Save Our Woy Woy criticises local planning panel move

NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister, Rob Stokes, on the Central Coast with Terrigal MP, Adam Crouch

State Government moves to introduce a Local Planning Panel for the Central Coast have been criticised by the Save Our Woy Woy group, as well as Central Coast Council mayor Cr Jane Smith.
Save Our Woy Woy founder Mr Harvey McDougall described the moves as “a complete load of rubbish”.
“Surely if it is going to be independent, then there should be no interference from any form of government,” he said.
“Council can appoint the panels members but only from the State Government’s list.
“Why are there not more representatives from all the groups who are trying to control what is happening on the Coast?
“Members from our community should have more say and this is a way for them to be heard.
“Then and only then, would it be independent.”
The local planning panel will remove another layer of decision making from Central Coast Council, meaning that council will only have jurisdiction to decide on developments under the value of $5M.
Cr Smith described the move as a “power grab”.
She said the “intervention is unnecessary and is the latest in a series of moves by the state government to take planning powers away from communities”.
“The community could rightly be concerned.
“We have seen the recent case of the NSW Planning Department overriding a City of Sydney decision to oppose a tower development at Pyrmont … and this calls into question the independence of our planning system,” Mayor Smith said.
“Councillors are elected by the community to make decisions on behalf of the community.
“We are accountable to them for the decisions we make.
“The imposition of a Local Planning Panel removes power further from members of the community and erodes their capacity to have a voice.”
The panel is expected to be in place by early 2020 and will consist of a chair, two independent experts appointed by council from a Minister endorsed pool of independent, qualified people, plus a community representative.
But none of the three Peninsula councillors (Troy Marquart, Richard Mehrtens and Chris Holstein) have made a public comment about the decision.
When in place, council will decide development applications under $5M and those valued between $5M and $20M will be referred to the panel for a decision.
Developments valued at more than $20m will go to the Joint Regional Planning Panel for a decision.
State Significant Developments have their own approval framework, separate to those two planning panels, and are determined by the Department of Planning.
NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the Central Coast panel followed independent reviews showing that existing panels in NSW were performing very well to deliver better planning outcomes.
“The panel will free-up councillors to focus on the long-term strategic planning to lead the delivery of the region’s goals and priorities,” he said.
NSW Labor supports the panel in principle, but wants certain guarantees from Minister Stokes that the panel will comprise planning experts, community members and council representatives and that local communities have sufficient opportunity to comment on development proposals.
Wyong MP Mr David Harris said local planning panels were a key recommendation by former NSW deputy police commissioner Mr Nick Kaldas as a “corruption-proofing tool”.
His recommendation was part of a major independent review of governance in the NSW planning system.
However, Greens Central Coast spokesperson Ms Abigail Boyd said: “Having the Minister approve most of the panel members should ring alarm bells for the Central Coast community.
“The government does not want community control of planning decisions, they want deals signed in back rooms.
“This is the opposite of increased transparency. It is yet another Coalition Government move designed to disempower local councils and the communities they represent.”

SOURCES:
Media release, 25 Aug 2019
Taylor Martin, Liberal MLC
Media release, 25 Aug 2019
David Harris, Member for Wyong
Media statement, 26 Aug 2019
Abigail Boyd, Greens MLC
Media statement, 26 Aug 2019
Harvey McDougall, Save Our Woy Woy
Reporters: Sue Murray, Merilyn Vale

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