My adjournment this evening is for Minister Wynne in the other place. The development facilitation program was set up during COVID-19 as a special planning body to speed the development of projects and stimulate the economy. Within this body the Minister for Planning also has the power to conduct an accelerated assessment. We have seen a number of controversial development projects approved under this process, bypassing due process, most notable being a six-level aged care home in Prahran that had 122 objections from residents, was twice rejected by Stonnington council, was knocked back by the state planning tribunal and was ruled out by the Supreme Court—all before being approved by Mr Wynne’s office. Another case of the minister’s planning body having been used as a back door for controversial projects is TLC’s proposed development in Ivanhoe, which was refused by the council for breaching a number of existing covenants. When TLC appealed to VCAT they actually withdrew their application prior to the hearing because of these breaches.
While understandably much has to be done to help recover the economy after pandemic restrictions, there must remain accountability, transparency and community interest at heart. This approval process bypasses local councils, communities and even Supreme Court decisions. Unfortunately we do not know how far this goes. 295 developments were submitted to Mr Wynne’s task force, established last April, and these decisions have not been made public. Essentially we are letting the minister sign off on development projects that do not meet planning regulations or zoning requirements or meet community interests. All due process has been forgotten.
My office has been contacted by a number of local residents who fear similar backdoor approvals occurring for unsuitable developments in their community. The public is losing faith that these developments have to meet any conditions or provide any public benefit whatsoever, and I can see why. So the action I seek is: will the minister make publicly available on what grounds he approved each project under the development facilitation program?
RESPONSE RECEIVED 29 MARCH 2022 – Hon. Richard Wynne.
In October 2020, I established the Development Facilitation Program (DFP) within the department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to support Victoria’s building and construction industry and help revitalise the Victorian economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program seeks to fast track the assessment and determination of identified priority projects to ensure there is a pipeline of significant shovel-ready projects that will:
- deliver investment into the Victorian economy;
- keep people in existing jobs and create new jobs; and
- provide a substantial public benefit.
All projects considered through the program are assessed in accordance with the requirements of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (the Act), the Victoria Planning Provisions, all relevant State and local policy and are subject to the usual rigorous assessment, probity and opportunity for public consultation required under the Act.
I appointed the Priority Projects Standing Advisory Committee (PPSAC) to provide independent advice and recommendations on identified priority projects which I have agreed to, or am considering, intervention.
Reports provided by the PPSAC are published on the planning website:
In all instances where I have exercised my powers of intervention for a planning scheme amendment under the Act, my written reasons for intervention are documented and published on the planning website: