Council Development Assessment Panels set to change

Word is that 1 August 2017 will see the commencement of the assessment panel provisions of the Planning Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 (PDI Act). 1 October 2017 is set to be the designated day for the new system.

This means changes for our own Development Assessment Panel (DAP). First up, the Council Development Assessment Panel will now be known as a Council Assessment Panel (CAP).

The change though with the most impact will be the change to the membership of the Panel.

The current membership of the Panel is 7 people. Elected members fill three of the positions on the panel. The remaining four members are filled by independents appointed by Council.

The effective number will reduce to no more than 5 from 1 October however. More to the point, there can now only be one elected member of Council on the Panel.

Membership of the panel will now have to be reviewed by Council. It means we must reduce the elected member representation.  We can and I expect will retain the 4 independent members on our Panel.

We will need to consider keeping only one of the current elected members on the panel or starting again. The opportunity for all elected members now exists to nominate for membership of our panel.

Last night I attended Unley’s Development Assessment Panel meeting last night as a spectator. Interestingly there were two apologies dropping our 7 strong team down to 5.

As a result, if the new Council Assessment Panel was in operation 2 apologies would see the members of the Panel in attendance reduce to 3. Members of the Public were disturbed that the number on the night (5) was too small a number.

Finally, as has always been the case, assessment panels will be relevant authorities by virtue of the PDI Act, not because they receive delegated authority from another body, such as a council or the Minister.

 

Some thoughts from my dual hats of Planning Reforms

I have watched with interest the debate that has prevailed in recent times over Minister Rau’s planning reforms.

As a builder I have great empathy for the lengthy times it takes to get the most minor of projects through the planning system. As a councillor on the other hand I have true respect for the role the community plays in ensuring that development in their area is appropriate.

 

Interestingly the people frustrated at both ends can be the same people on different sides of the fence for the next development.

Builders and therefore their clients (you and your neighbours)  are rightfully frustrated by the time it takes to get an approval for their development, more often than not an addition to their own home. Councils have borne the focus of the angst that has created, often seen as the meddling cause of the delays. You are likely to have been a council critic. I know I have.

The truth is the system, as designed by the state government, is the cause not councils. There have been many changes proposed in the bill the minister has put before Parliament that are good. They will definitely help to improve the system significantly.

There are changes proposed that need to be at the forefront of change but which will be delayed due to I understand the cost of implementing them. I speak specifically about setting up a date based development plan regime. This is an area that should have  a focus long before those who may participate ion the approval process are questioned.

A major focus for the ministers bill is focused unfortunately on who may be involved however. He is set on  removing both residents and elected members of council out of the approval process.

I intend in the next 24 hours or so to put my thoughts on the removal of both residents and elected members from the process in separate blog posts.

So watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minister Rau picks up the Planning Reform Pace.

While Unley Council’s recent focus has been on Brownhill Creek the area that I have a passion for has been simmering in the background.

 

Our Deputy Premier & Minister for Planning has been working on his various planning strategies and a number of them are coming to a head as he picks up the Planning Reform Pace.

Here is a summary of what is happening as we speak.

 

Development Plan Amendments – Ministerial Initiated

 

Inner and Middle Metro Corridor Infill DPA – This DPA is to extend the Urban Corridors Zoning much further across the cities major transport corridors.  Council has just received the Draft DPA from DPTI and is in the early stages of analysing the detail. Council has made some observations about this DPA which have already been taken on board by DPTI and therefore the Minister, such as leaving Goodwood Road’s heritage precinct alone for us to address in our own DPA sometime in the near future.

 

Existing Activity Centres DPA – The draft has recently been released by the Government for public comment until 21 October 2015.  This has significant implications for Unley and again DPTI woudl appear to accept our take that with a number of conflicts with the Corridors DPA that this shoudl not be considered in the inner rim councils.

 

30 Year Plan Update

 

Our officers having been working with Departmental Staff on an updated 30 Year Plan, which is the Metropolitan Adelaide Planning Strategy.  Officers will be provided with further briefings and invitation for feedback in the first half of October, with the expectation that a Consultation Draft of the 30 Year Plan Update will be released prior to Xmas.

 

Planning Reform Legislation

 

DPTI_Planning_System_header_560x200The Planning Reform Bill has been introduced into Parliament.  As is often the case, consultation on the Bill has opened for 30 days from 8 September – a very tight consultation period not really cognizant of Council meeting time frames. For the Masochists amongst you can access the Bill at http://dpti.sa.gov.au/planning/planning_reform and let me know what you think.

 

Latest Regulatory Changes

 

More changes have been made to Development Regulations to make the Coordinator General the relevant agency with which to lodge Development Applications for dwellings and associated land division proposals in relation to the redevelopment of existing Housing Trust properties.

Goodwood Oval Phone Tower a litmus test for Council’s DAP

I will be watching with interest the upcoming decision by Council’s DAP on the Goodwood Oval Phone Tower proposed proposed by Vodafone. It may well prove a litmus test for the Government’s proposed changes to the Development Act.

 

A number of residents have been confused as to Council’s role in this process. In particular some are of the belief that our elected members should be standing up to whoever is proposing this and saying hands off. They say this on the understanding that there will be only one view without and before knowing if that is in fact the case.

Having said that, if I were a betting man, I would say that is the case.

The fact of the matter is there is a due process that must be followed under state legislation. Council must receive the application and cannot refuse to receive it. That said the Act does allow means for public participation in certain circumstances and the phone tower is one such circumstance.

Beyond that the process provides a mechanism by which the application should be judged. In some cases this is the responsibility of the paid officers of the planning department of council. In others, including this one, that responsibility is vested in the hands of a panel known as the development Assessment Panel or DAP.

It is their job to read and understand the application and the planning officer’s report and recommendation. They must also read and understand any representation made by the public on the matter. They have to determine if the observations made in any representation, whether supporting the application or rejecting the application, is valid under the terms of the development plan.

The State Minister for Planning (and Deputy Premier) John Rau has sited often that elected members sitting on Council DAPs are making politically expedient decisions on planning matters rather than assess the application on is merits against the development plan. This is one of the core reasons why he wants to see councils and in particular elected members removed from the planning assessment process.

Many people in the street, frustrated by perceived delays in getting their 2 storey addition passed through council would probably agree with the minister. The very same people are critical then of Mr Rau for having already taken the power away from councils on high rise developments.

Our DAPs handling of the Goodwood Oval phone tower may well prove a litmus test on the minister’s move to take Council out of the development process. How the individual members of the DAP vote will at least.

Will the elected members vote the same as the independent members? Will the elected members be split in their vote? Will the independents be split in their vote? Will the elected members vote one way and the independents vote the opposite way?

Hmmmmm!

So You think DPA2 is bad

Many residents in the old Goodwood South Ward, now Clarence Park Ward were justifiably upset at the suggestions being mooted in the recent DPA 2 consultation.

If you think that was bad are you prepared to stand up and be counted in what could be a way more devastating blow to development in your street and therefore the amenity of your street?

You would also be aware that your voice WAS heard by council and we are making changes to the plan. We will (as previously reported on this blog site) be going back out to you with those changes earl next year after the new council has had a chance to settle in.

Of course convincing council may be irrelevant with a State Government hovering above us and doing all they can to make local government irrelevant in planning matters. While they have the Expert Panel going through their motions the Minister for Planning keeps pushing through legislation that preempts the panel’s findings.

This minister and his government are hell bent on removing councils from the planning process. Why? One of his claims is that elected members acting on development assessment panels take too much notice of the neighbours and that this is stifling development in this state. Surely that means removing councils from having an influence removes your chance of having any influence.

So he is setting up yet another layer of bureaucracy at cost to you the tax payer so that developments in excess now of $ 3m can simply circumvent the local government development assessment boards.

Is this what you want. How many of you will protest this as you did the recent DPA2. I am. I have signed the petition being put together by Greens MLC Mark Parnell. Will you? It can be found on Mark’s website

And don’t forget that as much as Council may listen to you on DPA2 don’t expect that the minister will be as sympathetic. This government’s track record of announce and defend has not changed as evidenced by their current actions.

Just for the record the following is what I wrote in the general comments in the petition:

This is another kick local government opportunity and blame them for inadequacies within the planning system of the governments own making. It does not address the true inadequacy meaning nothing will change except another layer of bureaucracy will be created along with its cost. And shame on the liberals for their back flip.

Help protect your street from the potential we know what is best that this government has a history of doing. I don’t know what chance we have of stopping this but I do know you will have next to no say in future development proposals if the State Government are in charge via a centralised rather than a local system.

Sign the petition. It may be your last and only chance.

Development Approvals Down

New Developments Down 10 % the Eastern Courier is telling us in the eastern suburbs. Whilst the report focused on the Norwood, Payneham & St Peters Council it did reference what has occurred in Unley.

The report indeed incorrectly claims that Unley Council development applications are down from 918 in 2102 to 614 in 2013. If true that is a whopping reduction of some 30%
To put the record straight. The annual Development assessment panel report was provided to Council back in October last year and the stats shown therein show approvals down from 958 in 2011-12 to 840 in 2012-13. A significant drop but nowhere near of the order suggested in the Courier. It was more in keeping the the headline for the storey.
Of significance to me, as a member of the Panel, is that the applications before the Panel reduced from 164 (17% of all applications) to 108 (13%). This came about because of changes to criteria Council made to bring back us back in line with similar sized councils when we found we were spending more ratepayers funds than these councils.
Backing up the decision to do this and take pressure off future rate rises the report indicates that 89% and 88% respectively of approvals required by the panel, the panel concurred with the officers recommendation.
It also decried, as I reported last year in this blog site, that only 14 applicants felt a need to lodge an appeal with the ERD Court, making a mockery (in our case anyway) of the Minister for Planning suggesting that approvals should be taken away from Councils and indeed elected members because of bias.

For more information check the posts around September through November.

Development Plans – Ownership

I thought it timely as I go to hear the concerns of a ratepayer tonight about our Development plan and what he sees as (in my words) our plan’s shifting goal posts to ask a question in this forum, and attempt to answer it.

Who owns the Development Plan that each Council has?

As a builder I was not aware, until becoming an elected member, that the Minister for Planning owns the Development plan for each Council. The Minister for Planning must be satisfied in other words that our Plan meets his requirements and therefore meets the strategies of the Government (State) of the day.

In other words Councils are asked to police development standards established in the Council’s name by and for the State Government. We do get some say in the Plan relevant to our own “patch” but our opinions it seems only have credence if it mirrors the objectives of the Government.

We are currently negotiating with DPTI regarding a series of Development Plan Amendments linked to the current Government’s 30 year plan for Adelaide. Tomorrow night I am expecting Council to be briefed on our current suggestions and I suspect there are a number of sticking points that may wind up being non negotiable.

Once we can get agreement  between the two parities it will then go to the Minister for signing off ready for us (yes US) to go out for a “final” public consultation. We at Council will then likely cop the flack if they do not like something about the plan, even though we may be in full agreement with the aggrieved person.

This gets us back to why I am writing this post on my blog. I have to explain this to a ratepayer who is aggrieved at Council and that is on the current Development Plan, knowing I then leave his place to get told what we can’t do with the new plans. And I dont’ think he will be too happy with them.

PS   I will post further at another time on the process of Development Applications and Approvals, noting there have recenlty been changes to the Planning Regulations.

Planning Alerts now available for Unley

The Friends of the City of Unley (FOCUS) have announced on their web site a link to a register that allows you to keep track of all Development Applications within a 2km radius from your house.

The following is a link to their site, from which you can link to the register.

http://focusonunley.org/2012/08/08/planning-alerts-now-available-for-unley-12/

If you have an interest in development in your area this may be of interest to you.

Independant Members for Next DAP Advertised

City of Unley has advertised for people who may have an interest in joining the next Development Assessment Panel to apply.

Membership of the Panel is for a two year term. The Council is looking to appoint 4 independent members to the panel, commencing December 2012.

Members should have a reasonable knowledge of the Development Act 1993 and the City of Unley Development Plan and have appropriate qualifications or experience in relevant fields, which may include Planning Law, Heritage, Architecture, Urban Design, Urban Design, Town Planning, Arboriculture, Environment Planning and/or traffic management.

If you have any queries contact our Manager Development, Mr Paul Weymouth on 8372 5432.

Planning rules or decisions – who’s responsible?

I have watched with great interest as a member of councils’ Development Assessment Panel the expectations that people have in making a representation on a particular development application.

I have also watched, with dismay, these same people march out of the Development Assessment Panel meeting upset that their views appear not to have been taken into consideration.

With this in mind I draw the attention of anyone reading this blog to the following link from the Local Government Association web site. Hope it helps.

http://www.lga.sa.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/LGA-45700_-_Planning_-_whos_responsible.pdf

Of course this only covers half the storey. More later.