Fresh after the release of the Planning White Paper, Leichhardt politicians are arguing the O’Farrell Government has broken its election promise to return planning powers to local residents and councils.
Greens Councillor Rochelle Porteous was damning on the findings of the paper, lamenting that democracy will effectively be removed from the planning process.
“The really critical issue is the fact that the White Paper wants up to 80 per cent of developments to be exempt, complying or code developments,” she said.
“Residents – even those living next door are not consulted and have no right to have a say in those developments – which may impact on their properties or their quality of life.
“This is stealing the rights of communities away and then giving a free kick to developers. We are looking at councils being reduced to rubber-stamping plans that have already been decided at a regional and sub-regional level.”
Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne said he is concerned by the lack of funding assigned by the State Government to Councils to implement changes.
“I am calling on the government to establish a working fund so that individual councils can experiment and come up with creative ways to get residents involved in drafting new planning laws,” he said.
“We will have a code so general you could drive a truck through it, or one so specific that it would cost us a fortune to develop. With no funds and no resources from the State Government, that’s an unreasonable burden for our residents to bear.”
Greens MP Jamie Parker believes the majesty of the Inner West could be sacrificed under the new laws.
“The Inner West has a lot at stake with these reforms – the lack of community consultation will ruin what we love about our area, while allowing developers to reap the rewards of an unfettered planning process.
“There will be almost no avenue for residents to appeal against controversial or inappropriate developments, including apartments and houses in their own streets.”
Despite widespread objection, the Department of Planning and Infrastructure affirms that the change to planning laws facilitates local voices rather than obstructing them.
“A key aspect of the new planning is community consultation and working in partnership with local councils,” said a spokesperson from the department.
“The new system champions engagement, allowing people to have a say when it makes a difference when the long-term planning ground rules are being set.”
Mr Byrne attested the White Paper does in fact curb community control.
“This government was elected to office with the mandate to return planning controls to local communities through local Councils. It is absolutely clear from the White Paper that they are turning their back on that promise,” he said.