My Motion - Protecting Council’s Say in Local Planning Matters

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Here is my Notice of Motion that I have lodged for the Ordinary Council Meeting on 18th May 2020:

On the 3rd April 2020, the NSW State Government announced the introduction of the Planning System Acceleration Program. The program has the stated aim to ‘red tape and fast-track assessment processes to boost the construction pipeline and fast-track new projects.’

The below is a comprehensive summary of the NSW planning changes that has been prepared by the Environmental Defenders Office and examines the changes made in NSW:

 

The NSW government passed the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 (NSW), which commenced on 25 March 2020.  This Act amends the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (EP&A Act).

The key change in the Act is that it gives the Planning Minister broad powers to make Ministerial orders during the ‘prescribed period’ to exempt development from planning requirements (s.10.17).

This Planning Minister’s power can only be exercised where:

  • the Minister first consults with the Minister for Health and Medical Research; and
  • the Minister is reasonably satisfied that the making of the order is necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of members of the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ‘prescribed period’ in which this power can be exercised is 6 months from the date the Act came into effect and expires on 25 September 2020 (or other date prescribed by regulation, no greater than 12 months).

The Minister has made a number of orders under this power, relating to construction hours, food trucks, temporary workers accommodation. A full list of these orders can be found here.

Changes have also been made to:

  • alter the requirements for public inspection of documents (s.10.18 of the Act); and
  • allow notices and other documents previously published in a local newspaper to instead be published online from 17 April 2020 (by Regulation). Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Public Exhibition) Regulation 2020

The Planning Minister has announced a Planning System Acceleration Program which includes a range of measures to fast-track certain development. No legislative changes are expected to implement this Program and current development assessment processes, including requirements for environmental assessment and community participation remain unchanged.

Courts and public hearings: The NSW Land and Environment Court is closed to the public and all hearings are online or by telephone. Changes to the Court’s practice and procedure are set out on its website.

The NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has made changes to processes for public meetings and hearings. The IPC will no longer hold public meetings and scheduled meetings have been cancelled. The IPC is instead accepting written submissions on existing assessments. Public hearings (which the IPC has been directed to conduct by the Minister) will proceed, but in a changed format. Currently, this affects three State Significant Developments: the Vickery Extension Project; the Narrabri Gas Project and McPhillamys Gold Mine. To facilitate this, on 30 April 2020 the NSW Government made the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (COVID-19 Planning Bodies) Regulation 2020 which inserts clause 294 into the EP&A Regulation to provide for public hearings and public meetings of planning bodies to be held by means of an audio link or audio visual link for 6 months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lane Cove Local Government Area has the following Planning Proposals currently listed on the Fast Track Assessment list as of the 12th May 2020:

The above ‘Pathways’ planning proposal was:

  • UNANIMOUSLY rejected by Lane Cove Council in February 2017.
  • An amended proposal was UNANIMOUSLY rejected by Lane Cove Council in June 2018.
  • The propoenent – Pathways Property Groups has appealed the decision of Lane Cove Council.

 

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, is it inappropriate for the NSW State Government to be investigating the ‘fast track approval’ of any planning proposal that has been previously rejected by a Local Government Area. Therefore, Council should proactively oppose any moves by the NSW State Government to overrule previous planning decisions already made by Council under the guise of ‘fast tracking’ development to stimulate the economy post the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

SOURCES:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice of Motion: Department of Planning’s “Planning System Acceleration Program” and related announcements

 

From: (Councillor Zbik)

 

That Council:

1. Writes to the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces the Hon Rob Stokes MP and the Premier Gladys Berejiklian to express its opposition to the recent changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment  Act which grant the Minister  unprecedented powers to override planning decisions made by local councils.

2. Recognises that planning decisions should be community led and that local councils are best placed to make decisions about planning that is appropriate for their local area and constituents.

3. Seek assurance from the Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes MP, that Council’s ability to conduct due diligence in line with community expectations will not be impeded by the recently announced Planning System Acceleration Program to fast-track assessments of State Significant Developments, rezonings and development applications (DAs), with more decisions to be made by the Minister if required.

4. Advise the Minister for Planning that in order to ensure community confidence in the Program, a plan to promote a high level of community engagement must be included in the additional support the Minister will need to provide to councils and planning panels to fast-track locally and regionally significant DAs.

5. Seek confirmation from the Planning Minister that Planning Proposals for amendments to Local Environment Plans (LEPs) currently in progress and/or already before the Department of Planning are finalised before the approvals of “any expanded list of works that may be carried out without the need for planning approval or under the fast-tracked complying development pathway.”

6. Alert the Minister for Planning that many of the proposals included in Urban Taskforce’s list of so-called ‘shovel-ready’ projects that “are caught up in any area of the planning system” have already been refused by local councils and/or Local or Regional Planning Panels for valid planning, social or environmental reasons or because of insufficiency of community infrastructure funding needed to maintain liveability standards for the resulting population growth, particularly in green field and brown field sites and targeted population growth areas. (For example, Planning proposal to permit seniors housing and amend height and FSR at 4-18 Northwood Rd, 274 & 274A Longueville Rd, Lane Cove)

7. Advise the Minister for Planning of concerns that the COVID-19 related amendments to the EP&A Act, which allow the Minister “to authorise development to be carried out on land without the need for any approval under the Act or consent from any person” could potentially be applied to developments other than hospitals, ICUs, morgues, or other directly COVID-19 related works, because of the ambiguity of the wording of clause 10.17(5)(b) regarding works "necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of members of the public".

8. Advise the Minister for Planning that the Department of Planning’s directive to councils to no longer publish development applications in local newspapers will disadvantage the elderly and residents who do not have access to the internet. The subsequent advertising loss of revenue will likely also undermine the viability of local newspapers, many of which are already struggling to survive. Directive should only be for the duration of the pandemic or 6 months, whichever is shorter, at which time alternative notification strategies may be considered if necessary.

9. Advise the Minister for Planning that the Department of Planning’s temporary directive to councils that certain documents related to development proposals/applications will no longer be required for physical inspection in their offices disadvantages residents who do not have access to computers and could lead to copyright issues with architects/developers regarding the publication of certain plans.

10. Request that in light of the growing level of complaints from neighbouring residents (including those on compulsory work from home and home schooling arrangements) about ongoing disturbances, the Minister for Planning reconsiders the permission granted to the construction industry to operate every day including public holidays.

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    • Andrew Zbik
      published this page in Media Releases 2020-05-15 23:02:25 +1000