The state government wants to stop council refusing and approving developments.
This comes as local elections draw near in September and a range of new council candidates run their eyes over red tape and planning laws.
Wellington Council faced a major backlash over its heritage advisor’s plan to expand the heritage zone earlier this year and the local government area (LGA) has the most improved record for DA approvals after being one of the worst.
Minister for Planning Brad Hazzard told the Sydney Morning Herald of his concerns that local government councillors often determine developments according to what suits their personal political interests rather than on the merits of the proposal.
Mr Hazzard addressed a developer lobby group to discuss the green paper to be released next month which will outline a new planning system for the state likely to become law early in the new year.
Mr Hazzard told an Urban Taskforce lunch he believes local government councillors should be involved in setting planning frameworks for their area
but should have no role in assessing individual developments.
“I am very supportive of keeping the politicians, as far as is humanly possible, out of development assessment decisions,” he said.
About a dozen of 152 NSW councils have appointed independent panels to determine major applications and Mr Hazzard strongly supported that approach. The Times understands Wellington Council is yet to do this.
“The 139 that have not done it, think about it, because your elected officials should be
dealing with the broad strategic issues … not dealing with individual development applications,” Mr Hazzard said.
With council elections in September, Mr Hazzard said there would be the usual rush of councils heading to the Land and Environment Court to fight applications because it suited their political interests.
He flagged the green paper would include measures to keep councillors from making decisions based on what was
in their personal political interests.
“It is time to get a fairer system, a more proactive system, and one that does not waste ratepayers’ money,” he said.
“They have to understand it is their job to produce proper merit-based decisions in the current system and one of those ways is for professional people to support that exercise.”
Developers defended Mr Hazzard’s plans, outlined in the Herald yesterday, for a system providing them with more certainty for their projects.
The system would see communities consulted extensively to reach agreement on a planning regime for a specific area so that once it was reached developers could
build without each project turning into what Mr Hazzard called “site-specific planning wars”.