O’Farrell compromises over development law battle with councils

By Paul Hemsley

New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell has yielded, at least in part, to demands from councils that he keep his key election promise to return planning control to local governments after Minister for Planning Brad Hazzard indicated the Macquarie Street may now compromise over electorally unpopular new planning legislation.

The Premier’s concession over proposed changes to the state’s planning laws, which would otherwise strip councils of their existing rights of veto over development proposals, defuses a potentially damaging row with Local Government NSW (LGNSW) which had warned of a grass roots revolt against the changes.

The potent threat that the O’Farrell government faced from councils was that bigger development applications negotiated through the Joint Regional Planning Panel and typically over $20 million might be hit by direct action where angry councils mounted a go-slow.

The hardball tactics appear to have worked after Mr Hazzard met with LGNSW Joint Presidents Keith Rhoades and Ray Donald to discuss potential changes to the government’s new legislation.

So far the olive branch of an agreement by Mr Hazzard’s to consider changes to new planning legislation appears to be working after LGNSW called the move a “step in the right direction”.

Mr Rhoades’ group was most keen about the state government’s agreement to consider axing so called code assessable developments in existing low density suburbs and limiting their use to growth areas and “Urban Activation Precincts”.

The potential change to the legislation was a “big win” for local government, Mr Rhoades said, adding that if code assessable were implemented as previously proposed, there would be a “massive risk” that the “character of suburbs” would dramatically change without providing residents the opportunity to have their say.

“There are obviously other areas of the proposed legislation that we still disagree on, but the Minister is taking LGNSW’s concerns seriously, and that is extremely positive,” Mr Rhoades said.

Mr Hazzard proposed other concessions including strengthening the “triple bottom line” (economic, social and environmental), which LGNSW claims would restore the balance to decision making; and extending the proposed limit on holding infrastructure contributions from three to five years, with provision for applying for an extension.

These concessions from the state government have significantly calmed the mood after LGNSW’s earlier warning in September 2013 that it could instigate “a council-led direct action campaign”, as Mr Donald has now said that it is “important that local and state government maintain a strong relationship”.

But Mr Hazzard will have the opportunity to quell the hostility emanating from NSW councils over the government’s new planning legislation by presenting these amendments at the upcoming LGNSW Conference in Sydney between 1st and 3rd October, which is expected to give comfort to the many conference delegates attending.

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5 thoughts on “O’Farrell compromises over development law battle with councils

  1. Heritage is threatened by Hazzard’s new Act.
    The proposals are undemocratic and a backward step.
    Hazzard forgets we live in a community not just an economy.
    Economic growth is not a god or public panacea.

    Andrew Woodhouse
    Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Conservation Society

  2. Despite the supposed concessions made by the government, which appear to have been mainly to placate local government over their loss of planning powers, the proposed planning reform is still biased pro-development regardless of the impact on the natural and urban environments, heritage areas and residents of NSW. Whilst trumpeting its concessions the government has initiated a programme of advertisements in local newspapers to sell its message that the planning reforms are based on “community participation” knowing full well that the government has the power at every level of planning to override decisions reached with the community participation and then denying those impacted any right of objection or appeal to their override decision. If O’Farrell was fair dinkum about planning reform he should dismiss Hazzard and install somebody with integrity to seriously manage the new planning laws.

  3. Not just Councils! The general public are horrified once they find out what can happen to their suburb and their street if htese planning laws go ahead and this is shown by the 5000 submissions sent in. This is the biggest protest by the general public ever!! Of course the Developers are going to say we are just a minority group! These planning laws are all just for them.

  4. It was to be expected that the developer fraternity would not find the changes to the proposed legislation to their liking. Examples of developers’ previous attempts to influence Councils against the interests of resident ratepayers are numerous. Surely it should be possible to ensure that applications to Councils are dealt with in a timely manner whilst ensuring that the interests of all parties are appropriately catered for.

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