Dealing with Amendment C219

In December 2017, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council adopted the Mornington Peninsula Housing and Settlement Strategy (The Strategy). The adoption of The Strategy has created difficulty for developers on the peninsula, as multi dwelling proposals which were previously supported by Council have now become highly contentious.

Overview of the Strategy and its background

The formation of The Strategy originated from Plan Melbourne, which identified the need for localised Planning Statements for green wedge areas within close proximity to Melbourne. The role of the localised statement was to identify the distinct character and role of the Mornington Peninsula (in comparison to Metropolitan Melbourne) and to reinforce that any growth should be constrained to existing townships. The State Government also reformed the residential zones in 2017 (allowing 3 stories within the General Residential Zone, which covers many of the townships on the peninsula).

The above circumstances gave Council the impetus to develop and adopt the Mornington Peninsula Housing and Settlement Strategy, which proposed to tighten the residential zones applicable to townships such as Rosebud and Dromana (including mandatory minimum lot sizes between 300 and 450 square metres).

Where is it at now?

A formal Planning Scheme Amendment (Amendment C219) was subsequently prepared by Council and lodged with the Planning Minister’s Office in February 2018. The Minister advised Council in August 2018 that further strategic work is required prior to any progression of the amendment. We understand that Council has lodged further information with the Minister’s Office as of June 2019.

Response from VCAT

Our office has analysed a total of forty five (45) decisions of the Tribunal through 2018 and 2019 where Council refused a planning application as being inconsistent with the strategy as one of the reasons why it should not be approved (as of 13 August 2019). In thirty seven (37) of these decisions, Council set aside the decision of Council and issued a Planning Permit, whilst only agreeing with Council to refuse eight (8) of these applications.

Commentary from Tribunal Members consistently note that as the strategy is not seriously entertained (having not proceeded to public exhibition) it carries little, if any statutory weight and is not a relevant consideration. The Tribunal has noted within several decisions that there is a significant contrast between the proposed controls in the strategy and the existing Planning Scheme Controls.

How could the policy achieve a better balance?

There is no doubt that the Mornington Peninsula is a region that is distinctly different to Metropolitan Melbourne. Characteristics of the peninsula that give it its nickname as ‘Melbourne’s playground’ include traditional town centres, views and vistas towards the coast and peninsula hinterland, modest built form (including bungalows and a large proportion of weatherboard dwellings) and coastal vegetation.

At the same time, it is clear that the best way to protect this area is not by imposing mandatory lot sizes that would significantly limit development on the peninsula.

In the meantime, whilst it is positive that the Tribunal is affording The Strategy limited weight, it is causing unreasonable costs and delays for applicants across the Peninsula. They are also being forced to wait many months for the Tribunal to hear and decide on their applications.

We are hopeful that the Minister will direct Mornington Peninsula Shire to investigate more effective controls to protect the character of areas on the peninsula without unreasonably limiting the development potential of property owners. The current situation is not sustainable for the long term and needs to be rectified to provide certainty to developers.

If you have a development site on the peninsula, we can assist you with navigating the strategy. Call us anytime on 9596 9000.

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