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 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?


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.

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.

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

Arthur Street, Mary Street Retirement Village

The controversial retirement village in Arthur Street/Mary Street is in the headlines again.

Check out the storey in the Eastern Courier article below:

Many of us will be watching this with interest after the ERD Court brokered a deal with the current owners to achieve Development approval earlier last year.

Development Approval system

As one of only three members of the City of Unley Development Assessment Panel I will be receiving the agenda shortly for our first meeting of the year. 

I have had a request from a lady in Highgate for assistance in what she may be able to achieve and how to go about it. As I await this agenda therefore my thoughts turn to those mums and dads of our City that want to develop or redevelop their piece of Unley.

The following link hopefully goes a long way to helping you understand, not only the system but who is responsible at the end of the day for the system.

Regulated v Significant Trees-The New Legislation

Last night I attended a workshop on the new significant tree, sorry, regulated tree regulation. This will impact significantly on the inner rim councils, particularly us here at Unley.

The workshop was to provide participants with a basic knowledge of what it means to all of us.

I am attempting here to give you all a precis of what the workshop revealed about the legislation.

My first reaction is that it will take a while to get to know it and there are going to be a number of anomalies that will need ironing out as often happens with new legislation. Based on discussions in the room tonight there are already areas we can identify where the legislators have not recognised what can be do to circumvent the legislation.

Notwithstanding this here are some basics from the legislation that I think I have understood and that i pass on to you now.

1    The legislation is current as of Nov 17 last.
2   We now have a new approach in that all trees with a trunk over 2.0m diameter measured 1.0m from the ground are regulated trees.
3    Significant trees are now defined as either; because they have a trunk with a diameter of 3.0m or more or; have been specifically nominated either by the local council or the minister in a given development plan.
4   There are now exemptions and these include:
     a)    trees located within 10m of an existing dwelling or swimming pool, irrespective of whether the structure is on the same title of land as the tree.
    b)    trees of particular species and these are wide.
5    Then there will be exemptions to those trees (exemptions to the exemptions) and I don’t intend to go there because I need time to absorb which and where and when.
6    Pruning will no longer be considered tree damaging activity so long as you do not remove more than 30% of the crown of the tree and so long as only dead wood  or branches that pose a risk in certain circumstances is what is pruned.
7    You can prune a neighbours tree, so long as you obtain development approval (and there is no fee associated with this type of pruning) from the council and only on that part of the tree overhanging your property.
8    There will no longer be a requirement for obtaining expert advice to support an application where the tree has a trunk less than 3.0m circumference. Having said that I am not sure how most of us are going to be able to determine what the species a given tree is without help from an expert.

The legislation however has made it now mandatory for the council to condition any approval for removal with a condition that the tree be replaced with would you believe (unless an exempted tree or located within 10m of a building or swimming pool):

        if the tree is a regulated tree under the act (over 2.0m but less than 3.0m)
it must be replaced with 2 new trees.
        if the tree is a significant tree under the act (over 3.0m) with 3 trees.

Of course an applicant can choose in lieu to contribute to a new fund called the “urban trees fund”, at would you believe only $ 75.00 for each replacement tree not planted.

Good luck understanding this. Please also be forgiving if our staff take a while to process your application or to offer advice prior to you lodging an application. They will need time to apply the new laws to your specific case.

Oh! And finally! Regulated or significant trees will no longer be classified as category 2 development which means you will no longer be able to make representation on a development application by your neighbour for tree damaging activity.

In closing may I suggest you keep a lookout for further blogs on this topic particularly blogs correcting errors of interpretation on my part. I am bound to have got something wrong, such is the  initial complexity of the legislation.


Saving trees by valueing them in $ terms

Anyone interested in saving trees in Unley might be interested in what is being proposed in Burnside.

This link will take you to an article in this week’s Eastern Courier

An interesting article. Please read it and then come back and read the rest of this blog.

Talk back radio today was portraying, from what I heard, the other side of the coin. That was around when will councils recognise that when they are put on notice about the safety of a tree, they should act on it.

As I contemplate another Development Assessment Panel meeting this coming Monday night, where some of the items being  put before us will be applications to remove significant trees, reading this leaves me to wonder what if?

At the end of the day we as a society must measure the value of our trees. Future generations will regret haphazard removal; of that there is no doubt. We must also protect and value human life and human property.

The system for dealing with this is working reasonably well but we should always be conscious of improving it should we find we can.

Have your say!

Protecting our HERITAGE Buildings

Part of my election campaigning centred on protecting Unley’s heritage and in particular its buildings.

Once elected I was fortunate enough to find myself as a member of our Development Assessment Panel (DAP). This provided me with a direct opportunity to live up to my promises. I have enjoyed this role in the short time I have been on the panel, although as I think back on it has already been 9 months. Wow!

As a building inspector by day I bring a unique viewpoint to the DAP wherein I can interpret some of the jargon that is used in development applications that others may not. This provides me an opportunity to question information provided when an applicant is requesting approval to demolish one of our precious homes.

I exercised this last month when the report provided did not convince me that the only course of action reasonable with a particular home was to demolish it. By putting a motion that we seek an independent assessment of the building I provided us with a chance of protecting something that need not have gone under the wreckers processes.

As it has turned out this house, vide the report we commissioned, has serious defects that I am now happy means we cannot avoid demolition. For this reason I acknowledged at the last DAP meeting that I was the one that held it up and that I was happy to move the motion for demolition.

The citizens of the City of Unley can rest assured that all that could be done was done. We do have to acknowledge unfortunately that this is the only option with some houses and that we have a process that ensures that only those that should will.