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Smart Planning Program (2017)

What is the Smart Planning Program?

The Smart Planning Program is the first funded review of the Victorian Planning System in 20 years, and is a State Government lead initiative, being undertaken by the Department of Environment, Water, Land, and Planning (DEWLP).

Smart Planning’s objectives are to:

  • simplify planning regulation – this will improve the quality, consistency and efficiency of planning decision making; and
  • develop digital systems that allow citizens, industry and government to more easily access and understand planning rules and processes – this will boost activity, participation and efficiency.

The program is to be rolled out in two key stages. The first stage will be minor changes to the Victorian Planning Provisions, expected to be introduced prior to Christmas 2017. These changes are minor and there is no ability for Council to make submissions in relation to this stage.

The second stage is more extensive and expected to be introduced in June 2018. This stage proposes to make fundamental changes to the planning system, and seeks to do the following:

  • restructure the VPP and redraft some provisions to reflect the principles of a modern planning scheme;
  • widen the opportunity to use the VicSmart assessment pathway for simple applications;
  • align the State Planning Policy Framework and Local Planning Policy Framework into an integrated policy framework;
  • improve the clarity and usability of the VPP;
  • review and rationalise planning permit triggers;
  • review and increase permit exemptions;
  • respond to previous advisory committee reviews and new state government policy;
  • remove superfluous provisions, including duplicated and outdated clauses;
  • clarify common points of contention or confusion; and
  • update document titles and agency and ministerial references.

A discussion paper has been published by DEWLP and can be accessed at: Reforming the Victoria Planning Provisions.

Council’s Submission

There was an engagement process as part of the program. Submissions to DEWLP closed 1 December 2017. Council has lodged a submission to the program and the proposed changes, prior to the due date.

Council considers that the majority of changes proposed are positive and are expected to lead to a more efficient and practical planning process, however, there are areas of concern and further investigation is required by DEWLP.

Councils submission included a number of key comments and recommendations as summarised below:

  • The change in direction to a land based and built form Planning Policy Framework, and a move away from social policy, is considered counterintuitive. Social issues should also be considered as part of any planning assessment.
  • Concern with the proposal to have a new State Government Department dedicated to the writing of policy. This may lead to policies being written that lose the local intent of such policies, whilst leading to policies which are generic, and do not achieve the outcomes originally intended by Council.
  • Further red tape reduction should be investigated, where the planning permit process adds little value to the assessment of applications. As an example, for VicSmart applications for land in a Special Building Overlay, if the applicant already has the flood levels and recommended finished floor levels from Melbourne Water, why is there any need for planning permit process? These applications could be processed under the Building Regulations.
  • The Café code assessment concept is supported, however thought needs to be given as to how would this work in regards to car parking requirements. Often, car parking required for cafes exceeds the car parking provision for shop/retail uses, and can be problematic.
  • If small scale child care centres are proposed to be listed Section 1, permit not required uses in some residential zones, it is recommended that the car parking ratios for these centres needs to be updated. This is important to consider as the ratio of staff to children have increased in the last few years.
  • The definitions of uses with adverse amenity potential should be updated to be more contemporary, due to changes in technology, and changes in terms used in the manufacturing industry.
  • Reverse amenity and landfill buffers etc. should be reviewed as part of this program. The current legislation is hard to interpret, leads to confusion and is not clear.
  • The removal of the Licensed Premises and Gaming Particular Provisions will take away Council’s ability to challenge an application based on local concerns and preferences. Applicants would be able to obtain a liquor license or gaming license through the VCGLR, which is a less rigorous process and unlikely to take into account the specific local contexts. In addition, it would undermine Councils capacity to plan for safe and liveable communities.

For more information

If you have any further questions, please contact City Futures on 9298 8000 or email

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