_Amendment VC216: ESD Clarity

The recent amendment VC216 to Victorian planning schemes supports environmentally sustainable development (ESD) by incorporating stronger language aimed at mitigating climate change and promoting more intense environmental protection.

Notable are changes to clause 15 (built environment and heritage) in which specific clauses relating to subdivision design and building design require that future urban structures better respond to the surrounding natural and urban environment.  The changes relate to more sustainable building practices and materials to be used, renewable energy systems and reducing the impact of pollution. 

One example is minimising the exposure of sensitive land uses near the transport system (including residential development), a strategy aimed at reducing the effects of air and noise pollution.  A transport system is defined as “all the components that make up the system for the movement and transport of people and goods” including all movement networks and the relevant infrastructure required for them to operate.  This all-encompassing term is vague and does not differentiate between an off-road cycling path and a freeway or rail corridor, which in their very nature produce vastly different air and noise pollution levels.  This vagueness is likely to affect the clear implementation of this provision and may result in delays / associated added costs in future developments.  Further guidance is required.

Furthermore, a standardised State-wide ESD objective or statement was absent from the amendment.  ESD seeks to achieve best practice from the design stage through to construction and operation of a development, usually requiring a sustainable design assessment or sustainability management report depending on the size / type of development.  The requirements vary from council to council leading to inconsistencies in development assessment from one area to another. As the purpose of the amendment was to further support ESD, we believe that it was a missed opportunity to promote a more standardised State-wide ESD objective / set of policies.