Mitchell Shire Council will join 30 other Victorian municipalities petitioning new Planning Minister Lizzie Blandthorn for authorisation to prepare and exhibit a new environmentally sustainable development, ESD, provision that would become part of the Mitchell Planning Scheme if adopted.

The Council Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment, CASBE, is an association of Victorian councils pushing for changes to planning guidelines governing built environments, aiming to make them more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

CASBE led the push to incorporate ESD policies into local planning schemes, which would compel developers to adhere to requirements aimed at reducing the energy use, water and waste of buildings while improving environmental outcomes and amenity and reduce long-term running costs.

Councillors debated the proposal to join the 30 other councils petitioning the government to exhibit an ESD at last month’s meeting, with Cr Rob Eldridge moving to endorse it.

Cr Eldridge said developers would not be required to incorporate specific features of the ESD into their designs but developments would rather be scored as a whole.

“[It means] we are setting some standards … that will ensure that people moving into the area are moving into homes that are sustainable, don’t cost a fortune to run and are future-proofed in many ways,” he said.

“There are quite a few provisions, and it’s the overall scorecard of the provisions that goes to making up the particular application and whether it is sustained or not.

“It’s not ruling out anything in particular … you need a volume of these criteria to be a sustainably designed house.”

Cr Eldridge said it was a good start but there was ‘still a long way to go’.

“After we put this to the minister, there will be a time for the public to have a say on it. It’s the beginning of the process rather than the end,” he said.

Cr David Lowe opposed the motion, saying many of the ESD features other councils were pushing for were either not applicable or inappropriate in Mitchell Shire.

“There are too many things wrong with this that are out of focus with what we are trying to do. The issues we want are not included in this report,” he said.

“I think the principle behind it is fantastic, but frankly I am not interested in every house being provided with a washing line. There are things in here that are so trivial and so out of focus with what we need that it’s a laughing stock. It’s a start, yes, but it’s a bad start.

“I cannot support this project. I think it is seriously flawed and we are being overwhelmed by the other councils.”

Cr Rhonda Sanderson said the advantage of banding with 30 other municipalities was a greatly reduced cost to council.

She said if council declined to pursue an ESD policy with the CASBE group, it would need to develop one on its own, which ‘would be very expensive’.

Cr Sanderson also pointed out the neighbouring municipalities of Whittlesea and Strathbogie were part of the CASBE group and Mitchell Shire risked becoming a pariah if it failed to follow suit.

“If we did not participate the risk is that they are all going ahead with this fantastic environmentally sustainable development [initiative] and we are not, which puts our council at risk as far as developments we might get,” she said.

“I think it’s a good idea and we should … see where it leads us.”

Cr Nathan Clark said developments lacking sustainable principles had potential to be disastrous.

“There are new suburbs in Sydney where they haven’t considered this at all and they have basically created unliveable suburbs,” he said.

“The built form results in hot summer days of over 50 degrees where you can’t go outside and people are stuck inside with their air conditioning cranked and end up with larger electricity bills.”

The motion was carried, with councillors Eldridge, Sanderson, Clark, Fiona Stevens, Louise Bannister and Mayor Bill Chisholm voting in favour and councillors Lowe and Bob Cornish against.

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