Hobsons Bay residents and the council have welcomed Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s decision to accept major recommendations from an independent review of residential development near major hazard facilities.
The advisory committee review made a number of recommendations, including giving greater decision-making power to WorkSafe Victoria.
A new ministerial direction will require planning authorities to notify WorkSafe and, where appropriate, the Environment Protection Authority, of any proposal to rezone land near major hazard facilities (MHFs).
Mr Wynne has directed the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to work with WorkSafe to review buffer provisions between hazardous sites and proposed residential developments.
“Planning has an important role to play getting the balance right to protect communities and ensure industry continues to thrive,” he said.
Williamstown MP Wade Noonan said planning certainty was critical because the inner west had the “dual challenge of managing a disproportionately high number of MHFs and a growing population”.
Save Williamstown spokeswoman Charmian Gaud said that if the review had come earlier, high-density, high-rise development on the Port Phillip Woollen Mill site – near Mobil’s Point Gellibrand tank farm – would not have been allowed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
“We feel that the government response vindicates nine years of work by Save Williamstown to bring this issue to the government’s attention,” she said.
“We are pleased that WorkSafe will now work as the expert adviser to councils for developments near MHFs. This sheds light on what was a blind spot in Victoria’s planning processes.
“We note that the mill site (now the Waterline Place development) is flagged as high priority in the report, since it is residential development within 500 metres of a major hazard facility.”
Hobsons Bay mayor Angela Altair said the council welcomed the minister’s decision.
“Of the 17 recommendations, two thirds have been accepted in full and the other one third in principle,” she said. “This is an important issue for our city as we have eight of Victoria’s 38 MHFs. Council has long been advocating for a state-led approach to land use planning around MHFs.
“Council expects that the recommendations, which will be implemented in the first half of this year, will provide clearer planning policies, better informed land rezoning processes, increased communication with the EPA and WorkSafe, and will provide clear guidelines about the siting of community, residential or educational facilities within the vicinity of an MHF.”
Before Christmas, the council deferred making a decision on a proposed eight-storey, 62-dwelling mill site development at 3-39 Nelson Place, pending the minister’s response to the review.