Like the community, I have many questions about the changes proposed by the NSW Planning White Paper.
I am deeply concerned about the likely impact on the environment, your ability to have a say, the oversight of the City of Sydney, affordable housing and infrastructure, design quality and heritage.
These changes would make economic growth the main priority for planning in NSW rather than balancing the economic, environment and social needs of our state.
It's important you find out about how these changes will affect you. Here's some information in plain English to help you understand the proposed planning changes.
The White Paper writes out environmental considerations. The current Ecologically Sustainable Development principles will be removed form planning laws, reducing our ability to protect the local environment and respond to climate change - the greatest problem of our time.
Having a say
You will lose the ability to have a say on most development applications (DA). Instead, you will be asked to take part in making long-term strategic plans for the future of your neighbourhood.
We know from experience how difficult it is to engage people in strategic level discussions about the future. Most people need to see detailed plans before they can understand the potential impacts and become engaged.
The NSW Government's target is for 80% of development applications to be 'complying' or 'code assessable'.
'Complying' development is supposed to be low impact and meet local planning rules. This includes developments such as a new two storey dwelling, or additions to an existing building. Complying development will not require a DA.
'Code' development requires a development application, however if it meets the planning controls then you will not be able to have a say. You may not be notified if there is a development occurring in your neighbourhood, and Council will not be able to make changes to the plans if it is code or complying.
The City has worked hard to encourage excellent design, but these changes would lead to 'tick-a-box' developments and a return of standardised, bland, ugly developments.
Who looks out for the City?
The City's DA process is already extremely efficient: 90% of applications are determined without being referred to Council, and when things are review by Council it usually takes just 26 days to make a decision.
We believe the Central Sydney Development Control Plan (DCP) should be used as the new planning regulations for the City of Sydney.
The Government's proposed changes and the new Metropolitan Plan would break NSW up into different planning sub-regions. The City of Sydney already functions as its own planning sub-region and this arrangement should be left in place.
We already have a Sub-Regional Planning Board which reviews developments over $50 million - the Central Sydney Planning Committee - and it should become a used across other regions.
A standard approach
The White Paper pushing for standardised planning across NSW, but standardised codes threaten neighbourhood character and ignore the things which make a neighbourhood unique.
The City of Sydney requires a unique approach. As the centre of Australia's only global city, the planning controls that apply to suburban, regional and rural councils would not work.
Standard codes, fewer types of zones and the replacement of Floor Space Ratios with building envelopes will not work in the City of Sydney which has a lot of diversity, high quality design and heritage buildings.
The removal of Floor Space Ratios will lead to over-development that is not sympathetic to local neighbourhood's character. It compromises our ability to achieve design excellence in Central Sydney buildings, and reward heritage conservation with extra floor space through the Heritage Floor Space Scheme.
Affordable housing and local infrastructure
There is no mechanism for creating more affordable housing in the White Paper. At the moment, Councils have the ability to set targets and place levies on new developments to build affordable housing.
The White Paper removes this power from Council, which means many City residents in lower paid but vital jobs will find it even harder to find a home.
A new contributions system is proposed to fund vital infrastructure for our community.
The private sector should help provide local infrastructure at an early stage of development. The current system often fails to make this happen, particularly in urban renewal projects like Green Square, which leaves the City of Sydney to fill the gap.
The White Paper talks about Regional Infrastructure Contributions (covering roads, education etc.) and Local Infrastructure Contributions (limiting councils to basic infrastructure), however, it's unclear how this will function.
There are also some impractical restrictions on infrastructure levies and how they are spent. For example, a proposed 3-year limit on the expenditure of local contributions will often be unachievable.
Contact Premier Barry O'Farrell and Planning Minister Brad Hazzard and tell them you oppose the Government taking away your right to have a say in development applications in your neighbourhood.
Barry O'Farrell, (02) 9228 5239, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad Hazzard, (02) 9228 5258, email@example.com