In Makhmalbaf v Monash CC  VCAT 1641 the Tribunal considered a proposal for two dwellings on one lot. The Monash Planning Scheme designated the site within the boundaries of the Glen Waverley Activity Centre, whereas the zone and local planning policies sought to treat the site in the same manner as other residential neighbourhoods, far removed from an activity centre. There were three preferred character statements applying to the site, all seeking to achieve very different character outcomes: one being part of current planning policy, one part of the Monash Housing Strategy and one part of a Planning Scheme Amendment before the Minister for a decision.
In this case the Tribunal found that:
- Greatest weight should be placed on the character statement from the Monash Housing Strategy;
- The preferred character statement from the Monash Housing Strategy was the only one to recognise the position of the review site and surrounding neighbourhood within the boundaries of the highest order activity centre in the municipality;
- The identification of a preferred character statement for residential neighbourhoods inside an activity centre, as provided in the Monash Housing Strategy, is a more specific and relevant guidance for the review site, as opposed to character statements for much broader areas, that comprise up to half of the residential areas in a municipality;
- The preferred character statement from the Monash Housing Strategy was the only one consistent with the most recent planning policy (which takes into account some of the more recent policy changes at a State and regional level);
- The balance of policy at both a State, regional and local level supports the establishment of medium and higher density housing at that location within a higher order activity centre;
- The Monash Housing Strategy 2014 is a Council adopted strategy, and is a reference document to the Monash Planning Scheme, and it represents the most recent strategic intent to be implemented in the Monash Planning Scheme;
- The other two character statements provided generalised preferred character statements that applied to all residential land within the municipality. The Tribunal found these did not make sense and nor did they assist in decision making in activity centre locations.
In a situation like this, it is no wonder that permit applicants can be confused about Council’s strategic intent and preferred neighbourhood character for any designated area.
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