Tag Archives: code assess

The Hidden Complexity of Smart Planning

The Smart Planning discussion paper has dropped. At some point I expect I’ll take a more detailed run through of what is a complex document that mixes various good ideas with a number of really bad ones. It’s an infuriating read, partly because it is so predictable: in its broad strokes, it’s pretty much exactly what could be envisaged from the Department’s material when I wrote about the program last year.

Rather than exhaustively work through the good and the bad of this new paper now, I wanted to focus on one really weird diagram and use it to unpick the hidden complexities of this document. That diagram is this one, one page 29 of the paper, showing a proposed new assessment to pathway for simpler matters.

smartplanning diagram

Behold the simplicity in all its glorious smartness!

It is presented in contrast to this one, outlining the existing process.

existing process

Booooooooooooooooooo!

Wow, the existing system does look complex. And look at all that glorious white space in the new process – that does seem enticing.

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The Wrong Idea Not Implemented Properly (Submission on VicSmart)

Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius!

This is my submission to the recent VicSmart review (with a few minor corrections). Obviously it is partly based on my Planning News article “Breaking the Land Speed Record in an Engineless Car,” but it is considerably expanded.

Introduction

The new VicSmart provisions are the culmination of a long push towards implementing two closely related reforms: Code a\Assessment and a fast-track permit process. These ideas have been central to the planning reform agenda of DTPLI and its predecessors for some time. It is seven years since Code Assessment was put on the reform agenda by the Cutting Red Tape in Planning report, and ten since Better Decisions Faster floated a “short permit process.”

Throughout this period there has been a lack of clarity about how code assess and a short permit process would work. These measure have been sold in reviews such as the Modernising Victoria’s Planning Act work by floating a false idea that the system currently operates on a one-size-fits-all model. This is not the case, as myself and many other submitters to previous reviews have pointed out. The system currently includes various systemic measures to fast-track simple matters (permit exemptions, notice exemptions and the like) and Councils routinely employ streaming measures of various degrees of sophistication.

The confusion on such points, and the lack of focus throughout the refinement of Code Assessment on drafting specific codes to use with the system, has now led to a seriously compromised fast-track process. The proposed VicSmart measures show a poor understanding of the distinctive challenges of simple / fast-track statutory planning work. They create unreasonable demands on Councils while not providing Councils the tools that will be genuinely helpful in pursuing applications more quickly. Instead they create additional complexity that will actually hinder existing successful fast-track measures.

VicSmart as currently released will be counterproductive. It should be abandoned in favour of more genuinely facilitative measures.

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Breaking the Land Speed Record in an Engineless Car: The Challenge of VicSmart

Neil with his pedal car

This post was originally written for the August 2013 issue of Planning News and hence was a bit constrained for length. My full submission, with quite a bit more detail, is here.

The new VicSmart provisions, announced during July and currently open for comment, are the culmination of a long push towards implementing two closely related reforms: code assessment and a fast-track permit process. These ideas have been central to the planning reform agenda of DTPLI and its predecessors for some time. August marks seven years since code assessment was put on the reform agenda by the Cutting Red Tape in Planning report, and ten since Better Decision Faster floated a “short permit process.”

Throughout that time the measures have been sold in terms that make them hard to argue with. Certainty! Speed! Efficiency! Yet in the absence of the specifics it has been unclear how the Department would resolve the challenges to realising such a best of all-possible-worlds outcome.

Now, with the release of draft provisions, we have our answers. VicSmart is code assessment… only without any codes. And Councils are expected to drive this engineless car very fast indeed.

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Don’t Call it the Underwood Review

sunstorm

The first instalment of the long-awaited Underwood Review of the Victorian planning system (which we’re supposed to call the “Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee”) was released on Friday and makes for interesting reading. The full report is here, and the government’s response is here.

The paper is structured partly as a review and partly as discussion paper: at certain points it’s making quite specific recommendations, at other points it’s just kicking ideas around. This is actually one of its strengths: it certainly gives a sense that the Committee was legitimately interested in hearing people’s views. There is a much more genuine sense of community engagement in this paper than in, say, the previous government’s review of the Planning & Environment Act. To glance through the submissions received by the Committee (on the DPCD website here) is to get a sense of what an achievement that was. Extracting value from those submissions – most of which are either disgruntled objectors saying the system is too developer-friendly, or industry objections saying the system is too objector-friendly – is no mean feat. (For what it’s worth my submission – which I was flattered to see the Committee quote at a couple of points – is here).

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Logjam

October 2010Originally published as an editorial in Planning News 36, no. 9 (October 2010), under a joint by-line with Tim Westcott and Gilda di Vincenzo.

In his recorded video presentation to this year’s State Planning Conference at the start of September, the Planning Minister announced that the review of the Planning & Environment Act would be referred to a working group of industry representatives to resolve the outstanding issues “before the end of the year.”1 The Act Review was last sighted in draft Bill form in December 2009, but the outstanding issues, apparently, are the proposed proponent-initiated amendments, the proposed fast track / code-assess permit process, and the assessment process for State significant development. The resolution of these issues, the Minister claimed, would allow other reforms to start to flow.

The significance of this latter point was perhaps easily lost in the context of an announcement ostensibly about the Act Review. Yet in the Minister’s interview with Planning News published in this issue, it is clearer exactly how widespread a policy logjam is occurring here. Asked about the various outstanding VPP reviews – of the Residential Zones, heritage overlays, car parking controls, advertising signs, and so on – the Minister has reiterated that these are waiting on the Act Review. What’s more, he suggests that the working group for that review may even play a part in forging some consensus as to the best a way ahead on these VPP initiatives. Everything, therefore, is now waiting on the Act.

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