The ‘Real’ Planning and Development Process in Darebin
- The developer submits to council an ambit claim planning proposal eg. The plans are for 6 units on a single block but they really just want to build 3. (not seen by Councilors or the community) An ambit claim is an extravagant initial demand made in expectation of an eventual counter-offer and compromise.
- The proposal is assigned to a council planning officer who works with the developer to point out where the proposal doesn’t meet the planning scheme in an attempt to bring the proposal in line with legislative requirements. (not seen by Councilors or the community)
- The developer may submit more plans that meet some but never all of the legislative requirements. They think that near enough will get them through council and VCAT process. (not seen by Councilors or the community)
- The planning officer decides if the planning proposal is to be advertised or not. If the decision is to not advertise because the planning application is in ‘general in accordance’ then your third party objection rights are removed.
- If a decision is made to advertise and if you are quick and catch the advertising sign on the site you can send in an objection pointing out why the application is lacking and how that will negatively impact on you. (Can be seen by the community)
- If you miss the closing date bad luck you lost your only chance to have a say.
- If there are less than 5 objections then the officer will make the decision to either approve or refuse the planning application. They usually approve. (not seen by Councilors or the community)
- If there are more than 5 objections, from within 200 metres of the site, the proposal will go to the Planning Committee for the decision. (where the community can have a say and appeal to Councilors)
- While waiting to be heard at the planning committee the developer many submit further plans, especially if their ambit claim is so outrageous they think it will be rejected by the officer and Planning Committee. (not seen by Councilors or the community)
- At the Planning Committee objectors get 5 minutes in total to make a verbal appeal to Councilors to refuse the planning proposal.
- If the proposal is refused by the council planning committee then the developer can submit further plans to council and a planning officer decides if they will be accepted, they usually are, and reassessed by an officer. (not seen by Councilors but parties to a hearing at VCAT might get to see them, not objectors or the community)
- If the proposal is refused by the council planning committee then the developer can seek an appeal at VCAT. They can also continue to submit plans until the VCAT hearing. These never go back to Councilors at planning committee for their refusal or approval. (developers can and do leave out aspects of the design they know council will refuse in the initial plans and then add them in to later plans if they think VCAT will approve them eg. car stackers)
- If the application is approved by VCAT and/or Council the developer builds what they like, regardless of approved plans. During the build they apply for variations/amendments. Variations are always approved by the planning department and not seen by councilors or the community. These are advertised, but only those who objected to the original application are eligible to object to the amendment, and the public is not made aware of this ruling.
- Community members can ask the council investigations officer to take a look at new development to check specific details that do not meet the approved plans and if lucky they may find other aspects that do not meet the approved plans.
- Conditions of the permit are un-enforceable and are not enforced by an under resourced town planning department who a busy at HQ dealing with paper work and phone calls about other proposals. And the present frenzy of applications dilutes/stretches the available resources for processing them.
Finally: The whole stupid charade should have been stopped at step (2) simply by saying no, your ridiculous planning proposal is refused for reasons that can be rapidly documented in a pro forma letter. ‘Kindly Stop wasting everybody’s time.’
Still we have a very good record of defeating poor planning proposals at council and VCAT even though the process is heavily weighted in favor of developers, against objectors who are residents and rate payers.