City News

Devils in the planning detail

NSW Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard

The State Government’s new planning laws will face a fight with Labor voting against the bill and other opponents lobbying minor parties in the Legislative Council.

The Planning Bill 2013 passed the Lower House last week and will be debated in the Upper House once it resumes sitting on November 12.

The laws seek to overhaul the planning process in NSW, including a new strategic planning framework, the creation of a community charter for planning authorities and speeding up the processing of development applications.

The new bill also changes the key principle of “ecologically sustainable development” to “sustainable development”, which critics say could negatively impact environmental protections in new developments.

But Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said growth had to take precedence.

“Considering the environment is important, but the state needs to grow in order to prosper,” he said. “It is a matter of growing or falling behind other states.

“Only two other states still use the idea of ‘ecologically sustainable development’ in planning.”

Mr Hazzard defended the new protocols, which will use community consultation to set a framework and then allow development to take place according to that framework. The idea is to minimise disruptions and delays once a strategy is decided.

“This bill seeks to engage the community upfront,” he said. “It guarantees the average family gets a say in the planning process.”

“A streamlined approval process means that it is more likely that developments will be built efficiently, saving families and businesses thousands of dollars in holding costs.”

June Hefferan, part of the leadership group with the Better Planning Network which was set up to resist the government’s plans, said her main concern is that the laws focus solely on economic growth.

“The Better Planning Network has been fighting for the inclusion of a requirement of ecologically sustainable development requirements such as an obligation to consider biodiversity, the precautionary principle and a polluter-pays principle in the new bill,” she said.

“Growth should happen but not at the expense of people, community wellbeing, residential amenity or the environment.”

Ms Hefferan said the “growth areas” designated under the laws would give too much power to developers and would undermine good urban design.

City of Sydney Labor Councillor Linda Scott was critical of the bill for lacking other provisions.

“There must be mention of affordable and community housing in the new act,” she said. “Affordability is a key issue for the future of Sydney.

“I meet older residents who have lived in Sydney all their life, and whose rental properties are being reclaimed for sale and they are threatened with homelessness.”

With the Greens also set to oppose the bill, the government will need the support of Shooters and Fishers and Christian Democratic Party MLCs. They could not be reached for comment, but it is understood both are in negotiations with other parties and stakeholders.

Additional reporting by Michael Koziol.

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