Stop Amendment 73
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Towards the end of 2015, the WA State Government relaxed its planning rules to remove red-tape. One of the consequences of this is that land owners can demolish, without council approval, single dwellings on single lots. This would threaten an existing Town of Victoria Park policy of maintaining streetscapes of "workers cottages", and so in around June 2016, the Council began working on Amendment 73 to Town Planning Scheme No 1, which has been publicised at the beginning of February 2017, coincidentally during the State Government's "caretaker period" before the next State election when the Planning Minister is limited in what she can do. If you are wondering about the time delays, and why nobody was consulted before the amendment was introduced, at a public meeting on March 2nd, the Council indicated that informing people of their legal right to demolish buildings without Council approval could have led to people demolishing buildings, so a deliberate decision not to inform people was taken.
The Amendment does two important things. Firstly, it requires planning approval for demolishing or altering "original dwellings". If you are wondering how the Council came up with the map of said dwellings, apparently it walked the streets looking at them. This requirement effectively negates the recent State Government policy initiative, and re-introduces the red tape the policy change was meant to remove. Secondly, if the Council does not believe you are maintaining your "original dwelling" to its satisfaction, it has given itself the right to come onto your property, make the repairs it deems necessary and send you the bill. In the March 2nd meeting, Town staff seemed genuinely surprised that this could cause concern given that the intent was to use the power "sparingly".
This petition has two aims. Firstly to insist that the Mayor and Council abandon the current proposed Amendment 73. If there is agreement in the community that there should be a streetscape policy (public comment on this should be sought before, not after, as it was in this case), then the first step of the Council should be to determine, with the community, what that streetscape policy should be. It is not good enough in the 21st Century with diverse aims of sustainability, energy efficiency and changing lifestyles to simply say "protect everything built before date X". Vic Park is better than this kind of lazy policymaking.
Secondly, the Council must abandon the draconian notion that it should have the right to force repairs on private property for little more reason than the aesthetic preferences of unelected bureaucrats. Quite apart from the distasteful nature of such a power, it will almost certainly face legal challenge when it is applied, meaning our rates go up to pay the legal fees of a Council that should never have awarded itself these powers in the first instance.
If you agree with aims of this petition, I urge you to sign it. It will be forwarded to the mayor, and, as necessary, the Minister of Planning, to prevent this ill-founded policy proposal from ever becoming law in Victoria Park.
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