21 Apr Planning Reforms To Come
In response to the Covid-19 crisis the need to reform the planning systems has been acknowledged at the National Planning Ministers’ Forum. The Federal, State and Territories have come together to recognise that planning systems and the development approvals pipeline must continue in Australia to maintain jobs and businesses, and to support economic recovery. It is has established a written agreement to support the reforms to the planning systems will be required to ensure this happens. The purpose of the planning reforms will be to ensure that construction activity can continue at its “usual pace” during this time.
The agreement has set out the principles that must be considered in making any changes to the planning system. These include maintaining transparency, balancing review rights with the need to address the emergency and assist with the recovery and decision making must be in the public interest.
These reforms are intended to be temporary, though the agreement includes a commitment to consider the potential for ongoing implementation of processes or other lessons learned where appropriate.
NSW has undertaken some reforms to their planning system including increased flexibility and fast-tracking of development applications and rezoning.
In Victoria a new taskforce has been set up to investigate planning and investment opportunities. Initially 4 new major building projects have been approved and the Taskforce will initally look at fast-tracking planning approvals by calling in Ministerial powers, for major developments that have been delayed in planning due to Covid-19 related issues. The Taskforce will also provide advice on a pipeline of projects over the longer term.
Getting VCAT Moving Again
Following the restrictions that were put in place in March VCAT has largely not been able to operate. They have focused on continuing only for critical matters such as injunctions. The majority of matter, including many planning matters have been placed on hold during these restrictions.
The Victorial Government have started putting processes in place to enable VCAT (and other courts) to proceed. New laws have just been passed to enable the courts and wider legal system to continue to deliver justice services while still complying with the Covid-19 related restrictions.
Work has commenced in upgrading processes and technology at VCAT to enable them to continue their work remotely. According to the Victorian Government these upgrades will be rolled out over the next 12 weeks.
One of our projects has been caught up in this and we look forward to VCAT starting back up soon so that the backlog can be cleared and decisions will start to be made again.