PLANNING PERMIT EXTENSIONS – A PLANNING FLAW

At the last Council Meeting 22nd May, 2012, Cr. Tang foreshadowed a resident’s public question by requesting a Report from Officers on planning permit# extensions.

The public question submitted was (Council Meeting Minutes, 22nd May, 2012 – Section 11.4):

“Would Council please advise what percentage of Planning Permit approvals are extended because either

  • construction has not commenced within the two year period? Or
  • construction has not been completed within a 4 year period?

 Since Council has previously advised that Council does not maintain specifics to this enquiry, could Council please advise what details/statistics it does maintain related to the extension of planning permits approvals.”

Prior to the Public Questions agenda item (Council Minutes – Section 11.1b), Cr.  Tang Requested an Officers Report be prepared indicating the number/percentage of planning permits that are granted extensions.  While Cr. Tang accepted that Council did not currently collate these statistics (planning permit applications once approved are filed away and updated individually if an extension is requested) it would be useful to have the information.  Subsequent discussion related to Crs. noticing substantial delays between the granting of a planning permit and construction commencing or being completed – the report may indicate a need to review the planning permit extension approval process (in particular the delegations of authority).  The request for a report, which is to be presented at an Ordinary Council Meeting, was passed unanimously.

While giving Councillors credit for recognising the significance of the issue raised in the public question, GERA is concerned that this information is not readily available and that the process of extending planning permits is not integrated into the planning process.  Integration in this case means

  1. Before extending a planning permit, consideration is given to planning permits approved since the permit to be extended was originally approved, and
  2. When reviewing a new planning permit application, existing planning permits which have been extended, are taken into consideration – currently they are not considered.

Without this integration, the cumulative flow on impacts of development (traffic, parking, drainage, overshadowing, overlooking – to name a few) are not taken into account in the planning permit (new or extension) approval process – the process is flawed.

To highlight the significance of this issue, Cr. Rosemary West (Kingston Council) at the March, 2012, GERA Development Forum reported  that Kingston found only 40% of approved planning permits were built within the prescribed  period. The remaining 60% were given “rubber stamped” extension periods  – no consideration was being given to what had been happening with applications for nearby residences since the original permit application. Kingston Council revised their delegations of authority to prevent ‘rubber stamping’ ”.

It is reasonable to expect a similar percentage will apply in Glen Eira.

To illustrate the significance of the planning permit extension issue, imagine the following scenario:

 Some 6 years ago an application for a 4 storey  (shops at ground level, 12 two bedroom units above, reduced parking requirements etc.) planning permit was approved for the corner of your street.  Since approval no construction work has been undertaken on the corner block and the permit has been extended.  However,  other townhouse type developments (2 or 3 double storey units per lot) have sprung up along the street.  Traffic  volume has doubled, “rat runs”* and street parking have become major issues and many street trees have disappeared to make way for driveway crossovers.   Now the developer is ready and construction commences on the corner lot – what impact will it have on you?  What plans does Council have to address the traffic and parking issues which this development will only add to – the answer is probably none because the planning permit for the corner lot was not considered when all the subsequent nearby developments were approved.

Add to the above scenario, the cumulative nature of planning permit extensions (e.g. simplistically say, 50 extensions last year, plus 50 this year = 100) the implications of not considering extended permits becomes even more significant

GERA intends to pursue this issue with Council and awaits Tang’s requested report (which unfortunately did not limit the review to permits related to the construction of new dwellings or include a date for report completion).

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# Planning permits and building permits are different – depending on the work to be undertaken one or both permit/s may be required.  In broad terms, planning is concerned with the land – the way it will be used (e.g. houses, shops factories, parks etc) and/or developed (e.g. size and type of buildings and landscaping) and what transport is needed. A  building permit is concerned with the actual construction – its quality and its safety.  While planning permits are required for a range of activities (e.g. fencing, signage, home extensions and construction of more than one dwelling on a lot),  the planning permit extension referred to in this posting relates to the construction of more than one dwelling on a lot.

*rat runs – vehicles using residential streets (frequently above the speed limit) to avoid congestion or shopping strips on main roads.

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