Planning controls are an arbitrary and inconsistent mishmash

May I respond to the letters from Norman Harris (“Criticisms draw a response”) and Tahir Turk (“Local planning controls need to be defended”) in edition 203 of Coast Community News.
Both letters, of course, misconstrue my statements and attribute views to me which I do not hold, but that must be because I have not expressed myself clearly enough in my original letter.
Mr Harris apparently questions my statement that “State representatives are democratically elected to protect public interest,” although such a statement seems to me an unchallengeable truism and could hardly be “opposed by every informed resident,” since it is the basis of our whole society: if they are not so elected, one wonders what Mr Harris thinks they are elected for.
“The point I was making was merely that Federal, State and Local representatives are all elected to protect the public interest, but that their spheres of interest are different.
Where there is a conflict, the greater good, i.e., for the whole state or the whole country, must prevail over the parochial: this does not strike me as either “erratic” or “emotional”, bur Mr Harris must have different standards of judgement from mine on these matters.
Of course, one might be excused some emotional response when viewing the hideous mess inflicted on the central Gosford precinct by the football stadium, the Tax Office, the State Finance Office, the pie stand and the swimming pool, but let us remember that only one of these is the responsibility of the State Government: on balance of judgement, I don’t think that local councils have much to be proud of.
As for Mr Turk’s contention that our salvation lies in local planning controls, it is pertinent to ask which level of government consistently ignores its own planning controls and approves developments opposed by local communities (unless it is a boundary fence against which the Mayor can grandstand to her heart’s content).
If it is true, as he claims, “that locally elected officials will have a more intimate understanding of the community’s desires,” than state politicians, it must follow, as the night does the day, that the residents of any neighbourhood must have a more intimate understanding of that neighbourhood’s needs than any municipal politician, yet councillors feel little responsibility to take local sentiment into account when inflicting non-conforming developments on their wards.
The reductio ad absurdum of Mr Turk’s view must be that the country would be better run by street communes than by a Federal Government, whereas a correct system is one where each level of control is properly calibrated to its appropriate responsibilities and powers, a point that Mr Turk doesn’t seem to have grasped.
As for his contention that “the planning controls were designed to provide for sustainable development on the Central Coast,” I can only repeat Bismark’s comment that it is best not to know how laws and sausages are made.
Anyone in the business knows that planning controls are an arbitrary and inconsistent mishmash of irrational judgements, represented as eternal verities but always subject to revision, as the occasion demands.
It might surprise Mr Turk to know that much of the “local” planning content comes from state templates that are adopted with little regard for logic.
On one occasion, when I had to point out an absurd contradiction in a set of standards, the response was that these standards had been adopted from state recommendations without any examination of their relevance.
Does Mr Turk seriously believe that the different controls in Wyong and Gosford were both drawn up with the end in mind that he attributes to them?
If that were the case, how could they have been compromised into a new set for the Central Coast without damaging the intent for one or other of the original municipalities?
One of the great problems of all planning controls is that they are drawn up by people looking at the past and judging the future by their own prejudices.
Those who rant about the direction of development in central Gosford don’t, and won’t, live in central Gosford and, probably, hardly ever visit central Gosford.
Yet, their views are supposed to prevail over the expectations of future residents who will live in Gosford and, probably, have very different values from those of past generations.
This is not to say that the “revival” plan for a (an obligatorily) vibrant Gosford will result in a better environment than we could have, with dynamic local leadership.
However, despite Mr Harris’s and Mr Turk’s evident approval of our full-time, paid Mayor, I think they would be hard-pressed to point to any substantial development achievement in the term of the current council.
On the point of Mr Harris’s suggestion that I should endorse council candidates, I can only say that every candidate that I voted for at the recent election failed to gain office, and I suspect that most lost their deposits.
Having sensible policies and a record of administrative ability seems to be of negligible value when weighted against the donkey vote for political parties.
I have no doubt that any candidate would prefer to avoid any kiss-of-death nomination from me.

Email, Mar 21
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy

Be the first to comment on "Planning controls are an arbitrary and inconsistent mishmash"

Leave a comment