The Victorian Minister for Planning has exercised his powers of intervention to amend the Victorian Planning Provisions and all planning schemes to facilitate the delivery of food and other essential goods at any time of the day. The purpose of the amendment is to enable supermarkets, hospitals, pharmacies and other essential businesses to meet the significant community demand arising from COVID-19. While these measures are appropriate, they fall short of more significant regulatory changes which have been swiftly adopted in other planning jurisdictions.
Amendment VC181 was gazetted on 6 April 2020 and amends the Victorian Planning Provisions and all planning schemes through the introduction of new Clause 52.18 (State of emergency exemption). Clause 52.18 allows for the dispatch, delivery, loading or unloading of the following items at any time of the day:
- food, drink, groceries, medicine, or cleaning, sanitising, health, hygiene, medical or personal protection equipment, supplies, or products, or the like;
- any goods to a supermarket, market, hospital, medical centre, pharmacy, residential aged care facility or retirement village.
A condition of a planning permit or a provision of a planning scheme that otherwise limits the times in which these activities can occur, will not apply. The need to deliver food and other essential items to respond to the current demand as a result of COVID-19 is considered necessary and outweighs any amenity impact to the community which such permit conditions sought to minimise.
These measures are temporary in nature and will only apply whilst the state of emergency declaration under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (VIC) in relation to COVID-19 is in force and for three months after. In Victoria, the state of emergency declared on 16 March 2020 in respect of COVID-19 has now been extended until 11 May 2020.
While VC181 clearly serves a public interest by urgently facilitating a response to the significant community demand for food and other essential goods, the amendment falls short of broader planning measures taken in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. Such measures have sought to address not only the immediate impacts of COVID-19, but also support and buffer their development industries from economic fallouts.
Victoria now awaits further regulatory planning measures to be implemented in response to COVID-19. Until then, it is open to the Minister for Planning to rely on existing powers of intervention for further emergency planning scheme amendments under section 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic).
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