Media release - NSW planning overhaul must not compromise safety, transparency standards

December 2, 2019

NSW councils have warned that the State Government’s planned overhaul of the planning system to ‘slash assessment time frames and reduce red tape’ must not be at the cost of lowering transparency or community standards.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said councils agreed with government on improving transparency, timeliness and certainty of the State’s planning system, but it should not come at the cost of reducing the capacity of councils to ensure quality developments and protect the amenity of communities.

“Councils are absolutely committed to working with the State Government to develop changes that will improve the planning system, but this week’s announcement provides little detail about how that would happen and there has been no consultation with councils,” she said.

“The NSW planning system must ensure the best possible outcomes for communities.

“Sadly, in NSW, we’ve seen what happens when the process doesn’t go right, with disasters such as the Opal and Mascot towers.

“Councils and their skilled planning workforce are right at the coalface of balancing development applications with other critical issues such as local environment, services and amenity on behalf of their residents and businesses.

“Before mandating the use of e-Planning for councils, the State Government must rule out the system to raise revenue. This is something the government has consistently refused to do.”

Cr Scott said the Premier’s planning reform announcement came when councils were still implementing changes the government introduced in 2018.

“Those changes called for all councils to develop long-term strategic plans for their areas, referred to as Local Strategic Planning Statements,” she said.

“Councils are working hard to implement them by March 2020 for councils in Greater Sydney and by July 2020 for regional councils. 

“Constant reviews and ‘reforms’ risks putting the interests of developers ahead of the community, which undermines confidence in the planning system and are not an effective use of resources.”

Cr Scott also sounded a note of caution as to who would be left to carry the cost of the changes.

“Some of the proposed changes have the potential to add to cost-shifting from state to local governments, which already cost councils $820 million in 2018-19 alone and about $6.2 billion over the past 10 years.

“While I am pleased the Premier has promised consultation on planning reforms, it has not been made clear to this point whether councils would be included in that process.”

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