Date July 23, 2012 Philip Hopkins
Changing the city: Five business zones would become two commercial zones. Photo: Courtsey Savills
THE Baillieu government’s sweeping changes to the state’s planning zones have been welcomed by business groups, with the Property Council of Australia warning that local councils should not get in the way of the proposals.
The Victorian Executive Director of the Property Council, Jennifer Cunich, said the proposed reforms would re-energise the capital city zone and breathe new life into Victoria’s other retail and commercial hubs. ”This is exactly what the doctor would order to revive a slowing economy,” she said.
Ms Cunich said reducing excessive planning regulations would help revitalise Victoria’s commercial, industrial and retail dead zones, freeing up development opportunities.
However, the government should not adopt a passive approach to local councils in regard to these reforms.
”Too often good state-wide planning reform has been frustrated by councils which do not share its planning vision,” she said. ”The Baillieu government should consider providing incentives to those councils which readily embrace its planning agenda.”
The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the plans to consolidate the existing multitude of residential and commercial zones into fewer categories was a positive step.
VECCI chief executive Mark Stone said the planning reforms simplified arrangements and allowed a broader range of activities to be considered in the planning process.
The Master Builders Association applauded the proposed reforms, saying they would create greater planning certainty and thus foster growth and jobs. Victorian executive director Brian Welch said the new commercial zones would encourage the construction of workplaces, retail precincts and offices across the suburbs.
Under the proposals, the commercial 1 zone amalgamates the existing business 1, business 2 and business 5 zones.
The proposed commercial 2 zone amalgamates the existing business 3 and business 4 zones.
The Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, said the current five business zones created confusion, market barriers and unnecessary burdens, such as the need to rezone land.
”Reducing the number of zones and broadening the range of uses permitted in particular areas will reduce prescription, increase ‘as-of-right’ business investment opportunities and provide greater business flexibility,” he said.
Mr Guy said the existing industrial zones had a floor space limit of 500 square metres of office space, which was based on a traditional industrial building. ”New and emerging industry requires a larger scale and greater mixture of industry and office. These current floor space caps restrict the ability to develop modern and more innovative industry,” he said.
Mr Guy said the industrial zone reforms would support business investment by removing the floor space caps for an office.
”These reforms will be complemented by changes to the industrial 3 zone, which will allow small supermarkets with supporting shops,” he said.
Regional Victoria would also benefit from changes to rural zones that would foster agriculture, remove restrictions on complementary business uses in some zones, and cut permit restrictions on tourism, he said.
Public comments on the proposals are open until September 21. The reforms are expected to be introduced by the Victorian Government in October.