Approvals fast tracked for NSW projects

The expansion of a landfill site in the state’s south east and two Sydney recycling projects could be fast-tracked through the approvals process by the NSW government in response to COVID 19.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

The proposed developments, which could be greenlighted within four weeks, are among 24 earmarked for expedition through the assessment process as part of the NSW government’s Planning Sydney Acceleration Program which is designed to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

The landfill project would add six extra cells at the West Nowra Recycling and Waste Facility, which is on land owned by Shoalhaven City Council.

Council has sought the extension since 2015 as part of a broader plan to establish the site as the primary waste treatment facility for the Shoalhaven over the next 25 to 40 years.

But recycling is also set to get a boost with projects across Sydney selected for fast-tracking.

These include the establishment of a dry recyclables processing facility capable of processing 155,000 tones per year in the City of Sydney LGA, and the construction of a Resource Recovery Facility in Penrith with a capacity of up to 180,000 tonnes per annum of solid waste.

Others include social housing, industrial complexes and schools with a combined value to the economy of $7.5 billion, as well as main works on the Snowy 2.0.

The full list can be viewed here.

Boosting jobs and construction

“By fast-tracking assessments, we will keep people in jobs and keep the construction industry moving as we ride out the COVID-19 pandemic and set our sights on economic recovery,” Gladys Berejiklian said as the priority list was unveiled this week.

Planning minister Rob Stokes said if approved, the projects would deliver jobs and business benefits.

He said all projects would remain subject to stringent checks, balances and community consultation to ensure transparency, public benefit and merit based assessment.

To be considered for fast-tracking rezoning must already be in the system, there must be a public benefit, and the project must demonstrate it can create jobs.

They must be shovel-ready within six months.

Further tranches will be announced, Treasurer Dominic Perottet said.

‘Missed opportunity’

LGNSW said it would have liked to have seen more sustainable waste and recycling measures and that recycling should have been embedded in the selection criteria.

Linda Scott

“Minister Stokes’ announcement is a missed opportunity to begin to create a state in which home-grown recycling and sustainable, smart waste management is built into everything we do,” President Linda Scott said.

“It would have sent a very clear planning message: we’re going to do things better from now on, and we need to be working together to ensure some lasting and sustainable good comes out of these difficult times.”

Cr Scott also said it was critical to ensure that short-term measures didn’t undermine transparency and good planning principles, or encourage poor quality development.

“Prioritised projects must still fit within overall agreed strategic planning directions,” she said.

“Strategic merit is referred to in the document as projects that are consistent with government policy outlined in relevant state, regional and all district plans.

She called on the Government to guarantee a stronger role for council-led Local Strategic Planning Statements in assessing strategic merit.

“There will need to be further consultation with councils to ensure this fast-track program really does deliver for the people of NSW and the public good, rather than simply pouring money into the pockets of developers.”

Developers welcome move

Urban taskforce has welcomed the announcement as well as what it said were strong criteria for assessing projects.

“These criteria will be used to consider further tranches of projects for fast-tracking in the coming weeks and months,” CEO Tom Forrest said.

“There are a number of significant projects across greater Sydney and Newcastle that can be fast-tracked to unlock construction activity, employment and provide housing without compromising the integrity of the planning assessment process.”

The planning system acceleration program aims to create 30,000 jobs by August. It also includes a one stop shop for industry, clearing Land and Environment court backlog and investing $70 million for new community infrastructure in Sydney’s north west.

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