Insights Library

The Tribunal’s stance on the Victoria’s Housing Statement

Eli Morrison & Romy Davidov

In the recent decision 25-29 Keilor Road Essendon Pty Ltd v Moonee Valley CC [2024] VCAT 379, the permit applicant placed particular reliance on the Victoria’s Housing Statement (VHS) in support of its proposal for a mixed use development set over 11 storeys containing 110 dwellings, a supermarket, cafe, office and shops. In particular, the applicant highlighted that the site is within the North Essendon Major Activity Centre which is one of the 10 Major Activity Centre’s in metropolitan Melbourne that is identified in the VHS where planning controls are to be introduced to facilitate the delivery of an additional 60,000 homes.

The Tribunal determined that there are no changes to the planning scheme to give effect to this broad intention stated in the VHS. It stated:

“In making these findings I record that I have considered the VHS, which in the circumstances I may do – but am not compelled to do, again noting that the VHS is not a background or incorporated document in the planning scheme. At its core, the VHS indicates that an accelerated rate of housing growth is now required. It identifies an ‘initial 10 activity centres across Melbourne’ including North Essendon MAC around which ‘clear planning controls’ are to be introduced to accommodate a combined total of 60,000 additional homes.

However, there are as yet no changes to the planning scheme to give effect to this broad statement of intention. The VHS indicates that it represents ‘the first step’ not ‘the last’ and foreshadows a suite of other measures that are expected to accompany the provision of additional housing including apartments. These other measures include, for example ‘Activity centre plans that will guide investment in the things a growing suburb needs like community facilities, public spaces and parks’ and a further strengthening of existing design standards for apartments…

In summary, it is not the Tribunal’s role to critique the acceptability or otherwise of existing preferred heights and setbacks in DDO7, the relevant design guidance in local policies that assist in the exercise of discretion or the role of the North Essendon MAC. Nor is it the Tribunal’s role to second guess any future changes to the planning scheme – including any changes to preferred building heights, design standards for apartments and in turn, any future controls or other planning scheme policies and provisions that may ultimately be introduced. That is a task for others.

Rather, my task is to apply the planning scheme as I find it. That is the approach that I have adopted here.”

This decision highlights the gap which exists between current Government policy and the provisions in the planning scheme which do not reflect critical current Government policy aimed at urgently addressing the State’s housing crisis.

Eli Morrison

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Romy Davidov

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