Net Community Benefit a Flexible Approach to Assessment

Development assessment typically focuses on the consideration of impacts and determination of whether such impacts are acceptable to surrounding established activities.

The concept of net community benefit brings a different approach to development assessment, with attention given to whether the community will benefit sufficiently for the impacts anticipated.  In other words, whether the pros for the community outweigh any cons.

Reference to net community benefit is now located under Operational Provisions of the planning schemes in Victoria:

Clause 71.02-3 Integrated Decision Making

Planning and responsible authorities should endeavour to integrate the range of planning policies relevant to the issues to be determined and balance conflicting objectives in favour of net community benefit and sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations.

The provisions do not define the term, nor is there a clear test for such an assessment.

Be that as it may, we see the analysis of net community benefit as a practical and more flexible approach to development assessment.  It also provides opportunity for development outcomes of a higher, more critically evaluated standard than what is typically required to be “acceptable”.

For example, a multi-storey aged care facility in an otherwise low scale residential area can provide net community benefit in terms of opportunity to age-in-place.  This may tip the scales to approval when balanced against impacts on local amenity/character.

This type of analysis is tailored to each circumstance which may be above and beyond the confines of the planning schemes.  It is a good example of how the system incorporates flexibility and rigor that is targeted at benefit for the community – a notion at the heart of all good planning.

Thanks to VPELA for the recent seminar featuring a panel of industry luminaries including David Crowder, Emily Porter and Susan Brenan who provided a stimulating discussion about this topic.

Image courtesy Living Choice Australia