What is the historic context of the Skeleton Hill Quarry?
Approximately 10 years ago Council refused a planning permit for a quarry at Skeleton Hill.
The applicant then took Council to VCAT to challenge the refusal, resulting in Council undertaking a long and expensive process to try and stop the quarry which was ultimately unsuccessful.
A permit was then issued under the direction of VCAT for a quarry. Like all planning permits there were a number of conditions (dictated by VCAT) including a five-year expiry term and at the end of five years, the applicant applied for an extension to the permit.
What are permit extensions?
Planning permit extension requests are governed by planning legislation and VCAT case law. There is a significant amount of precedence on this and the rules of engagement are very clear.
Importantly, an extension is not an opportunity to re-visit the planning questions or re-open the case. Instead, extension requests are assessed using an established test. Some good information can be found at: 3_Planning-Permits.pdf. Here is a relevant section;
- More than one extension of time can be granted for a permit. In deciding whether to grant an extension, a responsible authority should reassess the proposal in the present context, taking into account the following considerations:
- whether there have been any changes to relevant planning controls or planning policy
- the likelihood of a permit being granted if a fresh application was made for the proposal
- the total elapsed time, taking into account whether the originally imposed time limit was adequate
- whether the landowner is seeking to ‘warehouse’ the permit (that is, store the permit without intending to act upon it)
- intervening circumstances, including:
- action taken by the applicant in the context of any legislative and policy
- uncertainties, including under other jurisdictions
- whether conditions on adjoining land may have changed in a way that would affect the proposal
- the economic burden imposed on the landowner by the permit, including whether the cost of having to comply with the permit conditions was so onerous that the time available for compliance was inadequate
This information demonstrates the process that Council (in consultation with our lawyers) needs to go through and to apply the lens of planning legislation and VCAT case law to any permit extension request.
Did Council previously approve an extension?
Council has previously granted an extension to the permit (about five years ago), which the permit holder was legally entitled to.
What is happening currently?
Council currently has an extension request for this quarry permit and we are working our way through the criteria.
We are doing this in consultation with our lawyer and we expect to have a direction on this soon.
What role can the community play regarding the extension request?
The extension request is a legal and statutory planning process that – as stated above – doesn’t re-open the case.
Despite significant interest in this decision, there is no role for community input in an extension request. This is the state law and not Council’s decision.
Who is the applicant?
The permit is attached to the land, not the owner. Therefore, from a planning perspective the property owner (or applicant) is usually not an important piece of information.
Should we hold a public meeting to discuss?
As outlined above, the planning rules do not include community input for an extension request, however you’re welcome to view the application or the extension request and talk to us about this if you desire. It is important to note however that because of privacy considerations we can’t talk about the specifics of any particular planning (or extension) application to 3rd parties.
As such, there is little benefit to any sort of community meeting or consultative process in an environment where we can’t give you details and we can’t consider community input.
What are the next steps then?
Council needs to assess the extension application. We will then make an impartial decision on the application.
- If the permit is extended then we wait for the next expiry date and see how things look then.
- If it is not extended then we wait to see if that decision is challenged in VCAT.