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?