Category Archives: Zoning and planning

What is adequate community consultation when it comes to major planning decisions?

Dr. Malcolm McKelvie at Drouin Community Group meeting

The rezoning proposal in Drouin (C108) being decided by the council next week is a great example of planning on the run and should be reconsidered.
In a nutshell, the proposal places medium density housing lots (up to 33 dwellings per hectare) in areas about 6 km from the centre of town and amongst current low density, non sewered housing (2 dwellings per hectare). It contradicts previous documents outlining the plans for urban growth in the shire, is being introduced in a hurry, sloppily, without proper consultation with the public and defies common sense in the use of infrastructure. What disturbs me in particular is the lack of consideration for the future challenges of global warming and the end of cheap energy.
If local government and the community had ongoing, substantive and meaningful participation in planning decisions there would not be hastily given and ill thought orders from the state planning minister to the region, the notice regarding the planned changes would not be distributed to only a select few adjoining landowners just a few days prior to community consultation sessions and nor would the time given for consideration of the change and submissions due be a matter of days to weeks. Proper planning should be evidence based, well considered regarding existing transport, infrastructure, biodiversity and open space as well as the wider issues of preserving agricultural land and adaptation to the warming climate and give interested members of the public sufficient time to read, digest, consult and discuss it.
If the shire thinks their process will increase public confidence in the planning system it is sorely mistaken. There is disbelief that the documents presented contain basic mistakes and inconsistencies, that the consultation sessions have been poorly advertised and held at times of the day difficult for working people to attend. For public submissions to be made one day and a council decision the next beggars belief that due consideration will be given to those submissions.
Kevin Roberts and the people who attended a community meeting this week are right to be upset. They heard from an experienced local councilor in the UK who said that a similar process in his council would take 2-5 years to be completed and any planning decision would need to be evidence based with plenty of time for community consultation.
There is a clear need to plan for increased population in our shire. There is also a clear need to ensure that population growth does not compromise our ability to grow food, maximizes the efficiency of existing infrastructure like the train station, sewerage systems, shopping areas and access to schools and health facilities. If the local population is to increase substantially there is also the need to plan for substantial new kindergarten and school places, child care, healthcare facilities, business and industrial sites, shops and community facilities. Hastily placing medium density housing six kilometres from such infrastructure and amongst existing low density residential living areas let alone up to the boundary of a battery hen enterprise without proper consultation is a recipe for discontent and regret in future years.

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