Each municipal planning scheme provides the vision and basis for decisions on the future land use and development and the operation of planning in their respective municipality.
It is critical that there is an awareness of when respective councils are preparing their Council Plans which in turn is the trigger for each council to prepare for the review its planning scheme as required by the State Government.
This process is a very significant opportunity for environmental groups to identify and advocate for issues central to the future of the environment in their local government area or region.
Under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Section 12B) a planning authority which is a municipal council must review its planning scheme no later than one year after each date by which it is required to approve a Council Plan under section 125 of the Local Government Act 1989, or within such a longer period as determined by the Planning Minister. According to the Local Government Act a Council Plan must be prepared and approved after each general election.
General State elections are conducted on a set term in November every four years. The last state election in Victoria was held in November 2014. The status of the review process will need to be obtained on a council by council basis.
This review offers a very real opportunity for environmental groups to advocate for issues of importance for their given local area and seek to amend the Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) and the accompanying Local Policy.
The MSS is a visionary statement that contains:
(a) The strategic planning, land use and development objectives of the planning authority;
(b) The strategies for achieving the objectives;
(c) A general explanation of the relationship between those objectives and strategies and the controls on the use and development of land in the planning scheme; and
(d) Any other provision or matter which the Minister directs to be included in the municipal strategic statement.
Overall the MSS provides the vision and policy for determining the future land use allowed and its spatial distribution within a municipality and the rationale for the zone and overlay requirements and particular provisions in that council’s planning scheme.
An MSS must be consistent with the Council Plan.
A fuller explanation of the review process can be found in the General Practice Note: ‘Review of Planning Schemes, Planning and Environment Act 1987, Section 12B’.
There is a need for environmental groups to Identify when their respective municipal councils are reviewing their planning schemes and the opportunities for participation and advocate for key environmental issues.
The monthly listing of the planning scheme amendments does help do this but the usually short exhibition time after they are entered on the state government website means that groups need to be proactive if they are to have the maximum opportunity for input to the development of the new council plan and the subsequent process for the revision of the planning scheme.