Elected Members not qualified to make correct decisions.

That is what Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning John Rau is saying about elected members and their ability to act responsibly on Development Assessment Panels (DAPs). 

Pre-empting the results before a review currently under way by an Expert Panel chaired by Brian Hayes QC on the State’s planning processes, he is pronouncing that “councillors being involved in DAPs at all I think is a very very debatable issue. My personal view at the moment is leaning towards saying they shouldn’t be involved at all”.

As a member for over 40 years in the building industry and now an elected member of the City of Unley and a member of their DAP I can see much sense in reviewing the laws that govern planning in this state. I look forward to contributing to the process when the opportunity to meet with Mr Hayes and his committee arrives at Unley to talk to us.

But what is the point of the exercise if the Minister has already made up his mind. Unlike utterances he made in public during a recent debate on the 30 year plan about not contributing to the debate because he had the final decision he is out there now publicly telling the Expert panel what he expects them to advise him to do.

He goes even further questioning if DAPs themselves should exist in favour of  having (what would have to be state controlled) regional based versions of the development assessment commission.“My present inclination is toward the view that we can do better… we would probably be better served by having regional based versions of the development assessment commission.” he is quoted as saying.

So while he is pronouncing that elected members (with an intimate knowledge of their geographical area and their development plan are not qualified, he as Minister with no intimate knowledge of the local conditions can overturn a decision, not even waiting on an appeal to go to the ERD Court. So maybe the ERD court (which is the current safety net allowing DAP decisions to be appealed) is also obsolete.

Elected members are apparently compromised when it comes to approving development in accordance with the Council’s development plan

He cites an example to support his case with a recent City of Adelaide decision where the motion to refuse (on the grounds that the development fell well short of the parking requirements of their developmnet plan and likewise height and plot ratios) was moved and seconded by two of the independent members of the panel. Yes! Not the elected members but the independent members. People, in other words, you would think would be the sorts of people who would qualify to sit on the regional DAC he is proposing 

Sorry but I struggle to see the rationale there. Clearly the wrong example. And I guess if that was going to be the decision of the regional DAC then he would have overturned it. In so doing would he then be questioning the mini  DAC.

Quite frankly I reckon there is every chance the public will see this as pandering to developers because chances are it is going to be perceived that any mechanism to allow neighbours a say is going to blocked. Is this the case? It is up to you the reader to make this call.

He is also reported as saying the DAP should have considered the application (used to back up his case) not against Council’s current plan but against their “mooted” plan. You have to be joking; that’s like lets make up the rules as we go. Surely that would not happen in the legal courts of this land.

Here is the plain simple fact as it stands today, before the planning review changes it.

Members of a DAP have a legal obligation to consider the merits of a Development Application against the provisions of the Development Plan in place at the time the application is lodged.  No matter how meritorious a development proposal may be in the eyes of the panel members, if it is not supported by the provisions of the development Plan (or at the very least the plan is silent), then it should not be approved.
This has happened on our panel, where we have appreciated the design attributes of a particular development but recognised that it simply was seriously at variance with the development plan.

Anyone in the inner rim of councils thinking that the 30 year plan was the fight they had to have think again. This has ALL the hallmarks of closing up shop and providing developers a free reign. 

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