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Beware the Government’s Planning Proposals

Posted Friday 27 September 2013

The Government’s Exposure Planning Bill 2013 before Parliament represents a major challenge for local councils. Several features of the Bill threaten to sideline local communities.

First, new Local Plans (currently Local Environmental Plans) will be subordinate to a Sub-Regional Delivery Plan where most community consultation is expected to occur. There is a major risk that critical local land use decisions will be made at an unaccountable sub-region level with minimal effective consultation.

Second, exempt, complying and code assessed development assessment (DA) processes will bypass local communities. Exempt (minor) works do not require a DA.

Complying developments are developments, such as a two storey house in a residential area, which can be approved by a private certifier. Neighbours have no right of comment.

Code assessed development is development deemed to meet building control envelopes described in the Local Plan. Councils cannot refuse code-compliant development and again there will be no consultation rights.

Under the proposed legislation the Government aims for 80% of developments to be complying or code developments with only 20% merit assessed inclusive of community comment.

Third, the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure will have unfettered power to make, amend or replace provisions of local plans by an instrument published on the NSW legislation website.

Fourth, the Government continues to support the ineffective and potentially corrupt private certification system, whereby developers employ their own certifier to certify that the development is as per the approval.

These are major threats to our control over our environment. However, in a partial concession to local communities, the Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard, announced late last week that code assessed development would now apply only in nominated growth areas.