Land use planning
Council planning decisions shape communities, and influence the physical environment and quality of life. The consequences of planning decisions are around for a long time.
To be effective in this area, councillors must:
- understand and be able to explain their decisions locally
- build and maintain constructive working relationships
- actively contribute to local, regional and state policy development and reform
- maintain an oversight of the planning assessment and policy framework.
Councillors don't have to be professional planners to respond to planning challenges and community concerns. Often the best approach is to refer technical questions to the council planner.
A basic understanding of the planning system is essential for a councillor to represent the local community effectively, and to know where to find more information about planning processes or issues.
Planning issues are challenging because community members have different and sometimes opposing views on development and protection.
Councillors are sometimes urged by community members to vote in a certain way on a development application, which may be inconsistent with local policy and the municipal strategic statement. These decisions can be appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Individual councillors have no decision-making power; this lies with the collegiate decision-making power of council.
Council's role in planning
Victoria's planning system is a critical part of many council activities.
It is increasingly complex with high levels of public involvement and scrutiny. Often it is only through planning matters that communities engage with their local council and their experience isn't always positive.
Council plan and municipal strategic statement
The council plan and municipal strategic statement provide direction about council objectives for land use planning.
In most cases, local government has the ultimate responsibility for the strategic direction of the municipality and planning decisions.
Council administration must give effect to the strategic direction and priorities developed by council, as well as being accountable for the decisions made on behalf of council.
Planning and Environment Act
In carrying out its functions under the Planning and Environment Act 1987, a council has two key roles.
As the planning authority, the first role council has is to set the strategic policy framework for the municipality and initiate changes to the planning scheme.
The second role is for council to administer, as the responsible authority, the planning scheme for its municipality and make decisions on individual applications for a planning permit.
About land use planning
Planning is about the use, development and protection of land that is in the short- and long-term interests of Victorians.
The planning system contributes towards sustainability objectives, economic development, heritage and environmental conservation, as well as guiding development for long-term community benefit.
The Municipal Association of Victoria offers professional development for councillors, including a planning and building workshop to assist councillors to understand their role in the planning and building approvals process.