Councils concerned about potential loss of community-led planning

The elimination of councils from the assessment of major housing projects impacting their residents would be a denial of local democracy, NSW councils have warned.

The warning follows the announcement by the NSW Government that developments worth more than $75 million that clear the 15 per cent hurdle will be fast-tracked through the “state significant development” pathway, which bypasses local councils and planning panels.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Darriea Turley AM said she had been deluged by council concerns over the announcement and had obtained a government commitment that the local government sector would be involved in developing the framework to address the housing crisis.

“I was contacted by the State Planning Minister Paul Scully who assured me councils would be involved in the development of the new framework,” Cr Turley said.

“This will be essential to ensure that local communities are not left out of having a voice in strategic land use impacting their local areas.

“Everybody acknowledges that there is a housing crisis in NSW and local councils want to be a part of the solution.

“The Minister assured me local councils would not be sidelined, but instead be welcomed into the fold to help develop the new framework.”

“LGNSW will advocate to ensure the government keeps to this commitment and we will be fighting to make sure that councils’ strategic planning powers will not be assumed by the State Government.

Cr Turley said the local government sector has previously indicated support for a flexible and streamlined planning process and councils’ willingness to work with the State Government to help fast-track development proposals.

“But we would not support any actions by the Government to introduce rules that override local strategic plans,” she said.

“These are plans designed, with community input, to balance development and growth with the availability of infrastructure and ‘onboarding’ of local communities.

“In our talks with the Government, we will be making it clear that planning processes must not violate council-led local plans and should allow councils to play a key role in assessing overall strategic merit.”

She said LGNSW was always concerned when State Governments deemed it necessary to take planning authority out of local councils’ hands, by labelling it “state significant”.

“The announcement by the Premier promises to deliver huge uplift for big developers on the proviso that they allocate a portion of their development to affordable housing for 15 years. After that, these homes would be turned over to the open market.

“Councils welcome the increased push for affordable housing targets within developments such as these, but if developers are to receive a massive 30% floorspace ratio bonus, the affordable housing delivered under with that uplift must be provided in perpetuity, not just for 15 years,” Cr Turley said