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Premier accelerates approvals to kick development into high gear

NEARLY half a billion dollars has been allocated for infrastructure in housing growth areas and the assessment of development applications will be sped up to bolster the state's housing and construction sectors reports Josephine Tovey in the SMH of 13 June 2012.

The housing industry praised the creation of a fund to deliver infrastructure projects such as sewerage and roads in high growth areas.

Ten projects, costing $181 million, have been earmarked for funding by the new Housing Acceleration Fund, which has a further $300 million for future projects. The first projects are in areas where 76,000 new homes have either been approved or are expected, including the completion of the Camden Valley Way upgrade, to support up to 41,500 new dwellings, and an upgrade of Richmond Road, to support up to 12,000 properties. Money has also been allocated for land acquisition at Green Square Town Centre.

The measures were welcomed by developers.

''By making a major investment in infrastructure to support new homes, the government has also recognised that overly burdensome infrastructure requirements upon developers mean it is simply not feasible to proceed with a project,'' the chief executive of the Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW, Stephen Albin, said.

Additional funds have also been allocated to the Department of Planning to fast-track the approval of state significant projects. Thirteen million dollars has been set aside to clear the backlog of these projects, once assessed under the controversial Part 3A of the planning act.

The Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, said this would allow the department to ''potentially assess twice as many projects in the same space of time and accelerate clearance of backlogs to major project applications''.

The Greens MP David Shoebridge said the announcement raised fears proper process would be ignored. ''There is a real danger that this rush to approve projects will come at the cost of rigorous environmental assessment and community consultation,'' he said.

Fifty million dollars has also been allocated to the new Urban Activation Precincts Support Scheme, which offers financial incentives to councils increasing housing supply in certain urban areas.

Budget papers also heralded a body, called Urbangrowth NSW, that integrates the existing Landcom and the Sydney Metropolitan Development Authority and will be running by the middle of next month.

Its mandate, Mr Hazzard said, would be to co-ordinate and deliver infrastructure and service provision to development areas and plan urban renewal projects to unlock further private sector investment.