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How can we better utilise government owned land?

Last Wednesday a Victorian Planning and Environment Law Association (VPELA) seminar on Government land, had presenters from both State (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and VicTrack) and Local (City of Banyule) Government departments.

Part of the evening focused on the introduction in 2016 of the Fast Track Government Land Service, which is an initiative that charges DELWP with the responsibility of rezoning disused government land sites for suitable reuse.

As explained on the night, State departments have had a history of banking land for long periods however, a policy change in August 2015 now requires that non-used land be declared.

It was interesting to hear that a number of the sites that have been sitting idle for years are still school sites – having in mind population growth and the perception that there have been considerable sales of disused school sites over many years. We realise of course, the existing sites may be in the ‘wrong’ areas.

The aim of the fast track service is to rezone land within six to seven months. If the land is to be rezoned for private redevelopment, the rezoning process can be drawn out compared with a rezoning for a Council purpose such as public open space.

Windsor Station's proposed new look. Image: SMA Projects

Notwithstanding this, the principle of forcing departments to dispose of non-used land will have economic benefits. An example of this was the former Elsternwick rifle range owned by VicTrack being vandalised and costing money on security and maintenance before it was redeveloped.

Another interesting example raised was the proposed development of an apartment building adjacent to the Windsor train station and above the railway line utilising land and air rights owned by VicTrack.

The proposed building has been in the press and will get people thinking about how we can more efficiently use underutilised land.

Michael Collie is Director at Collie Pty Ltd, a multi-disciplinary Southbank-based firm with interests in strategic planning, development planning, urban design and landscape architecture. This article appeared on Collie's website.

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