reinstate residents’ and property owners’ rights to notice and review were:

Cr Leppert (Greens)

Cr Oke (Greens)

Cr Foster (ALP)

Those Councillors endorsing the removal of residents’ and property owners’ rights to notice and review were:

Cr Ong (Liberal)

Cr Mayne (Independent)

Lord Mayor Cr Doyle (Team Doyle)

Deputy Lord Mayor Cr Riley (Team Doyle)

Cr Pinder-Mortimer (Team Doyle)

Cr Wood (Team Doyle)

As the distressed but articulate residents making submissions to Councillors put it, and as carried forward by the Greens Councillors: “We can meet the objectives and meet the population growth in City North without selling out our residents at the same time.”

The audio and minutes of the debate are available here.