New Law Excludes Community Input Where it Matters Most

From LGNSW media release 9 Jan 2017

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) welcomed planning reforms but urged the NSW Government not to give private certifiers the green light to approve medium density development in local streets without community input.

[LGNSW is referring to the NSW Governments new Medium Density Housing Code.]

9-1465122-keith20rhoades20coffs20harbour20city20council_fct684x513x173-0_ct620x465LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said that while local government supported a modern planning system and faster processes for Development Applications (DAs), a planning system that eroded community input into local plans and development was not the answer.

“NSW has been crying out for major planning reform and I commend the Minister [Rob Stokes] on his commitment to consult on the detail so any ‘fixes’ don’t create new issues,” Clr Rhoades said.

“Local government is concerned about the proposal to expand complying development to riskier, larger-scale development which could completely change the character of a local area.

“We welcome the Government’s plans to address some existing issues with complying development, like requiring developers to pay a compliance levy and strengthening enforcement powers to manage illegal work, but we don’t support expanding this model to larger-scale development.

“Complying development means tick-a-box development – it gives developers and certifiers the green light to replace single houses with multiple townhouses.

“We’re concerned because certification doesn’t allow neighbours to have any real say. They find out the hard way: they get two letters before the bulldozers turn up next door.”

“We strongly support the Government’s decision not to mandate local panning panels, after accepting our sector’s concerns that another layer of administration and decision-making was unnecessary.

“At the same time we’re concerned about the Planning Minister being given powers to impose local planning panels on councils, and about excluding councillors from those panels, because being the voice of the community is what they were elected to do.

“It is not clear what the criteria for replacing councillors with a local planning panel would be, and this needs clarification so there is no risk of arbitrary decisions.

“It also concerns us that the sign-off process of the proposed new local strategic statements reinforces the already top-down plan-making process, squeezing the character and life out of local planning in NSW.

“We are opposed to any persistent erosion of the rights of communities and councils to have a real say in the future of their neighbourhoods via local planning powers.

“We would like to see an independent process that respects the importance of local plans in giving life to the community and Government’s big picture, with less interference on local details that are so important to communities, such as the protection of local amenity and character.”

LGNSW welcomed the Government’s commitment to increase community consultation at the front end of strategic planning – the ideas phase – but cautioned this must not come at the cost of community input at the practical end, when it comes to local developments that affect neighbours the most.

“The Planning Minister has been very good on the consultation front with councils so far, and we welcome his commitment to work with us on the details.”

If you want to comment and see more on the new Medium Density Housing Code, click here.

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