Conservative Tweed councillors have called an extraordinary meeting this Friday to finally put to bed Tweed’s new Local Environment Plan, which the state government is pressuring the council to finalise.
Although the LEP was passed at the May 16 council meeting, progressive councillors subsequently sought to rescind the motion so that a number of changes made by staff following the most recent exhibition period could be debated in council.
The rescission motion was set to be put at next month’s ordinary council meeting but conservative councillors decided to hasten the process with the spectre of the state government breathing down their necks.
Mayor Barry Longland also fears the plan could test the patience of the state planning department if it drags out and backfires on the council.
Independent councillor Gary Bagnall told Echonetdaily he and fellow progressives Katie Milne (Greens) and Michael Armstrong (Labor) were happy with the new arrangement and said he believed the two sides were not far from an agreement.
Cr Bagnall said that while the substantive planning issues were resolved, some decisions made at a staff level on particular developments had the potential to act as precedents down the track.
In one example he said, ‘one large shopping centre turned around and said “we forgot to tell you we want to put another storey on”. Council have allowed it in the LEP submission to go to Sydney but that hasn’t been out to the public and they don’t know it’s coming’.
He added that a development at low-rise Fingal Head had been approved to extend to three-storeys, which could potentially impact on future approvals in the area.
‘There are all these little things like that, which are a possible developers’ goldmine,’ he said.
Mayor Longland told ABC radio this morning ‘council did introduce some additional environmental zones at the last council meeting… but I think some of the councillors would like to see a little bit more’.
Cr Bagnall told Echonetdaily that the proposed changes the progressive councillors were seeking were ‘quite minor’ and unlikely to derail the process.
‘We’re not opposed to the extraordinary meeting. Another couple of weeks would have been nice for us to go through it a bit more thoroughly but the two weeks has been sufficient and we have brought the attention of the officers to a lot of the planning issues that concern us,’ he said.
‘Cr Milne has put in a motion requesting the council make some planning changes before the LEP is sent away,’ he added.
‘There is also a section of the LEP on the aims and [Cr Milne] has tweaked the wording. For example, where we might have said we ‘encouraged’ something she has put in we would ‘like to ensure’.
‘Hopefully the other councillors will see our proposed amendments to the LEP are not so threatening that they can’t go along with them, and we can get those issues sorted out and get it sent off as soon as we can.
‘We’re well aware that Sydney is keen to see our LEP but we thought it was worth the risk of a few days to ensure that some of the planning issues were given a little more thought.’