Community voice silenced in 80 per cent of development decisions

Local residents will be denied a say in 80 per cent of development decisions under sweeping planning reforms unveiled today by the state government, according to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.

“This is the most significant backward step on public participation in more than a generation,” said Pepe Clarke, NCC Chief Executive Officer.

“Since the current planning legislationwas introduced in 1979, members of the community have had a right to comment on the large majority of development proposals.

“These critical public participation rights improve the quality of development decisions and give the community a voice on development proposals that affect their local environment and way of life.

“Prior to the state election, the Premier promised to give people a real say on issues affecting their local community. Today, the government has broken that promise, announcing that four out of five developments will be assessed with no public consultation and limited environmental assessment.”

The White Paper proposes applying a fast track ‘code assessment’ approach to a wide range of developments, including commercial buildings, apartment blocks and land sub-divisions. Local councils will not be able to refuse proposals which comply with relevant codes.

“Fast tracking these developments will compromise environmental protection outcomes and result in poor quality planning decisions.”

“The measure of an effective planning system must be its ability to foster vibrant, sustainable communities and protect important environmental values, not merely its capacity to deliver rapid approval of poorly planned development.”

“We strongly support improved strategic planning, but remain deeply concerned that new strategic planning processes will not deliver essential protection for important environmental values.”

“The commitment to introduce strict penalties for providing false and misleading information to obtain a planning approval is welcome, but should be complemented by an accreditation scheme to hold consultants and proponents accountable for poor quality environmental assessments.”

The White Paper and Exposure Bill can be downloaded from the Department’s website: www.planning.nsw.gov.au/a-new-planning-system-for-nsw

Submissions on the White Paper and Exposure Bill can be made until 28 June 2013.

Media contacts: Kate Smolski 0478 828 864, James Tremain, 0419 272 254 or 9516 0206.

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