WHY IS GOOD GOVERNANCE IMPORTANT FOR PLANNING?
Planning can be one of the most important and challenging areas for councillors. Strategic land use planning is a vital part of how a municipality will develop now and into the future.
Statutory planning decisions are complex and often controversial. They demand high levels of knowledge and understanding about the processes, the statutory requirements and the different roles that a councillor has to play. This is important because good governance involves good decision-making processes and being clear about the different roles.
STATUTORY AND STRATEGIC PLANNING
Participation in the land use planning process is one of the major tasks of a councillor. Land use planning is also often a key pressure point between councillors and their communities.
Statutory planning involves administering the planning scheme and assessing permit applications. Strategic planning is used to describe activities relating to the future planning and development of the municipality.
These activities are outlined in the Municipal Association of Victoria’s Land use planning in Victoria guide. This publication also highlights a number of good governance issues relating to councillors’ involvement in land use planning.
NATURAL JUSTICE AND KEEPING AN OPEN MIND
As decision-makers on planning applications, councillors should not make up their minds (or appear to have made up their minds) before they have reviewed all the available information and advice. This is particularly relevant when councillors make public statements or promises during election campaigns.
Councillors can of course have opinions, but they must be able to show that while they believe something based on what they know at a particular point in time, they’re still able to be persuaded to change their minds if provided with further advice or information.
See natural justice for more information about how it underpins local government decision making.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STRATEGIC PLANNING
The most significant contribution of councillors to the planning process is when they establish the strategic framework in which decisions get made. Their participation in the development and review of municipal strategic statements, local planning policy frameworks and other local policies allows them to shape the vision for the municipality and how it will look in the future.
For this reason, councillors should ensure that they put sufficient energy and time into policy development and review. While this may not have the intensity of a controversial local planning application, it has greater impact on the future than any single decision on a specific planning application.