Mebourne’s green wedges exist because far sighted politicians created the legal framework which protects them from inappropriate development. This framework is regularly amended in response to changing circumstances such as evolving bushfire safety requirements, new studies of particular environmental values, or in order to resolve inconsistency or to make administration simpler.

A poorly designed or badly motivated amendment has the potential to allow the degradation of our green wedges, so it is vital that amendments be transparently and effectively assessed for their likely effect. A case in point may be C117.

The core of the legal framework is a hierarchy of planning provisions, from State to Local. C117 is an amendment being proposed by the Manningham Council to apply to the Manningham Green Wedge only – but the issues it addresses and creates are not unique to Manningham. They apply to all green wedges, so we all need to pay attention.

C117 was preceded by a ‘Rural Land Uses Position Paper’, which is incorporated into the proposed amendment. The thrust of this report, and the amendment, is to recognize the decline of traditional agriculture in the Manningham Green Wedge, and to see the problem in terms of the ‘limited commercial development activity within the RCZ in recent years’, and to encourage tourism development.

The issue of tourism development is already a major issue in areas such as the Mornington Peninsula Green Wedge. Here proposals for major projects are already the subject of planning permit applications, and the existing planning scheme provisions are proving not strong enough to prevent the approval of major built developments that destroy the very rural values that are fundamental to the purpose of the Green Wedges.

The proposed C117 planning scheme amendment will, if allowed to proceed in its current form, significantly increase the risk of opening up the Manningham Green Wedge to major urban built form development. Also of major concern is the potential for the proliferation of business and tourist development across the municipality resulting in the domination of buildings and associated infrastructure and the urbanisation of the Green Wedge.

One item interest is the suggestion of ‘cluster tourism development in the Green Wedge’. The term is not explicitly defined in the position paper, but it refers to what it sees as an existing instance:

There is a strong existing tourism cluster around the Ringwood-Warrandyte Road between Warrandyte and Warrandyte South. Opportunities exist to concentrate tourism land uses around this cluster.

This area in South Warrandyte is not a good advertisement for planning, and in the absence of any definition of a tourist cluster in the amendment it is hard not to see it merely as a way of rationalizing the relaxation of green wedge controls.

C117 was on exhibition until 16 April and the WCA put in a submission, written by Alan Thatcher, that details our concerns. You can read it here. The next step is for the Manningham Council to consider the community submissions, and if the objections cannot be satisfactorily addressed ask the Minister for Planning to convene a panel to consider the submissions.

The planning panel process allows for further submissions and at the end of the process the panel presents recommendations to the Planning Minister.