Planning: Buffers and Separation Distances Submission

By on May 5, 2019

DR ELIZABETH GIBSON, General Manager of the CMPA provides a copy of the CMPA Submission.

The Planning Department in DELWP have sought comment on how best to manage the interface between industries and sensitive uses, this is a longstanding planning issue. Currently, planning approaches to address buffer issues can vary, be complex and lead to inconsistent decision making.

In addition to the impact of land uses with offsite impacts on the amenity of sensitive uses, unplanned encroachment of sensitive uses can constrain the operation of industries, including critical infrastructure.

DELWP engaged Environmental Resources Management Australia Pty Ltd (ERM) to review how land use buffers and separation distances are currently managed in the Victorian planning system. The ERM Technical Report ( provides an assessment of the current planning policy and tools in the Victoria Planning Provisions and analyses local and international case studies to understand how planning currently manages conflicting land uses.

The following are comments submitted to the Planning Department, DELWP.

1. Planning Policy

  • Current planning policy does not adequately deal with managing land use conflicts. There are numerous cases of encroachment in the extractive industry:
    • Sensitive uses into buffers for existing extractive industry sites risking the continuity of supply of extractive resources;
    • Sensitive use in a buffer for an extractive industry that is in the process of seeking approval; and
    • Sensitive use into designated Extractive Industry Interest Areas.
  • Planning policy can be improved with prevention of encroachment being the key.
    • Apply the ‘Agent of Change’ principle to existing quarries putting the onus on the applicant proposing a new use or development that encroached within the buffers of an existing quarry to take measures to mitigate any impacts from those existing or planned activities. (Joint Ministerial Statement Extractive Resources, August 2018)
    • ‚ Apply the ‘Agent of Change’ also to a potential greenfield quarry site; and
    • ‚ Recognition/identification of potential quarries, extractive industry interest areas and strategic extractive resource areas in precinct structure plans.

2. Reverse Amenity

  • The Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) should include specific mechanisms to protect industrial, warehouse or infrastructure uses from encroachment of sensitive uses such as the ‘Agent of Change’ above. The extractive industry contributes to the economic growth of Victoria through competitively priced quality construction materials, provides employment and, therefore, needs to be protected.
  • The VPP can be improved by preventing sensitive uses development (including industry) from encroaching into buffers or separation distances for the extractive industry.
  • Ownership or control of the buffer area may be an area of contention and reference is made to the extract below:

Extract: Major Hazard Facility Ministerial Advisory Council
Discussion Paper: p.28 Table 8

It is extremely unlikely that buffer or separation distances would be in the control or ownership of the extractive industry even with a greenfield industrial development or in a regional location. It is not relatively simple to achieve due to the impact on land values apart from for very small rural extractive industry sites. Care must be taken to ensure that the policy framework does not exclude extractive industries within Victoria. The extractive industry provides jobs and precedes development (e.g. residential) underpinning economic growth in the State.

  • An extractive industry is not a permanent land use though some may be present for several generations and once rehabilitated can contribute towards net community benefit.
  • The planning system can manage new development in areas where sensitive uses are already established in the buffer area by not compounding a poor planning decision through preventing further sensitive use development within the buffer.

3. Threshold distances

Extract: Major Hazard Facility Ministerial Advisory Council
Discussion Paper: p.28 Table 8

  • The above extract should lead to realistic setting of buffer or separation distances so that they are not so great that extractive industry development would never be able to proceed. EPA recommended separation distances for industrial residual air emissions (#1518) 2013 should be a Guideline and there should be the ability to reduce separation distances where it can be demonstrated that any impacts are mitigated.
  • The separation distances should also apply to the construction material recycling industry which use the same processing plant as the extractive industry.
  • Separation distances must be measured from the extractive limits and not from the Work Authority boundary.

Extract: Major Hazard Facility Ministerial Advisory Council
Discussion Paper: p.28 Table 8 

  • As per the above Paper decision guidelines on potential amenity impacts should be developed in consultation with industry, government and the community.

“Improving Planning Responses For Buffer/Separation Distances” ERM Technical Report, 8 August 2018.

A major issue is that the report became somewhat confusing by
referring to dated legislation/ provisions such as the:

  • Environment Protection Act 1970 instead of the Environment Protection Act 2017: 28 August 2018;
  • Victorian Planning Provisions Clause 52.10 instead of Victorian Planning Provisions Clause 53.10: 31 July 2018; and
  • No reference to the Joint Ministerial Statement Extractive Resources: 16 August 2018.

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