Inner East Review
Wednesday, 6 December 2023

Complaints flow after council adopts planning change

Updated May 3 2022 - 5:27pm, first published 5:00am

Planning Minister Richard Wynne looks set to receive twin letters seeking clarification on the City of Yarra's planning scheme amendment which was adopted last month - one from the council and another from a coalition of annoyed residents.

The 600-page C269yara amendment is a complete rewrite of the council's planning scheme which dates back to 2014.

Despite the majority of its content being undisputed, the amendment provoked consternation when it came before the council on April 19.

For one thing, residents were angry at not being given access to last-minute changes to the complicated document before it was discussed at the meeting - something that also occurred when planning rule changes went before the council in March.

"Basically people were being asked to make a submission on material that they haven't been able to see," Glen McCallum of Protect Fitzroy North said.

"In fact, one of the councillors was actually calling points of order on residents for relevance.

"It was really Kafkaesque!"

Following a debate McCallum described as "confused" and "impenetrable", which went for more than two a half hours, councillors voted to adopt C269yara on condition the Acting CEO seek advice from the minister's department on some aspects of it.

At issue were changes made by the council's planning department to the recommendations of an independent Planning Panel that assessed C269yara last year - in particular those relating to where mid-rise development should be allowed to occur.

Planning officers argued their revisions more accurately expressed the intention of the Panel than what the Panel had written and better protected neighbourhoods from inappropriate development.

But residents involved in years-long processes around the planning scheme's update disputed that, seeing the planning department changes as enabling development where the Panel had deemed it should not occur.

They argued, together with several councillors, that the Panel's recommendations should stand unchanged.

Another issue causing unhappiness was a battle that a group of Richmond residents felt forced into over the planning status of their mixed-use precinct north of Richmond station.

According to them, a mapping inconsistency had created ambiguity, potentially opening their area up to major development by being incorporated into the Swan St activity centre.

Council officers had not been prepared to address the issue, and it was only through investing hundreds of unpaid hours that the residents were able to get the result they wanted through the independent Panel.

"Our gripe is that we never should've had to go through what we went through to get to this point," said Stephen McCulloch who runs the Friends of Wangaratta St Facebook page.

Despite the degree of angst, which saw a dozen public submitters take up the microphone to express their views and councillors engage in a long to-and-fro with staff, the vast majority of the amendment was not in dispute.

Glen McCallum said its provisions on affordable housing and developer contributions for open space were important big ticket items that were needed immediately, and his group was concerned its implementation would be delayed.

The amendment also clearly directs mid-rise and higher developments to activity centres, which was positive.

McCallum said the Yarra Planning Coalition would write to the Minister to explain its dispute with the council and seek clarity on what the Panel had intended.

In the spotlight ... two-and-a-half hour debate over Yarra planning changes
In the spotlight ... two-and-a-half hour debate over Yarra planning changes

Jenny Denton


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