On 28 October, Sustainable Australia MP Clifford Hayes MP successfully introduced a motion in the Legislative Council calling for an Inquiry on the adequacy of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the Victorian planning framework in relation to planning and heritage protection.
The motion was supported by the Opposition and crossbenchers including Dr Samantha Ratnam, leader of the Victorian Greens. In his speech to the Chamber, Mr Hayes highlighted a number of heritage places lost to development in recent years, including the 1966 Breedon House by Geoffrey Woodfall which was demolished while being assessed for its heritage significance, a modernist gem by Chancellor & Patrick at 27 Mariemont Avenue in Beaumaris, and Toorak mansion Idylwilde, which was demolished in 2015, with the site now remaining vacant.
Hayes also called out the inadequacy of penalties for the illegal demolition of heritage places, citing the developers of the Corkman Irish Pub, who had their fines cut on appeal, and are currently facing legal action for failing to deliver on state and local government requirements to turn the site into a public park.
He also cited continuing advocacy by the National Trust to strengthen heritage protections and recognise the important role of heritage in connecting people and place, contributing to vibrant communities.
Dr Samantha Ratnam, leader of the Victorian Greens, contributed to the Terms of Reference, and noted the need to consider environmental protections and the protection of vegetation, in the context of climate change, and the impacts of the “urban heat island” effect arising from the loss of canopy trees and green space.
The Inquiry will investigate a range of aspects of the Victorian planning system, including:
– The high cost of housing, including but not limited to—
(a) provision of social housing;
(b) access for first home buyers;
(c) the cost of rental accommodation;
(d) population policy, state and local;
(e) factors encouraging housing as an investment vehicle;
(f) mandatory affordable housing in new housing developments.
– Environmental sustainability and vegetation protection.
– Delivering certainty and fairness in planning decisions for communities, including but not limited to:
(a) mandatory height limits and minimum apartment sizes;
(b) protecting Green Wedges and the urban growth boundary;
(c) community concerns about VCAT appeal processes;
(d) protecting third party appeal rights;
(e) the role of Ministerial call-ins;
– Protecting heritage in Victoria, including but not limited to —
(a) the adequacy of current criteria and processes for heritage protection;
(b) possible federal involvement in heritage protection;
(c) separating heritage protection from the planning administration;
(d) establishing a heritage tribunal to hear heritage appeals;
(e) the appointment of independent local and state heritage advisers;
(f) the role of Councils in heritage protection;
(g) penalties for illegal demolitions and tree removals;
– Ensuring residential zones are delivering the type of housing that communities want.
– Any other matter the Committee considers relevant.
The National Trust looks forward to providing input into the Parliamentary Inquiry, which is due to report by June 2022, and will continue to provide updates on its progress.