Peter Hehir under arrest in Rozelle Photo: Peter Hehir

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By Peter Hehir

The Premier’s June decision to bring the GSC in under the Department of Premier and Cabinet effectively strips the Commission of its planning powers, but it doesn’t mean anything will really change. 

So, what is the brouhaha between Glad the Impaler and Lucy ‘I don’t know of any demolition in Haberfield’ Turnbull’s Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) and what does it mean for the Inner West? 

In a report in The Australian last Friday, Sydney planning and environment lawyer Aaron Gadiel said the Commission had in many ways taken over the “great majority of powers that were traditionally vested’’ in the Planning Minister. 

This would not have gone down well with the titans of the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) who must have resented the GSC encroaching on their territory.

It’s clear that after the recent deliberations by the Department in relation to the 13,000 objections to WestConnex, the DPE doesn’t want to upset Glad the way the Environmental Protection Agency did by not approving Stage 3. 

Perhaps the Premier was worried the GSC would prove to be equally unpredictable.

Did Glad feel that the Greater Sydney Commission was getting a bit too far beyond arm’s length to be yanked back into line? 

That they weren’t pro development enough? 

Or, heaven forbid, that in going to the trouble of engaging with the masses via their public seminars, they gave the impression that the opinions of the public might actually matter?

The Premier’s assertion that the position of the GSC would be strengthened as it would report directly to the Premier cuts both ways. 

It’s all about control. 

The Premier would clearly be able to dictate directly to the Commission, and she no doubt would. 

The use of industrial land in the Inner West is a significant bone of contention between the GSC and the DPE. 

The GSC recognised the need to retain much of this land for its stated purpose while the DPE foreshadowed its intention to rezone these areas for high density residential development. 

The effective removal of planning powers from local councils, placing them under the control of the GSC, removed the irritant of community members expressing their legitimate concerns about overdevelopment, but obviously this wasn’t good enough for Glad and her developer cronies.

The GSC’s retention of reservations for light industry and hence local employment opportunities has obviously rankled the pro high-rise development gaggle – who clearly have Glad’s ear – prompting the Premier to rein in the GSC.

Does this mean even darker days for the Inner West? 

Probably. 

The stripping of the GSC’s planning powers appears to have caught the GSC by surprise, as Lucy’s office professed a lack of knowledge of the changes with The Australian quoting a staffer saying ‘This is the first I’ve heard of it’.

 From the perspective of the Inner West though does it really matter who is driving the bulldozer? GSC or DPE? What’s in a name?

Lucy’s Greater Sydney Region Plan, A Metropolis of 3 Cities, describes a vision of the already developed Inner West of a housing stock increase of 35%, whether anyone likes it or not.

Could the projected 35% housing increase possibly even double under the Premier? 

Why not? 

She seems to believe history, heritage and amenity have no value and are just barriers to development. 

The fact that residents collectively own residential precincts and should have some say in determining the shape of the environment in which they live, appears to matter not a jot. 

It’s not inconceivable that entire streetscapes of Victorian terraces could simply disappear and be replaced by high rise ‘little boxes made of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same’. 

The ugly cancer that killed Pyrmont and Ultimo will no doubt spread.

And there is bugger all we can do about it.

Concerns expressed by the community in relation to overdevelopment, loss of amenity, the destruction of heritage precincts and National Trust classified homes cut no sway with the Premier. 

“Develop or perish” appears to be her mantra. 

The distancing of the community from the decision-making process is deliberate and seems designed to dumb down opposition.

Likewise, community concerns about the importation of WestConnex vehicle pollution on a grand scale into Rozelle if Stage 3 proceeds don’t bother her either. 

Of course, Glad hates to be exposed as the ultimate NIMBY. 

She wouldn’t have a bar of unfiltered road tunnel stacks in her electorate when it was first proposed by the ALP in 2013. 

Her protestations in Parliament on this subject are a matter of public record. 

But Glad will tell you it’s fine for the Inner West. 

And that the Roads & Maritime Services use ‘world’s best practice’.

The driving force behind all of this is the push to double and treble Sydney’s population. 

It’s fuelled by the greed of the developer who demolishes, builds and moves on to destroy another community. 

When were we consulted about the desperate need to increase our population? 

I don’t recall any debate.

When all is said and done, does it really matter which Department is pulling the strings?