When is a Hearing NOT a Hearing?
When Minister Madden meets with the Developers and then calls in an appalling application for 39 storeys in the middle of the traffic jam that is Box Hill Station and then he gives it to a Panel - read on. . .
Developers for the Station Street Box Hill, 39-storey tower, Barton Australia Group, met with the Minister for Planning who then called in the VCAT Application for Review of the Whitehorse Council decision to refuse a planning permit. The Minister appointed two senior planning officers from his department who conducted a hearing on 15 & 16 February, 2010.
WERA, a Baptist Church representative and another resident presented submissions on the afternoon of 15 Feb. However we were not permitted to hear the Council’s submission in the morning, nor were we permitted to hear VICROADS after us or the developer’s submission the next morning. It was therefore not possible to question other submissions or expert witnesses as would occur at VCAT.
This caught the eye of Robert Clark, [MP Box Hill], who brought the matter forward in Parliament...
Planning: Box Hill development
Mr CLARK (Box Hill) -- A local resident group in my electorate has provided a graphic demonstration of the farce into which Labor's planning call-in procedures have descended. The West of Elgar Residents Association (WERA) reports in its April newsletter that residents who attended a hearing by two departmental planning officers were not even permitted to listen to the submissions being made by other parties, including Whitehorse City Council, VicRoads and the developer. Residents therefore had no way of questioning or responding to what any other party said. This is a denial of one of the fundamental principles of natural justice -- the right to know of and to be able to respond to the other side of the argument. It shows yet again how appalling is Labor's conduct of its behind-closed-doors planning procedures.
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearings are far from perfect themselves, but at least they allow and require the arguments and evidence to be presented in public and to be subjected to public questioning and scrutiny.
Perhaps the government figures it need not bother with any real hearing process at all because it has already made up its mind what the outcome of this tower application will be, just like the planned sham Windsorconsultation. The decision on this tower will have profound consequences for the future of Box Hill. WERA and others have raised crucial issues regarding parking shortfalls, overshadowing, wind effects, pedestrian connections, traffic congestion and the precedent for future building heights, all of which deserve careful and thorough investigation and consideration. As I have said previously, the call-in is an appalling and unjustified removal of the community's rights, for which the Brumby government has given no good reason.