The focus group

The local Council is preparing a planning scheme amendment for our local shopping precincts (an “activity centre” in planning jargon).   Of course the pressure is on from the state government which wants areas such as these to be open to development (bear with me if that’s expressing it rather more bluntly than the politicians would like).    The locals don’t like it, of course, so there were a lot of negative comments at the “focus group” meeting I attended.

An independent facilitator “facilitated” the discussion, and did an excellent job, and the two strategic planners from the Council also did extremely well, withstanding a range of comments ranging from totally uninformed (“have developers been putting pressure on the Council?”) through to a number of legitimate concerns.

In one part of the area, it’s proposed that up to 12 stories will be permitted, which would indeed be a dramatic change from the area as it is at present.  It will be interesting to see if the Council backs away from this aspect (or maybe reduces the size of the area where this would be permitted).  Just the same, I don’t hold out a lot of hope that radical changes will be made.  After the Council finalises the draft amendment, there’s a “panel” process to be gone through, but the final sign-off to the amendment is by the Minister.  Given the nature and scope of development that’s been permitted in other “activity centres”, I suspect that there will no ability to withstand the tide around here which has already started via a number of VCAT decisions.



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