Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Councils face losing development power

Last year the State Government passed planning legislation that caused a huge outcry. This amendment to the Environmental Planning and Assement Act allows the Planning Minister Frank Sartor to seize control from councils of development proposals it considers "state significant". The amendment permits the Minister to approve development proposals that democratically elected councils object to. Developers on the whole are very happy as this "speeds up the development application process and provides more certainty". Never mind what the local community thinks.

It seems this power grab, draconian as it is, is not the end of the story. An article in the inner pages of the Sydney Morning Herald (7 June 2007) states:

Councillors face losing development power

Catharine Munro

Urban Affairs Editor

ELECTED councillors could lose their power to approve development applications as a result of changes the Planning Minister, Frank Sartor, is considering.

Laws introduced in South Australia 12 months ago could be a model.

"The problem is that people don't believe they get a fair go because they feel, rightly or wrongly, that some councils are advocates in their own cause," Mr Sartor said yesterday.

He would not rule out the option, after the Property Council of Australia on Sunday asked NSW to copy the South Australian model, claiming applications needed to be processed faster.

But it would be a "big intervention" and he was months away from a decision.

He said increased separation between those approving planning rules and those implementing them was a priority. In NSW councillors have the option of consulting an independent hearing and assessment panel about difficult applications.

The president of the Local Government Association, Genia McCaffery said South Australia's new laws would be "disastrous" and it would be impossible to assemble panels that were independent of the property industry.

She said the bulk of most applications were handled by planning officers on council staff. In North Sydney, where she is mayor, a design panel has been appointed to advise councillors on difficult projects. "We don't believe that the community of North Sydney elected us to give powers to people they didn't elect," Cr McCaffery said.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia's NSW executive director, Scott Woodcock, said his organisation supported the South Australian model and urged more education for councillors. "You would not appoint a hairdresser to the medical board and yet we allow councillors with no knowledge in planning to approve all these investment dollars," he said. .....................................


It seems that this proposal will take away all development powers from elected members of councils leaving a council's function only to control the implementation of the planning proposals.

Our democratic rights are being swiftly eroded in favour of giving developers and politicians what they want. We need to start countering this immediately.

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