Council applies wrong planning rules

For past two months, City of Melbourne planners have been applying the wrong rules to planning applications, but they say it wasn’t their fault.

It was generally understood that when Planning Minister Richard Wynne introduced interim planning controls on September 4 (Planning Scheme Amendment C262), applications made after that date were to be assessed under the new rules.

But the council interpreted C262 to mean that some of the old rules still applied to certain aspects such as setbacks and overshadowing.

The State Government in mid-November introduced a new amendment (C266) to clarify the situation.

Council planners say the misunderstanding made no difference to any of their recommendations, but the Property Council is not impressed.

Property Council executive director Jennifer Cunich said the council’s planning staff needed educating.

“The Property Council is glad to see the CoM planning department’s C262 frolic resolved via the introduction of C266,” Ms Cunich said.  “Sadly, their actions read like deja vu to the property industry’s most seasoned observers.”

“Every time the Minister announces changes to the planning rules, the planning department exceeds their authority by attempting to impose the rules retrospectively.  It is disappointing that the department has such a poor understanding of how much time, money and energy is wasted by investors by such actions.”

“The council should invest in an industry education program to help lift the business sensitivity of their planning staff.”

Council planning chair, Cr Ken Ong, defended his staff saying lawyers had struggled to discern the actual meaning of the language used in the C262 amendment.

‘The fault lay in the wording of the amendment itself,” Cr Ong said.

Cr Rohan Leppert agreed, calling the drafting a “monumental error”.

“If it wasn’t their fault, then why was a clarifying amendment necessary?” he asked.

Cr Leppert agreed that, if you followed what the Minister said at the time and referred to press releases, then you would have had a clear understanding.

“But it was what was actually poorly written in the amendment itself that our staff were obliged to follow,” he said.

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