It wasn’t too long ago that environmentally sustainable design (ESD) requirements were largely removed from the town planning process and instead addressed predominantly through the Building Code of Australia.  More recently however, there has been an acceptance of ESD playing a role in the town planning process, with various policies being adopted by Councils, most of which have not originated from planning schemes.

With the re-emergence of ESD in the planning system, we have come across inconsistencies in how various municipalities address ESD matters and the amount of work that is required in this regard as part of a planning permit application.

In April 2013 the Energy, Water and Waste Efficiency Policy was incorporated into the Melbourne Planning Scheme in Clause 22.19.  Also earlier this year, five Councils in metropolitan Melbourne commenced planning scheme amendment processes to incorporate Environmentally Efficient Design Policies into the relevant planning schemes.  These policies seek to outline various ESD objectives and also to set out application requirements relative to different types of development in relation to ESD matters.  More specifically, the policies outline the ESD information that is to be prepared and submitted as part of planning permit applications for different types of developments.

The Policy incorporated into the Melbourne Planning Scheme is quite different from those being proposed by the other Councils.  This is somewhat understandable given that development in our capital city has different expectations placed on it, in no small part because of the more intense nature of development often experienced in the City of Melbourne.

The cities of Moreland, Yarra, Port Phillip, Banyule, Stonnington and Whitehorse have worked together to develop the Energy Efficiency Policy now proposed and we understand that they have received assistance from the Department of Planning and Community Development in this task.  As a result, the policies proposed by each of these five Councils are similar.  Nevertheless, there are some differences.  For example, one Council is proposing greater ESD requirements for development.

Collie supports the introduction of ESD measures into the planning process.  We believe that ESD-appropriate considerations are sensible in the early planning of development.  We also support greater clarity about ESD requirements as part of planning permit applications.  Clarity and consistency in ESD provisions is in our mind essential.

While the intent of these new ESD policies is laudable, we believe that the Minister for Planning should be taking a greater role on this issue.  We do not understand why (the City of Melbourne aside) the ESD policies and requirements should be different between Councils, especially between Councils in metropolitan Melbourne.  Why should a development in the City of Moreland have higher ESD requirements placed on it than a development across the street in the City of Moonee Valley?

A consistent ESD policy should be applied across all Councils in metropolitan Melbourne.  This would provide greater clarity and certainty to the development industry about ESD requirements and what is required as part of planning permit applications.

For advice as to how the proposed ESD policies may impact on your proposed development, please contact Jay Hollerich on 8698 9300 (jjh@colliepl.com.au).