Submission to the planning zones review
1. Background: Green Wedges and the role of the Green Wedges Coalition
The 1968-71 metropolitan planning process officially established nine Green Wedges as non-urban zones between Melbourne's main urban development corridors. It outlined acceptable non-urban uses, including recreation, flora and fauna conservation. landscape protection, resource utilization and farming. The protection of public land and of public open space is integral to the first two of these uses, but not necessarily to the others.
These non-urban zones, together with metropolitan parks and other fringe areas of special significance play a vital role in protecting areas which are critical for Melbourne's future as a livable city. They have been further protected by legislative and planning provisions introduced as part of Melbourne 2030, which added a further three green wedges.
The Green Wedges were to be Melbourne's breathing spaces, to separate the urban development designed to be confined to the transport corridors. But while development spread out along the transport corridors, there was increasing pressure on municipal councils to permit the development of the Green Wedges for residential and industrial uses. Hence in May 2002, representatives of the main environment or Green Wedge defender groups in each of Melbourne's nine green wedges formed the Green Wedges Coalition to make representations to State Government and to the Opposition for green wedge protection.
In this we were successful when the State Government announced green wedge protection policies before the 2002 election to protect Melbourne’s green wedges from subdivision and inappropriate urban uses. Opposition support for the green wedge protection legislation passed through the Legislative Assembly before the 2002 election meant support was bipartisan. ( While a similar bill reintroduced after the election was not supported by the Opposition we were assured by the deputy leader Mr Honeywood that this was for process reasons and did not imply any withdrawal of Liberal support for green wedges.)
The Government’s green wedge protection policy was included in Clause 12 of the Planning Scheme (Metropolitan Strategy), with specific sections relating to Green Wedges and the Urban Growth Boundary, as well as in the provision for new green wedges zones and an amendment to the Planning and Environment Act.
We now have 164 environmental and community group members, including resident, ratepayer and progress associations and strong community support, coordinated by the peak environment coalition or green wedge protection or defender group in all of Melbourne’s 12 green wedges. (Please see attached our constituent membership list.)
The proposed radical changes to the planning zones, especially to the Green Wedge and Rural Conservation Zones represent the most far-reaching changes for a decade and some say since the introduction of the green wedges in 1968-71. They represent a radical deregulation of the oplanning scheme, and a shift away from orderly pl;anning to open slather/anything goes policy
2.1 Process concerns:
To introduce such radical measures with only ten weeks notice for submissions is grossly inadequate, particularly when compared with the apparently more leisurely Metropolitan Strategy process. This is especially remarkable when one recalls the two years of community consultation that preceded the introduction of the previous metropolitan strategy, Melbourne 2030.
It means that virtually no members of the public have had any warning. At our Council, Kingston, officers said they barely had time to get a submission ready for the September Planning committee to adopt and would have had no time to prepare a presentation for a public meeting.
Another short-cut appears to be an almost total lack if strategic justification for these changes and an equal apparent lack of effort to consider the unintended consequences that may follow them.
Lack of time means that many submissions will be sketchy, as this one is.
2.2 Zone changes: Taken together, the proposed changes to the zones will lead to the urbanization of the green wedges. Effectively they constitute a deregulation of the planning scheme and will lead to the urbanization of the rural zones and green wedges. Please see my attached list of new uses and see also a more comprehensive table of uses across the rural zones developed by Chris Pruneau or Macedon Ranges Residents Association. Overall there are now far more discretionary zones.
The main concerns include:
2.3 Moving a number of uses (agriculture, primary produce sales, rural store, And rural industry) deprive councils and communities of their right hitherto to consider such applications in the context of their surroundings and of their impact on the rural amenity, environment, residential amenity and right to farm of their neighjbours and communities.
2.4 Moving an even greater number of formerly prohibited or conditional uses to Section 2 (discretionary) uses will leasd to a great deal more concern about uses that formerly were not allowed or were strictly conditioned. This will lead to a great deal more time and money wasted at VCAT as urban uses such as medical centres, service stations, display homes and schools head for the cheaper land in the green wedge and rural zones, despite the impact on existing residents and genuine farmers.
2.5 Former tourist uses eg restaurant, residential hotel, function centres, and residential buildings will become urban uses when deprived of the conditions formerly required eg to be in conjunction with agriculture or wineries.
2.6 Schools are a particularly unwise use to allow in the rural zones, as they are an urban uses and should be located near where children live.
3. These extra developments will have a significant environmental toll, similar to that which is now being taken as a result of the recently released growth corridor plans. They also run counter to the purposes of the green wedge and rural conservation zones.
4.1 We are particularly concerned that we have not had time to meet with or consult our members about these radical and far-reaching changes to the green wedges, or even to send them this draft for approval and comment. Our member groups (see attached list) have extensive experience which ought to be taken into account, yet most of them probably are not fully aware of the full extent and implications of the changes: indeed we are not. Hence these recommendations are tentative and we would appreciate the opportunity for further consideration and consultation which we can then take into account when we submit to your committee, if we are given that opportunity.
4.2 In particular, we would like to consult our members about whether or not we would support any of the new Section 1 uses. While we support farm-gate sales, we do have concerns that the Primary Produce Sales provision could see country roads lines with 50m2 shops, as of right, with little consideration for the neighbours or for the landscape. In this light, we would like to consider which currently prohibited uses we might recommend allowing with permits and what current uses we consider ought to be prohibited. (see 4.6 below)
4.3 We are opposed to the new Section 2 uses, which are urban uses that should be in urban areas, where the pupils (for schools) and patients (for medical centres) are.
4.4 We are also opposed to the removal of conditions for tourist and research uses.
4.5 We are concerned that little or no consideration seems to have been given to the purpose of the zones in drafting these proposed changes.
4.6 We recommend that education centres ought to be allowed with permit subject to more careful drafting, as they were in 2003. Minister Hulls prohibited them after a Steiner School was permitted by VCAT to establish as an “education centre” on an old Melbourne Water site down a dirt road near a reservoir.
4.7 We recommend vehicle stores should be prohibited, as this provision has been used to allow a bus depot to establish in a green wedge.
5. If the Ministerial Advisory Committee is, as the Minister stated at a recent Planning backlash meeting, able to hear submitters, I would like the Green Wedges Coaltion to have the opportunity to submit. I hope this will give us an opportunity to revise and submit a more detailed submission in the llight of our members’ experience.
Green Wedges Coalition
(incorporated as the Green Wedges Guardians Alliance)
Attached to subsequent email:
1. Green Wedges Charter (with a brief green wedge history and summary of current concerns.)
2. Green Wedges Coalition constituent membership contact list (for each green wedge).