In July 2016 the state government founded a department and established a two year programme tasked with making the Victorian planning system more effective and accessible. The programme was backed by $25 million of tax payer money, earmarked to run from July 2016 to June 2018 and named SMART Planning. As the programme now enters its last six months we look back at what has been achieved, what is earmarked to be achieved by June 2018 and what will happen after the programme finishes.
What has been achieved?
The most notable achievement of the programme has been the expansion of the VicSmart planning permit process. This is a process that allows ‘simpler’ applications, such as minor buildings and works in a commercial zone to benefit from a ten business day turnaround from lodgement of a planning application to Council to receipt of a decision. Since the programme started in July 2016 the qualifying criteria for VicSmart applications has been broadened which has helped business’, in particular benefit from reduced waiting times for planning permits and has assisted them in opening or growing their business. The expansion of VicSmart has been a great success and we hope to see it continue to expand if the programme is extended beyond June 2018. Specifically, expanded to include house extensions in residentially zoned land that meet prescriptive section criteria.
The programme also boasts the launching of VicPlan which is an online interactive mapping tool that allows users to search information on planning controls affecting a property in a quick, user friendly way. While VicPlan is undoubtly a more modern and user friendly website interface than its predecessor it still only provides the exact depth of information on planning controls that its predecessor did. It lists the council the property is within and a link to the zone and overlay controls for users to read. VicPlan is held up as one of the best outcomes of the programme to date and all be it, a much sleeker website interface it is an underwhelming outcome of the programme that presents the exact same depth of information as its predecessor.
Coupled with VicPlan the programme boasts the launching of a new website which contains all the council planning schemes in one location. This website is known as the Planning Scheme Information Management System (PSIMS). This outcome presents an improvement to the previous dated interface but is not a significant improvement that assists people involved in the planning industry.
The content of planning schemes across the state has been condensed to remove 3000 pages of clutter from planning schemes. This was a practical and sensible outcome of the programme.
The team have prepared Amendment VC142 which will affect every council in the state. This amendment will update the language and land use definitions of the scheme to reflect more modern living standards, introduce some additional planning permit exemptions for works in a heritage area and introduce some new planning permit triggers for works that were previously exempt.
What is to be achieved by June 2018?
The approval of Amendment VC142 will be a key goal of the programme that should comfortably be completed.
Establishment of a website that will allow for electronic lodgement of both planning scheme amendments and planning permit applications to the state government. This is a website for state government planning applications only. It is not a website that can be used to lodge planning applications for local councils to assess.
What will happen when the programme ends in June 2018?
If the programme successfully obtains funding to continue after June 2018 they will launch a new programme called ‘Transform’. As of January 2018 the objectives of transform were broad and no specific deliverables publically set out. Between September 2017 and December 2017 the team here were involved in direct consultations with the leaders of the programme to collaborate on what the goals of ‘Transform’ should be and where efforts should be focused if the programme is extended. Between January and June 2018 it will be up to the SMART plan team to formulate their business case to ensure additional funding is made available for ‘Transform’.