Draft proposals by the state government to give greater planning powers to local councils have been welcomed by planning chiefs from Byron and Tweed shires.
Planning minister Brad Hazzard announced yesterday that under the draft changes, local councils will be allowed to approve amending and site-specific Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) including ‘spot’ rezonings.
Developers also will have the right to seek an independent review by a Joint Regional Planning Panel if a council refuses their bid for a draft LEP or fails to make a decision on it.
And both councils and developers can request independent reviews of state government decisions on whether a draft LEP and any conditions should be exhibited.
A discussion paper released this week says councils, rather than the state government, will have the final approval role on a number of LEP types, including when they support spot rezonings that are consistent with an endorsed strategy or surrounding zones.
‘LEPs are the cornerstone of the state’s planning system – typically outlining land-use zoning, subdivision sizes and controls on floor space and heights,’ Mr Hazzard said.
‘However, many steps in the LEP-making system are slow, wrapped in red tape and there’s no guarantee for proponents to get a fair hearing.’
Tweed Shire Council planning director Vince Connell said it was the first he’d heard of the draft changes and staff would need some time to review the detail.
‘But generally speaking, I think most councils including the Tweed would be receptive to gaining greater control of its smaller rezoning processes,’ Mr Connell said.
Byron Shire Council’s executive manager of planning Ray Darney agreed, saying council was ‘often in the best position to make sustainable planning decisions on behalf of the Byron community, given its closeness to local residents’.
‘So giving Council the final say on various changes to a Local Environmental Plan is a step we would support,’ Mr Darney said.
But he said allowing a council decision to be reviewed when it opted not to proceed with an LEP proposal by a developer or landowner would ‘increase the oversight on Council decision making’.
Mr Hazzard said any reviews of council decisions would first need to pass ‘a strict assessment’ by his department to ensure they were consistent with endorsed local, regional or state planning strategies and were properly serviced by infrastructure.
The planning minister said the proposals were part of the government’s election commitment to hand back planning powers to the local community and make the planning system more transparent and accountable.
Mr Hazzard said that since March last year, his government had sped-up the creation of new council-wide LEPs and ‘now we’re turning our attention to the smaller but equally important amending and site-specific LEPs’.
The proposed changes are on exhibition at www.planning.nsw.gov.au until 4 May.