City News

Development lobby chides opposition over planning

Apartments under construction in Chinatown. Photo: Michael Koziol

The developer lobby group Urban Taskforce has urged opposition parties to back the state government’s original planning bill, which is currently stalled in the Legislative Council while the government considers amendments made late last year.

In a letter to upper house leaders of Labor, the Greens and the Shooters and Fishers Party, chief executive Chris Johnson says the amendments would defeat the purpose of the legislation.

“We were…dismayed to see the attacks levelled at the Planning Bill at the end of last year which will at best result in a compromised, watered down version of the Bill that bears little relationship to the White Paper reforms,” he wrote.

The Taskforce said current planning instruments are frustrating construction and leaving Sydney with a critical housing shortfall. New South Wales will need to accommodate an estimated two million new residents over the next 20 years, with the majority choosing to live in Sydney. The developers argue that housing affordability can only worsen because supply is running at about half of total demand.

The letter urged parliamentarians to retain key controversial elements of the bill, including:

  • code assessable development that enables proposals to be automatically approved or rejected
  • the permanent use of strategic compatibility certificates to override local plans
  • measures to ensure community participation in planning is truly representative

Mr Johnson did not mince words in his submissions.

“A Planning Act needs to be a clear rational document not a hotchpotch of clauses thrown together by numerous political parties bent on destroying the logic of the document prepared by the state’s top planners,” he wrote.

“It is not acceptable for today’s politicians to hold future generations to ransom by not having a modern planning system that manages significant growth. It appears that some opposition political groups are more interested in opposing than leading when it comes to planning.”

Mr Johnson said it was apparent that small, vocal action groups were exercising undue influence over politicians. He accused them of running “fear campaigns about the evil of change” and resisting housing types which challenge the status quo.

In response to the letter, Greens MLC David Shoebridge challenged Mr Johnson to a public debate on planning law reform. He said the Greens’ objections to the bill remain steadfast.

“The government has been listening closely to representations from developers, including your organisation the Urban Taskforce, and as such has proposed a top heavy planning system where the community and the environment are essentially sidelined,” Mr Shoebridge wrote.

He said the proposed planning law fails to provide affordable and sustainable housing and will not protect the urban and rural environment of the state.

A spokesperson for the planning minister, Brad Hazzard, said no date had been set for a ministerial response to the proposed amendments.

Brandon Nelson contributed reporting

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