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Part 3: List of recommendations

Part 3 of this report sets out a complete list of its 27 recommendations and the actions required to implement them.

  • This report recommends simplifying planning schemes by:

    • building on recent reforms, focusing on plain language drafting principles, improving digital delivery and accessibility and completing the translation of planning schemes into the integrated Planning Provisions Framework;
    • consolidating planning scheme requirements that serve similar purposes and updating longstanding policies to reduce overlap and duplication;
    • DELWP prioritising the development of State-wide planning policies, particularly on emerging issues (as has been recently done in the case of developments overshadowing solar panels);
    • developing tighter criteria for where local variations of planning policy are justified to provide a better framework for local policy development; and
    • councils working together within their regions and across Victoria, to harmonise local planning policies where possible.

    These measures should be led by DELWP, working in consultation with councils.

  • This report recommends streamlining the planning scheme amendment process by:

    • DELWP providing councils with a final response within 30 days of DELWP initiating a “further review” of an authorisation request;
    • DELWP exploring opportunities to stream different types of planning scheme amendments and package multiple amendments in omnibus amendments;
    • as part of Better Reporting, DELWP to measure and review the performance of the planning scheme amendment process from start to finish and to identify the steps in the chain that are causing some amendments to take unreasonable time;
    • modernising how proposed planning scheme amendments are publicly explained, updating notice templates to support plain-language, multi-language notices and using images for significant planning scheme amendments – DELWP should provide an updated Planning Practice Note to support the use of these new provisions;
    • councils referring exhibited amendments to Planning Panels Victoria (PPV) at the earliest opportunity in cases where there are clearly unresolvable objections — DELWP should provide guidance on how this can be managed through delegations;
    • reducing the maximum period for publication of Panel reports by councils from 28 days to 14 days;
    • requiring councils to provide reasons as well as notice for a decision to abandon or to not consider or progress an amendment; and
    • clarifying the process for applicants to formally seek a planning scheme amendment related to their land and how such requests can be referred to the Minister should the council unreasonably reject the proposal – this may require an amendment to the Planning and Environment Act 1987.
  • This report recommends streamlining the Precinct Structure Planning (PSP) process by:

    • finalising the VPA’s PSP 2.0 process and applying this to the current round of greenfield precincts, in order to reduce the average completion time to two years;
    • adapting the VPA’s PSP 2.0 process as the standard method for structure planning for all major precincts, strategic sites and regional developments;
    • requiring early engagement of key government agencies in the VPA planning process to ensure that future requirements for infrastructure, including transport, education, health and other community facilities are properly embedded in agency forward plans, with timing of delivery linked to future development needs;
    • using the PSP plans to empower the sequencing of how a new community develops over time and community facilities are delivered, enabling infrastructure providers to use trigger points (for example, population) and capital works programming to ensure that schools, parks and public transport are delivered at the appropriate point in the cycle and not built at the end;
    • DPC and DTF considering how the longer-term planning for infrastructure development is integrated with the State budget cycle and timely utilisation of developer contributions, including consideration of development-related need for State infrastructure; and
    • reducing delays between precinct planning and permits for the first stage of development by encouraging concurrent assessment processes for subdivision and permits and the PSP process, bearing in mind the provisions in section 96A of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 are rarely used.
  • This report recommends expediting planning for precincts and strategic sites by:

    • DELWP and DJPR classifying the numerous precincts already identified in Plan Melbourne and the Regional Growth Plans into three tiers of responsibility:
      • State priority precincts (the responsibility of DJPR);
      • precincts of strategic importance (generally referred to VPA); and
      • key local growth precincts (generally planned by the responsible council);
    • DELWP and DJPR issuing clear criteria to designate new precincts and strategic sites;
    • including in the criteria for precincts and strategic sites factors such as economic and job potential, community support, opportunities for innovation and synergies with State infrastructure projects – other considerations include opportunities for value uplift and the need for coordination;
    • providing ongoing funding through the Streamlining for Growth program for the VPA to support councils planning key local growth precincts, in each case using the most appropriate of the VPA’s four engagement levels;
    • facilitating better coordinated planning by the Minister, where appropriate, using the existing powers to appoint him or herself as the responsible authority for State priority precincts and some sites of strategic importance, appointing the VPA or DJPR as planning authority and setting clear timeframes for outcomes;
    • creating a Standing Advisory Committee under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to advise the Minister for Planning on strategic sites at the Minister’s request (and to form the Panel for hearings on planning scheme amendments if requested);
    • looking at adopting similar mechanisms to the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009 to aid the delivery of major sites; and
    • considering new approaches to expediting the issuing of planning permits and subdivisions in State priority precincts and precincts of strategic importance (such as adopting a coordinated approach to referrals and secondary approvals, utilising some of the lessons from the Queensland SARA model).
  • This report recommends supporting councils to improve their pre-application processes and provide more help to applicants by:

    • supporting councils to adopt early engagement opportunities through the Better Planning Approvals program
    • focusing early engagement approaches to assist applicants to provide all the information required under the planning scheme (see also Recommendation B2 regarding decision-ready applications) and supporting early engagement with external referral authorities and council departments for internal referrals
    • using the upcoming review of planning fees to consider prescribing fees or fee structures for pre-application services (including fees that may vary within prescribed limits and giving councils discretion over whether to charge fees).

    The report notes that to deliver significant improvements in application processing including reducing delays and ensuring sound decision-making, it is imperative that the improvements regarding early engagement, clarity of information requirements, improvements having decision-ready applications and managing assessment times are integrated and that the relevant recommendations considered together. This means that these recommended actions overlap with those in Recommendations B2 and B7, relating to only assessing applications that are decision-ready and pausing (rather than resetting) the clock for requests for information.

    Further work is being done to integrate these three recommendations and address concerns raised by stakeholders.

  • This report recommends ensuring applications are decision-ready before they are assessed by:

    • developing guidelines, forms and checklists to ensure that applicants are clear about what information is required under a planning scheme (this work to be led by DELWP, in collaboration with councils) and the standards that applications must meet
    • reviewing and clarifying the Victorian Planning Provisions (VPP) information requirements, and identifying opportunities to remove any duplicative or unnecessary information requirements (this work to be led by DELWP, in collaboration with councils)
    • amending the regulatory framework to allow councils to only assess applications once they are decision-ready and for the statutory clock on council decision to start once applications are decision-ready.

    See also the related comments under B1 regarding the need for integrating improvements regarding early engagement, clarity of information requirements, improvements having decision-ready applications and managing assessment times.

  • This report recommends that, as part of the Better Planning Approvals program (see Part 1), DELWP should support all councils completing the move to online permit tracking and processing by:

    • conducting a stocktake of the current situation and the capabilities of digital platforms in each council
    • identifying which improvements in these systems would be required to facilitate the best practices identified in this Review, and to determine which would be most beneficial to each council’s planning processes as part of the Better Planning Approvals program
    • exploring mechanisms like the Rural Council Transformation Fund to target support for online tracking and processing of planning applications for groups of rural and regional councils and prioritising those that will accelerate collaboration towards a standardised and integrated system across councils.
  • This report recommends improving planning resources for councils by expanding the five DELWP Regional Planning Service offices to create Regional Planning Hubs which would provide councils with:

    • access to staff to help manage short-term workloads as well as provide access to specialist strategic and statutory planning skills suited to the needs of each region
    • training packages (including online modules) focused on the practical skills required in each region to deliver improved processes, including the implementation of the reforms coming out of this report
    • support to underpin collaboration between regional groups of councils and to facilitate regular forums to promote best practice as well as an annual state-wide conference.
  • This report recommends modernising public advertising of proposals by:

    • requiring planning notices for proposals to include a picture of the intended development subject to specific triggers (for example, size or significance of development) with clear guidelines on the form and content of images
    • supporting councils to deploy user-friendly notice designs with quick and clear pathways (including QR codes) to access further information about an application
    • supporting councils to provide supplementary notice via council websites, email alerts and/or social media (to be done as part of the Better Planning Approvals program)
    • updating guidance on best-practice processes for notifications of different types of permit applications, including reviewing greater use of online notification and the requirement for formal newspaper advertisements.

    This work should be done as part of the Better Planning Approvals program in collaboration with councils.

  • This report recommends streaming applications according to risk by:

    • reducing restrictions on specific land use types where those uses are compatible with the purpose of the zone (such as non-retail service provision uses being allowed in retail centres without a permit)
    • facilitating the provision of important community services such as child care, aged care or social housing facilities in residential areas
    • further consulting on and refining the proposed VicSmart Plus to provide a third pathway for low-risk applications
    • reducing the current occupancy restrictions and including secondary dwellings on a single title in the proposed VicSmart Plus permit approval stream – there should be further consultation with councils and industry to confirm standard characteristics
    • developing a small lot code for established areas as part of VicSmart Plus and in consultation with councils and industry.
  • This report recommends reducing requests for further information (RFIs) by focusing them on those matters which go beyond that which is required for a complete application by:

    • starting the ‘decision clock’ only once an application is decision-ready
    • pausing – rather than resetting – the clock when council issues an RFI
    • adopting guidelines to focus the use of RFIs on requests for information that is needed to inform a decision
    • discouraging the use of RFIs by councils for purposes other than to obtain information to inform a decision (for example, using RFIs to request changes to a design)
    • supporting councils to share insights about and improve their practices for accurately assessing the need for RFIs by issuing a PPN and facilitating training opportunities
    • making more use of VCAT’s Short Cases List in the event of disputes about the content of RFIs.

    See also the related comments under B1 regarding the need for integrating improvements regarding early engagement, clarity of information requirements, improvements having decision-ready applications and managing assessment times.

    Given the improvements embedding early engagement and the discipline around “decision-ready” applications, there will be less need for requests for further information later in the process.

  • This report recommends reducing response times for external referrals by:

    • the Government giving formal advice to referral authorities about the importance of their statutory role in the planning system and the need to provide timely responses
    • authorities providing the appropriate focus and resources to their role as referral authorities
    • improving the customer-focus of referral authorities by engaging early with applicants to provide up-front direction on triggers for referrals and the likely information required (as part of councils’ early engagement services – see B1)
    • DELWP collaborating with referral authorities and councils to standardise requirements for simple, low-risk referrals so that these can be assessed directly by councils and referral authorities can focus resources on complex referrals
    • considering giving referral authorities access to grants under Streamlining for Growth to improve their internal systems
    • requiring referral authorities to report their performance as part of the Better Reporting framework
    • establishing regional forums among referral authorities to share insights about best-practice (to be led by DELWP in collaboration with the VPA).
  • This report recommends improving transparency and accountability for decision timeframes by:

    • keeping applicants up to date about their application’s progress through the assessment process (achieving this through the proposed Better Planning Approvals program and the adoption of online management of applications)
    • councils reporting on time taken at different stages of the assessment and decision process through PPARS in the Better Reporting framework
    • in cases where applicants indicate at the beginning of an application process that they are willing to agree to longer approval timeframes, in return for confidence that it will be met, having councils agree up front.
  • This report recommends providing frameworks for councils, based on several best practice examples of delegation arrangements, that councils can elect to adopt or amend, in accordance with local circumstances:

    • DELWP working with councils to develop suitable criteria for delegation of decision-making based on approaches used by councils already where decision-making frameworks are clear, effective and efficient
    • DELWP and MAV preparing example deeds of delegation to support councils in choosing and applying the delegation mechanisms that are appropriate to their needs and consistent with other councils’ practices
    • supporting councillors through training to better understand their roles and responsibilities when making decisions under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the planning scheme.
  • This report recommends reducing the time taken for post-permit approvals and improving the clarity and quality of post permit conditions and approvals by:

    • DELWP developing guidance and training on best-practice post-permit approvals processes and standards;
    • focusing guidance and training on applying conditions that arise directly from issues relating to a permit and only using conditions that are necessary and reasonable where other provisions cannot manage compliance
    • incorporating benchmark approval timeframes into post-permit guidance
    • setting standards for urban and non-urban areas through a manual of standardised engineering infrastructure requirements and conditions – this approach should aim to facilitate greater consistency across councils and reduce the time taken to negotiate infrastructure contributions
    • reporting through PPARS as part of the Better Reporting framework on time taken for key stages in post-permit approval processes
    • utilising the Better Planning Approvals approach to ensure internal referrals are considered up front and concurrently with planning assessment as part of the permit process to avoid conflicting or unnecessary conditions.

    This report notes that implementing Recommendations B1, B2 and B7 to coordinate internal referrals as part of a concierge approach that begins with early engagement pre-application services, improve the quality of applications and only assess applications that are decision-ready should lead to fewer post approval conditions and faster assessment of endorsed plans.

  • This report recommends making it easier to get variations to the terms of a permit approved by:

    • DELWP collaborating with councils to prepare a Planning Practice Note to update guidance on post-permit variations (including both secondary consents and extensions of time) along with benchmarks for reasonable timeframes for approvals
    • using the upcoming review of fees as an opportunity to consider prescribing fees or fee structures for post-permit services provided by councils
    • making more use of VCAT’s Short Cases List hear appropriate secondary consent disputes more frequently and more quickly
    • as part of the Better Reporting framework, supporting councils to report on key aspects of the post-permit process (see also Recommendation B3 regarding supporting councils to upgrade digital systems to make such reporting easier).
  • This report recommends reducing timelines for electricity connections by:

    • developing a performance reporting framework for residential non-standard electricity connections including common timeframes for distribution businesses
    • formalising ongoing public reporting requirements, including enforceable timelines for defined residential non-standard electricity connection in greenfield developments with clear and effective compliance obligations, in parallel with the ESC’s current review of the EDC
    • increasing training requirements and encouraging tighter endorsement for civil contractors to improve the quality of civil works
    • reviewing sources of locational data to identify opportunities to have a single address database for electricity connections and other purposes.
  • This report recommends simplifying the payment of infrastructure contributions by:

    • boosting efforts by the VPA to streamline the GAIC staged payment system (including a simpler method for rolling these over if the GAIC liability has not been triggered within the financial year)
    • establishing regular meetings between the VPA, Land Use Victoria (LUV) and the State Revenue Office (SRO) and industry representatives to monitor the implementation of current reforms (such as SRO’s work with LUV to integrate GAIC notices in the PEXA and SPEAR systems and the provision of an online calculator for staged payments)
    • abolishing the (now redundant) GAIC Hardship Board
    • developing a stronger and more predictable policy framework for future developer contributions, drawing on recent work by the VPA, DELWP, councils and industry on Infrastructure Contribution Plans (ICPs), the work of the current Ministerial Advisory Committee on Affordable Housing and the recent experience with councils’ existing section 173 model agreements.
  • This report recommends engaging earlier with authorities outside the planning system by:

    • using councils’ early engagement approaches including pre-application processes to alert applicants to other approvals that may apply and involving other authorities earlier as appropriate
    • working with the Commonwealth at both Ministerial and Departmental levels to reduce the time taken for approvals under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (including raising the issues through the Commonwealth’s recently announced review of the national environmental approvals system)
    • considering the issues of keeping council heritage studies and overlays up to date, interim heritage protection requests and the relation with demolition permits as part of the Heritage Council’s current review of local heritage issues
    • DELWP providing clearer guidance for councils and proponents about State and local heritage responsibilities and processes, including the safety protections of the Building Act 1993.
  • This report recommends improving coordination of internal referrals by:

    • involving planning and building staff as well as heritage, drainage, engineering and other specialist staff in councils in early engagement services to identify key issues up front (as part of the Better Planning Approvals program)
    • developing a consolidated flood mapping dataset
    • councils requesting that applicants include up-to-date flood information (provided by the appropriate authority) and other information required by a planning scheme in flood-prone areas.
  • This report recommends expanding the workforce of building surveyors, inspectors and fire safety engineers by:

    • DELWP collaborating with the VBA to Introduce a new class of registration for building surveyors restricted to certifying Class 1 and Class 10 buildings and structures with a floor area of up to 500 square metres. To ensure national consistency this recommendation should take into consideration equivalent classes of registration in other states and territories and be aligned with the current Commonwealth national training package project, which is reviewing the vocational education and training qualifications for building surveyors
    • the VBA partnering with industry bodies to continue to promote the building surveying and inspection professions as a career option for secondary school students (with a focus on women)
    • the VBA partnering with industry bodies and training providers to work towards improving the availability and quality of the courses prescribed for the registration of building surveyors and inspectors by:
      • improving access to these courses in regional Victoria
      • strengthening the coverage of the Building Act 1993 and the National Construction Code (NCC) in the curriculum for those courses
      • exploring whether other courses could be prescribed for the registration of building surveyors and inspectors
      • supporting the development of industry trainers and training materials
    • the VBA, municipal building surveyors and industry bodies working together to introduce cadetships to assist graduate surveyors to obtain relevant work experience in the sector
    • supporting Engineer Australia’s pipeline strategy to address the predicted shortage in local engineering skills
    • the VBA developing bridging pathways to enable practitioners from related occupations to transfer into building surveying and inspection work.
  • This report recommends improving access to building records by making the Building Activity Management System (BAMS), introduced by the VBA to manage building permit numbers, the State’s central registry for these records for councils and building practitioners in Victoria.

  • This report recommends DELWP and VBA streamlining building permit requirements for low-risk work while maintaining safety and quality by considering the following exemptions in the context of national harmonisation:

    • exemptions for the construction of decks and sheds from the requirement to obtain a building permit if they comply with the NCC and any other conditions determined necessary to ensure the standard of building work, nearby amenity and community safety, for example:
      • the deck is less than 800 millimetres in height
      • the shed has a floor area not exceeding 16 square metres
    • an exemption from the requirement to obtain a building permit for mobility access ramps, for example based on the criteria such as:
      • it complies with the NCC
      • it complies with any other conditions determined necessary to ensure the standard of building work, nearby amenity and community safety
      • if the mobility ramp is 800 millimetres or above in height, it is certified on completion by a building surveyor or inspector
      • the appropriate class or classes of buildings to which the exemption is to apply have been assessed and determined.
  • This report recommends standardising construction management plans by DELWP working with councils and MAV to:

    • develop a model law for adoption by councils on the matters needed to be included in different levels of construction management plans. The model law should standardise these matters to the extent possible
    • prepare a standard template for each level of construction management plan identified in the model law along with supporting guidelines for builders and developers that could be adopted by councils across Victoria with local variation, where required. Development of the standard templates and guidelines should draw on the documentation already being used by some councils
    • include the construction management plan process in the Better Planning Approvals program.
  • This report recommends improving the consistency of council asset protection requirements by DELWP working with councils and MAV to:

    • prepare a standard practice guide for applicants for asset protection permits that could be adopted by councils across Victoria, allowing local variation, where required
    • develop a model law and enforcement policy to be adopted by councils on the matters needed to be covered by permits to protect council assets, utility assets and other development-related work – the model law should standardise these matters to the extent possible while recognising the different needs of individual and groups of councils
    • include the asset protection permit process in the Better Planning Approvals program.
  • This report recommends distinguishing building “consultants” from building surveyors by:

    • CAV continuing to raise consumer awareness of:
      • what to look for when engaging a building consultant
      • the importance of engaging a qualified and/or experienced building consultant
    • DELWP (in consultation with the VBA) reviewing the role and conduct of building consultants, and the measures to address the issues identified – the review should consider non-regulatory and regulatory measures such as a registration scheme and a code of conduct for building consultants.
  • This report notes that there are several measures underway which support this outcome, and in that context, recommends clarifying the processes for enforcement of the building permit approvals process through:

    • the review of the Building Act 1993 announced by the Victorian Government in 2019 considering:
      • alternative models to clarify and strengthen responsibility and processes for the administration and enforcement of the building permit approvals process
      • the respective roles of private and municipal building surveyors to minimise the conflict of interest inherent in the private certification of building work
      • expanding the role of the State Building Surveyor to include ongoing monitoring and reporting on the performance of the building permit approvals process, and to make recommendations to improve that process, where needed
    • developing the protocol between the VBA and councils that was recommended in the 2019 Report from the Co-Chairs of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce to set out accountabilities, mechanisms for cooperation and communication, strategic interventions and agreed procedures for referring enforcement actions
    • the VBA continuing its current work to:
      • develop and implement a code of conduct for building surveyors and inspectors
      • develop VBA/council statements of intent to strengthen information sharing
    • DELWP and the VBA also developing practice guides for building surveyors and inspectors on the processes and matters they must examine when conducting inspections of the various classes of buildings.

Reviewed 09 November 2021

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