Greens move urgent action for residents on planning reforms

Marrickville Council this week voted in favour of an urgent Greens motion to inform residents about the State Government’s plans to radically overhaul planning laws.

Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore said, “The State Government has released a White Paper and draft legislation which will radically change the way that developments are assessed. The changes would remove most existing rights for residents to be notified or have a say over development in their local area.

“The State Government has set a target that 80% of development is to be fast tracked or “code assessed” under the new system, meaning residents will not be notified of developments or have any real powers to object, even to high rise development,” said Clr Ellsmore.

“Environmental and heritage considerations are also being watered down, with a stronger emphasis on “economic development” and the interests of developers.

Clr Ellsmore said, “The proposals are being sold by the State Government as increasing community participation because they give residents a say at the early, high-level “strategic” stage.

“What is being lost is the right for residents to object or even be notified down the track, when a development application is put in. The State Government knows this is actually the stage when most residents want to get involved – when there is a specific development being considered for their street,” said Clr Ellsmore.

“These draft Planning Act Bills were released amidst a flurry of State Government White Papers last month, including information about proposed amalgamations, and residents have only a few weeks left to have a say,” said Clr Ellsmore.

“The Greens are concerned that the Liberal Government wants to implement these complex and wide reaching changes as soon as possible, before residents have a real chance to learn about the reforms and respond.

“The new laws have the potentially to radically change the face of our local areas. I am proud that Marrickville Council voted to adopt the Green’s motion for Council to undertake an urgent information program for residents,” she said.

The Greens are organising and supporting community groups to organise public forums, including at Redfern Town Hall on Monday 27 May 2013.

The ALP and Conservative Councils voted to remove the commitment for Marrickville Council to hold public forums on the planning changes, when the Greens Notice of Motion was passed. Neighbouring Councils such as the City of Sydney and Leichhardt have previously organised or voted to support public forums on the issue.

Media contact:            Greens Clr Sylvie Ellsmore 0403 977 213

A copy of the Notice of Motion is below:

Notice of Motion – Urgent Consultation on Planning Reforms 

That Council:

  1. Notes that the State Government released the White Paper: A New Planning System for NSW on 16 April 2013, which will significantly overhaul planning laws and radically alter the process for development assessment;
  1. Notes that public submissions on the White Paper and two draft Bills close on 28 June 2013 and that the State Government’s Sydney information session for the public is already full;
  1. Urgently organises a public information forum for forums or local residents to provide an overview of the White Paper: A New Planning System for NSW and what it could mean for residents’ future input into planning decisions;
  1. Urgently develops and implements a public information strategy to inform residents about the proposed reforms and encourage them to make a submission; and
  1. Calls on the NSW Government to ensure there is at least 6 months of public consultation on the planning reform White Paper.

Background

On 16 April, the NSW Government released the White Paper – A new planning system for NSW for public feedback (http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/a-new-planning-system-for-nsw).

The White Paper and Draft Exposure Bills would radically reshape planning laws. The proposed changes include:

  • 80% of all development in NSW assessed as ‘complying’ or ‘code assessment’ development with no community consultation and limited environmental assessment;
  • removal of key zoning to protect sensitive environment or heritage areas;
  • a presumption in favour of a right to develop and significantly increased appeal powers for developers;
  • substantial removal of the power of local Councils to oversee development;
  • substantial increase in powers for the NSW Minister for Planning to override Council plans which have been developed in consultation with the community; and
  • removal of the principle of Ecologically Sustainable Development from planning legislation – amongst others.

Overdevelopment and loss of heritage remains one of the top 5 issues of concern for local Marrickville Council residents.

When the Planning Green Paper was released in 2012 Marrickville Council raised urgent concerns about the direction of the reforms, particularly the removal of opportunity for meaningful community consultation. See a copy of Council’s submission to the NSW Government on the Green Paper, dated 25 September 2012, on the Council’s website.

Council also put a motion to the 2012 Local Government Association Conference:

(a) That the State Government ensures that the new Act genuinely achieves the stated objectives of the Green Paper and does not include mechanisms that enable the development industry to avoid proper planning assessment by councils via rezonings in subregional plans;

(b) That the new Act provides that individual Council’s determine the membership and terms of reference of any IHAP established to evaluate development applications in-lieu of elected Councillors;

(c) That the new Act does not diminish the level of community consultation that occurs as part of land use planning; and

(d) That the new Act does not facilitate the expansion of certification of development to merit based matters or in sensitive areas such as heritage conservation areas.

Marrickville Council’s submission, along with many similar concerns raised by other Local Council, have been ignored in the White Paper.

Marrickville Council has recently embarked on a major information and consultation program in relation to proposed reforms to Local Government, which were also released in April 2013.

The proposed planning reforms are just as significant – and are even more urgent, given that there is already draft legislation developed.

The changes are very complex and require easy to understand information needs to be developed so that residents understand what it could mean for them and their Council.

It is essential that Marrickville Council informs the community about these proposed reforms and facilitates residents having a real say on changes.

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