Strengthening Planning Controls & Moreland Environmental Significance Overlay
The Chain of Ponds Collaboration is working towards greater protection of the Moonee Ponds Creek and surrounds. The Planning Controls Working Group is just one part of this effort, and our interest in improving planning controls is to ensure better outcomes from developments and planning decisions along the waterways. This work aligns the State Government’s interest in strengthening waterway protection along our waterways through the Waterways of the West, the Wilip-gin Birrarung murron or Yarra Protection Act and the Integrated Water Management (IWM) Forums.
The Working Group has reconvened after a pause to build upon our earlier work with the Context Analysis Report for the Moonee Ponds Creek and our one-page review Moonee Ponds Catchment Land Use Planning Considerations.
Following advocacy from the CoP and Melbourne Water, the Waterways of the West (WoW) listed the Moonee Ponds Creek as a principal waterway, together with the Werribee and Maribyrnong Rivers. The WoW have prepared an Action Plan for these important waterways of western Melbourne, and the Plan is currently under review by the State Government, hopefully for release later in the year. Key elements of the draft Action Plan included greater consideration of cultural heritage values and involvement of traditional owners in planning. There is also the possibility that interim planning controls are introduced through a Significant Landscape Overlay (SLO) to improve protection of the waterway. The Working Group are supportive of these efforts to capture the wide range of values we want to protect.
The Working Group’s position is that we would prefer an Environmental Significance Overlay (ESO) due to its potential to be an effective planning control provision. Moreland City Council introduced ESOs for the Merri Creek and Moonee Ponds Creek in 2006 and revised them in 2014. Moreland is currently reviewing this overlay to ensure it is more effective.
Hume City Council also has an Environmental Significance Overlay and has more recently collaborated with Melbourne Water to undertake a landscape assessment of the waterway values. Moonee Valley City Council uses a very simple Incorporated Planning Overlay to protect the waterway and has recently introduced an Environmental Significance Overlay to protect significant trees in the municipality. Other planning controls that have been used by local governments to protect a range of values along the waterways include Design and Development Overlays which have been introduced in the City of Melbourne. Each of these controls all play a slightly different function.
Moreland’s current review of its ESOs found a number of weaknesses, including that there are very few planning permit triggers due to the number of exemptions and the limited mapping of adjoining private land through the ESOs. This results in continued ecological decline, despite the longer history of these controls. Additionally, it was found that many developments could improve amenity, access, vegetation and safety with appropriate guidance and decision guidelines.
As a result, Moreland is considering several amendments to the ESO. These include (i) adding the Westbreen Creek, (ii) adopting a landscape approach to the mapping, (iii) including a 5m buffer of adjoining properties adjoining waterway parkland, (iv) removing current height exemptions for works, (v) reinforcing the protection of 30m vegetative and 50m open space buffers from the top of embankment (where practical), and (vi) extending ESO triggers to include fencing and vegetation.
Many of the lessons from Moreland’s ESO review provide valuable lessons for improving planning controls along the waterway. The Chain of Ponds Planning Control’s Working Group will need to continue to advocate to DELWP and the Waterways of the West to resource and support stronger planning controls. We will also advocate for interim ESOs for the Moonee Ponds Creek corridor with appropriate guidance and decision guidelines.
Contact: Alex English, Moreland City Council