Distinctive Areas and Landscapes Bill passed

New state government legislation designed to protect the Macedon Ranges from inappropriate development has been given the tick of approval.

The Distinctive Areas and Landscapes Bill 2017 was passed in Parliament last week, designating the Macedon Ranges as the first “distinctive area” up for protection.

Macedon MP Mary-Anne Thomas said it was “only fitting” that the Macedon Ranges be the first place to receive protection.

“This bill means the amenity and landscapes of the Macedon Ranges will be preserved for generations to come,” Ms Thomas said.

The bill introduces new planning controls by amending the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

It allows the government to declare part of Victoria to be a distinctive area and landscape, and requires the minister to prepare a Statement of Planning Policy to guide development in the area.

The planning statement must seek to conserve the distinct attributes of the area.

The bill states the government must consult the community and other persons affected by the statement when writing it.

The draft Macedon Ranges Localised Planning Statement was released for public feedback in December, having been written by the state government with Macedon Ranges council.

However, it was slammed by local groups, with Macedon Ranges Residents Association secretary, Christine Pruneau saying the document had “many, many, many failings”.

Ms Pruneau said the plan was meant to prioritise the Macedon Ranges’ environment, character and landscape above development, but instead it was “just a growth plan”.

The association held a public meeting about its outrage, while another residents group, A Forum for Democratic Renewal, held similar sessions across the shire.

The state government extended the consultation period on the statement by two weeks “given the level of community interest in the draft,” Ms Thomas announced on her Facebook page.