Coastal planning snatched from council by minister

Jason Dowling

April 9, 2011

Costal planning in Victoria has been thrown into disarray by a controversial planning takeover by the Baillieu government.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy has stripped planning control for prime coastal land between Portland and Narrawong from Glenelg Shire Council, on Victoria’s south-west coast.

As well as outraging local councillors, Mr Guy’s intervention signals a new approach to coastal development that calls into question the government’s commitment to climate change planning guidelines that have prevented people from building close to the shore.

The Glenelg council was to consider planning controls for the land in less than a fortnight after the conclusion of an expensive engineering study.

Former Planning Minister Justin Madden had placed interim planning controls over the coastal land to allow council time to develop an appropriate planning policy for the area.

Mr Madden cited the need to consider the impact of coastal development on the environment and the impact of climate change, specifically sea level rises of not less than 80 centimetres by 2100.

Some of the land Mr Guy has taken planning control over is affected by the 80-centimetre sea level rise guideline.

The Baillieu government removed Mr Madden’s interim planning controls on the land in January and Mr Guy wrote to the council last month calling on it to act on 16 ”active planning permit applications”.

”Please be advised that if you fail to provide me a satisfactory response within seven days, I will take the appropriate action to become the Responsible Authority for planning permit applications” for the areas, he wrote.

Mr Guy yesterday announced he had taken over planning control for the valuable coastal land.

”The Baillieu government believes it is important that affected landowners are provided with fairness and certainty and have access to timely decisions on their outstanding permit applications presently with Glenelg Shire Council,” he said in a media release posted on the government’s website.

Members of the Glenelg Shire Council are furious.

Cr Gilbert Wilson said it was a ”return to the Kennett days” where local councils were shut out of decision making by government.

He said the intervention was a very bad look for the new planning minister.

Local mayor Bruce Cross is also concerned by the planning takeover.

”The area that is under consideration is impacted by the 0.8-metre climate change [guideline], but there is also a very complex coastal management strategy that has been done,” he said.

”Council was in a position of taking up a policy at its next council meeting, which was less than a fortnight away and we are little bit disappointed that it has been taken out of our hands,” he said.

Asked if he believed the takeover decision could have wider ramifications for coastal planning in Victoria, Cr Cross said: ”It becomes a very interesting situation because we only represent a very small portion of the coastline.”

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said the Planning Minister’s intervention bullied the local council and threw coastal planning in Victoria into confusion.

”Here we have got the heavy hand of Mr Guy telling local communities what’s best for them and denying them a say,” he said.

”It is clear that the government has got no plan or strategy, it has got an ad hoc approach to planning that is placing future communities at risk when it comes to coastal planning.”



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