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Changes to Planning in NSW may not mean better outcomes for the community

This media release from the Alexandria Residents Action Group (ARAG) on 20 May reports on an information session held by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure at Australian Technology Park (Eveleigh) about the new planning framework on 15 May 2013.

On Wednesday 15 May, an information session was held by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure at Australian Technology Park (Eveleigh) on the new planning framework.

The Minister Brad Hazzard was keen to emphasise that the changes to the planning would deliver faster results, make things more transparent and people more accountable.

The session was attended by residents from all over Sydney including Concord, Coogee, Mosman and Marrickville along with representatives from the Alexandria Residents Action Group (ARAG) and RedWatch.

During an extended questions and answer session, the residents demonstrated their very real concerns that the changes may not mean better outcomes for the community.

“The new framework is completely reliant on getting the community heavily involved in developing the local plans well in advance,” said Ben Aveling of the Alexandria Residents Action Group, “but if this does not occur or is not done well, the first thing that residents will know about a development near them, is when they are notified that it is about to start.

“As the government’s aim is to have over 80% of development passed as complying or code-assessed, this means that residents will no longer be consulted about the impact of the development if it has been passed as complying or code-assessed”.

Questions were also asked about the Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney which was released in March 2013 and forms one of the four layers of strategic planning instruments. Submissions on the Strategy close on 31 May.

“This strategy outlines the strategic objectives, policies and actions for the next 20 years and most people have not heard of it or understand its very real implications especially in relation to rapidly achieving increased density” said Ben Aveling.

“Under the new planning framework, an individual community’s right to have a say as part of the proposed community consultation in developing the Local Plans, could be secondary to the drive to achieve the State’s strategic goals”, he said.

The Department of Planning and Infrastructure admitted that the consultation process for the Draft Metropolitan Strategy had not been effective and the meeting attendees were advised that the submission date will be extended beyond 31 May.

Ben Aveling said “these changes, by the Minister’s own admission, require a significant mind shift on the part of residents, Councils, the Department of Planning and the developers. Rushing things through and not listening to community concerns to ensure that appropriate checks and balances are in place means that the community could be much worse off as a result of these changes.”

“It is also concerning that the Bill which is due to go before Parliament has already been drafted. The devil is in the detail and there is much in the draft Bill that the community should be alarmed about, including the lack of accountability and the specific exclusion of review by the courts in certain instances.”

“I recommend that residents across New South Wales find out about what the changes could mean to them and make submissions to the Department, their local member and directly to the Minister for Planning. We need to take action now and not just wait for the disaster to happen.”

ARAG has provided information on the changes at the last two monthly meetings (which are held at the second Wednesday of every month at 7.00pm at the Alexandria Town Hall) and is co-hosting a Community forum with RedWatch on Monday 27 May at the Redfern Town Hall at 6.30pm.

“Come along and find out what the changes may mean for you,” said Mr Aveling, “with a large number of submissions, the community’s voice will be loud and clear and we may get better outcomes for all concerned.”

The ARAG website also has links to information that residents may find useful. Go to www.arag.org.au or email info@arag.org.au

Source: Media Release from ARAG