New Planning & Design Code is Introducing Environmental Initiatives

The draft Planning & Design Code is introducing some environmental initiatives or controls but there is no detail yet. At least I am struggling to find them.

 

Pilots licences aside, the author of the Code and now the Minister are on record as sprouting that the Planning & Design Code is introducing some environmental initiatives. Initiatives hitherto not incorporated in Planning legislation.

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Initiatives such as:

  • Identifying tree canopy cover as a planning requirement
  • Providing for Deep Soil Zones
  • Likewise permeable surfaces
  • Regulated Tree Overlay

I am confused however by what I read in the Code concerning each of these initiatives.

Identifying tree canopy cover as a planning requirement

The City of Unley has been promoting for some time now the need to incorporate some form of development controls around ensuring tree canopy cover. The Government’s 30 year plan calls for an increase in tree canopy cover.

They have set a goal for Unley to have a 30% canopy cover by 2030. This cannot be achieved unless the are mechanisms to increase the overage on private property. The Code has an aim to do this.

The only references I find regarding trees on private property so far talks of planting trees at the front of development of 4 or more storeys. The only other reference I can find is for tree planting provided on public streets and public open space. Hardly an initiative of significance I would have thought.

Providing Deep Soil Zones

Again the only reference to deep soil zones is on multi storey development.

If I simply have not found the detail on both of these initiatives I trust the Minister will direct me to it. If it has been omitted then I trust it will now be included.

Permeable Surfaces

A number of references have been made in respect of carparking areas and/or driveways containing at least 50% permeable surfaces. This is encouraging but I would like to see a more general requirement for permeable surfaces on all properties. Too many properties are totally paved out or have fake lawn.

Regulated Tree Overlay

Sounds a lot like we now have areas where we wish to protect trees. Areas rather than focus on quantifying what constitutes a regulated tree. I believe I need assistance understanding what the legislators are trying to achieve here.

It seeks to preserve regulated trees listed as rare or endangered under the National parks & Wildlife Act 1972. Trouble is I don’t see any tree species listed in that Act.

This Overlay talks of trees within 20 metres of a building. It seems that the distance from a building within which trees do not need development approval for removal has been extended.

If I am reading this right, I trust it is in error. Otherwise the legislation is watering down restrictions.

 

 

 

Is the new Planning & Design Code simpler?

Is the new Planning & Design Code a simpler, easier to use code or a document of complexity that will require a pilot’s licence to navigate.

 

Renewing Our Heritage PlanningThe core of the Planning & Design Code is the data base that will sit behind it. This data base will allow anyone, not just those with a pilot’s licence, to pull up their own property on a map and find out what develop is or is not allowed on that site.

To that end it is clearly going to be easier to understand the planning system in South Australia. Behind this however is a regime of legislation far more complex than the totality of the 68 Council development plans now in operation. A far cry and the complete opposite of what we expected when former Minister Rau announced the changes and a reduction to only 5 zones. A code by the way that would not recognise character zones.

Minister Knoll advised the community attending last week’s forum that the current zones have all been transferred to the Code. This one might expect means without change. He also reinforced that current demolition controls would be maintained.

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This code has some 50 zones. I have not counted how many layers over these. This makes the process of evaluating the code an onerous one. A process that is testing those of us with knowledge in matters planning.

 

As I said in my last blog post I have found the draft Code to be full of errors and omissions. The transfer of zones has not been seamless. The errors and omissions are extensive. So extensive it does lead to the speculation that the Government cannot be trusted. It seems that we need to identify them (each and one by one), failing which the intent may not be achieved and there will change by stealth.

I am working through the Code to do just that and undertake to continue so doing and keeping you informed. Your Council, through its Principal Planner David Brown, is doing the same thing.

The City of Unley will be seeking further interaction with the Minister and the SA Planning Commission. We will be putting in what clearly will be a detailed submission. We have to given the observations I am making.

 

Draft Planning & Design Code Errors & Ommissions that need Correcting

The draft Planning & Design Code errors and omissions are many. As it is a complex document it is proving hard to identify them.

 

Renewing Our Heritage PlanningTo start the conversation that Minister Knoll has invited, let’s look at some of the more essential. At least from a City of Unley community point of view.

The Minister indicated to us that all the zones in the Current Unley Development plan have been transferred to the draft. He also advises there will be no reduction in demolition controls.

On my first couple of reads of the draft, not so.

A look at the very basic of zones sees a reduction in area applicable for each house. If our zones were to have been transferred without change, the RB 350 zone (in which I live) would not now read 300 m2 as being the size of allotment per house as a minimum.

Unley has a zone called Streetscape Built Form. It is a zone afforded demolition controls, but not as stringent as those applying to Historic Conservation Zones.

Under the Code, these zones are shown to be part of what is now to be called a Character Area Overlay. This overlay has no demolition controls.

This needs to be addressed. Either demolition controls need to be introduced into the Character Area overlay, or those current zones in Unley would have to be redefined as a Historic Conservation.

Our new Corridor Zones have a 30 degree interface with neighbouring residential zones. The Code is specifying this only for south bound residential zones. A 45 degree interface therefore is relevant to all other geographical sides.

Are these errors and omissions that will be corrected once they are pointed out? Or are they deliberate changes, as suggested by those in our community who are cynical about Government promises.

Whatever, they could have a profound impact on our community if left unaltered.

Call me Naive with the new Planning & Design Code

Call me Naive but I do believe we need to get on board and work with the Government on the new Planning & Design Code.

Naïve maybe. Focused on outcomes definitely.

Minister Knoll continues to give assurances, that they will listen to us during the current 5 month long consultation period. Assurances that we have also been hearing from the SA Planning Commission chair, Michael Lennon.

Call me naïve, call me mad, but I believe him.

Trouble is my neighbours, my rate payers don’t believe him. They don’t trust him. They don’t trust the SA Planning Commission.

Since the initial draft of the Code was released I have taken my usual pragmatic approach and delved into the detail, or lack of it. Others, given their lack of trust and maybe expertise in reading development plans, have focused on complaining about a lack of consultation. Complaining that they are not going to be heard anyway.

Minister Knoll indicated at a recent heritage focused public meeting, held by local State MP and fellow Minister David Pisoni, that Ministers and Governments should be judged on what they do. He then tried to assure the heritage conservation focused audience that the cabinet is made up of inner city seats, whose constituents are heritage focused. Cabinet members, in other words, attuned to the needs of their constituents.

The cabinet will make the final decisions he told us. This is not what we have previously understood. We believed that the Commission is responsible for making the final determination of what is included or not. This belief has led to many in the community believing  this legislation is undemocratic legislation.

Trouble is, as I pointed out at the meeting, the complexity of the draft code makes learned consultation very difficult. It is laden with errors and omissions.

Such does not give rise to trust and I made sure the Minister heard this observation. It actually breeds cynicism.

I pointed to examples of the errors and omissions to applause from the audience. In so doing I urged the Government to consider extending the implementation date. I did this to ensure consultation and the opportunity to respond to that consultation is as accurate as it can be.

I am not sure he heard me.

That said I firmly believe, and call me naïve if you want, that we must focus on what is in the Code and what is NOT in the code. Watch therefore this space.

Influencing the Accredited Professionals Scheme and Assessment Pathways

While the local government elections proceed and we are in caretaker mode, I am still out there working for you. In particular, I am contributing to Council’s response to the Government’s proposed Accredited Professionals Scheme and Assessment Pathways.

As the Government’s reform package does not wait on Council elections it becomes difficult for elected members to have influence over the debate. That has not stopped me however.

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I am offering opinions in two current planning areas that impact on you.  They are the Accredited Professionals Scheme and Assessment Pathways.

Accredited Professionals Scheme

In my opinion, the Accredited Professionals Scheme is sadly lacking and is fraught with danger. The proposed accreditation appears to be quite liberal.

The level of experience for assessment panel members is surprisingly limited. It flies in the face of the previous ministers’ assertions the involvement of Council elected members. He believed elected members largely had an insufficient skillset. The proposed qualifications however for future panel members would curiously allow elected members easy access to the panel.

Likewise, as a retired building inspector, I am concerned that the Level 4 accreditation for building inspectors requires only 6 months experience. It seems we may be moving to a system which allows what I would consider less competency than now. Surely a backwards step.

Assessment Pathways 

I am pushing that Assessment pathways for any development that has variances to the plan such that they impact on the neighbourhood, even if only “minor” should have a public consultation component to them.

We must continue to fight for this. This is because developments invariably will sit outside the parameters set in a development plan.

Assessment must remain with Council rather than with private certifiers when public notification is a requirement. This is because councils are the only body with the availability of being transparent and accountable.

Private Certifiers will never have the level of accountability that Councils have. Even with the number of elected members sitting on assessment panels reduced to one, accountability is only possible with Councils being responsible.

Two extremes of public notification need to be addressed. I am promoting accordingly.

Obviously larger developments must include public notification and this must extend beyond just the immediate neighbours. Rear of house developments regularly however do not impact on other than the immediate neighbour/s. This includes neighbours who live on the other side of the street and cannot see the development. Those not impacted should not be invited to make representation.

If re-elected, I will remain in a position of working for you and providing local leadership on the Accredited Professionals Scheme and Assessment Pathways and all subsequent planning changes.

 

Written & authorised by Don Palmer, 19 Kelvin Avenue, Clarence Park SA 5034