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.

Is the New Planning & Design Code Undemocratic legislation

Communities from across the state attended a forum last night believing the New Planning & Design Code is Undemocratic Legislation.

Held at the splendid heritage listed Norwood Concert Hall, the forum was conducted by Protect Our Heritage. Protect Our Heritage is an alliance of local community organisations whose primary aim is protecting our heritage. Their website is https://protectourheritage.nationbuilder.com/

Renewing Our Heritage PlanningThe forum was designed to inform and encourage communities to respond to the State Government’s new Planning & Design Code. Speakers on the night all spoke with concern that  hard won protections for our treasured heritage places are under threat.

The common belief expressed was that the Government’s State Planning Commission is not looking to maintain those heard fought protections. This flies in the face of assurances I have received from the Chair of the State Planning Commission. Assurances expressed in blogs I wrote in May and earlier this month.

How the Commission will treat (what have been called until now) contributory items was the biggest concern. Public utterances from the Government, the Minister and the Commission have left members of the alliance believing protections are going to be removed in the new Planning & Design Code.

They are concerned that the Commission will determine, not the parliament, what will or will not be included. In other words, they believe that there is not going to be any public input into the final decisions. In other words, undemocratic legislation.

At the heart of the concerns and energy in the room last night then is a lack of community consultation.  

Rather than consult us, the Commission has been saying trust us. Given a lack of consultation to date, attendees do not trust the Commission and the Government.

I believe the problem here is when should a government (whether Federal, State or Local) commence consulting on any issue. Should they consult when a project is at the formative (blank sheet) stage. Or should it be when there has been sufficient information for informed public observation to be possible.

Here at Unley we have tried both ways. Either way we have been criticised. When consulting on a blank piece of paper for not providing substance to respond to. When consulting on a prepared position for hiding facts until the end.

As reported in my blog earlier this month the Commission will be putting their proposals out to consultation from October. At this time there should be sufficient information for informed debate by the community.

The consultation period for metropolitan council areas will extend until early next year. This should provide ample opportunity for such informed debate.

Finally, as I have said in both mentioned blog posts, we must respond when the opportunity presents itself shortly. We must look at the detail (the devil is in the detail). We then must put our submissions into the Commission. That is all us. Collectively and individually.

As I have often said in my blogs, only then can you be assured your voice is heard. Let us all ensure by participating that we are not the reason for any undemocratic legislation.

I know I will be. Will you?

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

Community Engagement Charter Adopted by new State Government

Not quite a month in office and the new Government, through their Minister for Planning Stephan Knoll, has announced the adoption of the Community Engagement Charter.

Stephan Knoll

 

This is the Community Engagement Charter developed by the previous State Government. Let us hope the new government follows the intent of the Charter.

Many in the community believe the previous Government, while waiving the big stick at Councils, did not practice what they preached. This may well have contributed to their election loss.

The announcement is as follows:

The Minister for Planning has announced the adoption and release of the Community Engagement Charter for implementation commencing on 27 April 2018.

Community engagement is at the heart of the new planning system that will be introduced over the next 3-4 years.  The Community Engagement Charter (the Charter) supports new and innovative ways to talk to communities and other interested parties about planning issues.

The Charter changes the way that local and state governments are required to consult with the community during the preparation of changes to planning strategies and policies (such as rezoning of land).

Rather than legislative one-size-fits-all approach the Charter requires those consulting to tailor the engagement to suit the project and the communities who are interested and may be impacted by the proposed changes.

It recognises that with technological advances there are many options to successfully consult with communities. Local and state governments and other bodies consulting on planning matters will be required to meet the following principles in undertaking engagement.

  1. Engagement is genuine
  2. Engagement is inclusive and respectful
  3. Engagement is fit for purpose
  4. Engagement is informed and transparent
  5. Engagement processes are reviewed and improved

The Charter has been informed by a staged consultation starting with the Planning Together Panel and input by a broader stakeholder group.  The Discussion Draft of the Charter was then released for six weeks of public consultation. Following that the Draft Charter was released for another six weeks of public consultation before final amendments were made. More information on the consultation process can be found on the SA Planning Portal.

It is recognised that the Charter will need to evolve over time.  In its first year, it will primarily be applied to the development of the new State Planning Policies, the Planning and Design Code, and Infrastructure Schemes as required under the new Act.

As the State Planning Commission prepares these documents, it will test the Charter and its application to allow for its ongoing evolution. During this time the Commission welcomes ongoing feedback to assist in monitoring and improving the Charter.

A copy of the Community Engagement Charter can be downloaded from the SA Planning Portal http://www.saplanningportal.sa.gov.au/our_new_system/community_engagement_charter:

E-Planning

One of the best news in my opinion to come out of the State Budget is the news that the introduction of E-Planning has been included in the budget.

The budget allocates $ 24.8 million over 4 years to carry out this modernization and simplification to the planning system.

John-Rau-3883-850x455This is by far the most important reform in the suite of planning reforms put forward under Minister John Rau in the last 4 years.

A reform that, more than any other, will simplify and make easy the task of individuals accessing the planning system of this state. The government through Minister John Rau says the reforms will unleash the potential of new developments to create jobs and strengthen the economy

For too long the public debate has been about the role of Councils in the planning process. For too long the focus has been on blaming local government for the inadequacies of the current system. During the long debate over planning reforms I have personally advocated for one reform above all others.

E-Planning, seen by the government as too expensive until now to implement, is the cornerstone of an efficient system. E-Planning is digital technology with a focus on “data base” programming rather the “word” programming as is currently the case.

By creating a state wide data base E-Planning will enable anyone, whether a building or planning technician or a mum & dad property developer to know exactly what form of development is permissible on any property. It will allow YOU to put your address into a search engine and be provided instantly with the planning parameters applicable to that site.

Whether you are building a new home from scratch, an extension to your home, or a pergola/verandah you will know what you can safely submit to Council. You can enjoy an expectation of approval if you design within those parameters.

Planning Reform Opponents Morons show respect not afforded them.

Minister Rau you are fortunate that your Planning Reform Opponents Morons are showing much more respect than that you are showing them.

To his credit Minister Rau did clarify his statement, saying the comments were “referring in general terms to critics making false statements about the contents of the Planning Bill”. “The language was however inappropriate and I apologise for using it,” he said.

He then, in defending his position, claimed “Where the present system manifestly fails is that most people have no idea what the zoning requirements are for where they live, and the first time they find out is when somebody wants to put something next door to them that they really, really hate, and they say, ‘And by the way, why didn’t somebody tell me that thing was coming?’” Rau said.

“What I am trying to do is to move that conversation right up to the beginning of it so that communities actually have a chat at the very beginning about what is going to be okay in our community.

John-Rau-3883-850x455You are completely right Minister but you have not addressed the problem. May I suggest to you that you are in the same boat as this large group of people. You do not understand the changes yourself.

I agree that not enough is done to involve people at the front end of the process. Waiting until the end of the process inevitably provides false hope as representations invariably do not address planning issues.

If you intend to provide them the opportunity to be involved at the front end you need to be serious about the consultation opportunity provided at that point of the process. While this legislation is working its way through the system your own inner suburban ministerial DPA, one of the more far reaching ever, will have a limited public consultation. This consultation will not in my opinion provide the very people you are calling morons a fair opportunity to contribute with any meaning.

And sorry but there must be a fail safe too at the end of the process. An opportunity for those affected by development that pushes the boundaries of a particular development plan, many by significant amounts; like the recent Cremorne Plaza on Unley Road which will have 40% more storeys than the recently agreed to DPA, from 5 to 7.

Minister, instead of denigrating (notwithstanding your apology) your opponents, how about listening to them. You might actually see that they have an argument worth taking on board.

Who do you want to approve the building next door to you?

Who do you want to approve the building next door to you is the question being asked by the Local Government Association on behalf of Councils as the State Government looks to remove them from the system.

 

I ask you this question and ask you too to please respond. If you don’t chances are you will never get a say on that development next door.

The Government rightly is trying to streamline what must surely be viewed as an archaic system, to provide clarity and surety to a system so that those who have to work the system can do so with confidence. Developers and builders need a simpler, easier to understand set of planning rules and I say that without fear or favour, as an ex builder myself.

The Government rightly are looking at such initiatives that I applaud and that I have lauded for a long time, such as producing an electronic data based development plan. The current paper based plans are onerous to say the least, being very difficult to navigate.  A data base system would allow anyone an opportunity to type their address in, no matter where they live or which Council area within they are located, and know instantly what development is allowable on their site.

The focus of the Government however appears to be however to remove Councils from as much of the process as possible and to limit your say as a neighbour.

As a builder I saw Councils as an impediment to running my business and I can say that my colleagues today feel the same way, having heard from many of them at a forum on this very topic last week run by the Housing Industry Association (HIA). I understand only too well now that the hurdles in my way where not the councils so much as the legislation that they have to operate under, legislation that is the province of course of the Government.

Watch out for subsequent posts on the involvement of council and councillors and also on your role but in the meantime I close by asking again who do you want to approve the building next door to you.

 

 

 

 

 

Will the Local be put back into Planning in SA post the State Elections

The Minister for Planning John Rau, the Shadow Minister Vicky Chapman and MLC Mark Parnell were interviewed by Mike Smithson of Channel 7 at a lunch hosted today by the LGA.

The Mayor & I attended this luncheon to hear what each had to offer in the Planning arena and their views of Council involvement.

Readers of this blog would be well aware that the Minister has overseen two planning initiatives in the current term of Government. They are the various development plan amendments to accommodate the Governments 30 year plan. The other is an overhaul of the Planning assessment regime.

For those of you interested in your built neighbourhood please read on.

The Minister was quite clear in determining that Councils should have a role in the Policy making of Planning, the development of the Development Plans but not in the assessment of individual application against that policy.

Vicky Chapman on the other hand felt it was up to Government to set policy and that Council is best served to carry out the assessment function.

Clearly a stark contrast between the two.

This hopefully gives readers a guide on which way to vote if you have a passion about how your street should look now and into the future.

Here’s my take to remind you what I have said in previous posts.

John Rau says we should be involved in policy but not in assessment.

In truth under his watch we have been the mechanism through which he conducted public consultation on what at the end of the day was his plan not ours on the various Development plan amendment we have participated in during my item on Council.

In my opinion what this did was focus anger from the public toward councils in the early days, until they woke up and understood it as his plan.

Quite frankly, while Unley finally won a number of major concessions, it was the Ministers plan not ours, although we did get a say. This to me means he agrees pretty much with his counterpart Vicky Chapman, that the State sets Policy, which I presume limits Local Government involvement. So I struggle to see that they vary on this important issue.

On the question of assessment Vicky Chapman has undertaken that a Liberal Government will put assessment of buildings 4 storeys and above back in the hands of Local Government after having recently been stripped from us.

John Rau is of the opinion that elected members presence on the councils DAP compromise the process as they have a conflict of interest. His approach, using a central Development Assessment Commission (DAC) filled only with professionals is the best approach.

Once again I disagree. A DAC has no local knowledge of the nuances of a given suburb or street. They are more likely to make a clinical decision which I suggest is poor process.

My take then is State Governments should take advantage of having a Local Government involved in both the Policy area and the assessment arena. Only Local Government is close to their community. Only Local Government has an understanding of the impact of development on transport, parking, the impact on the infrastructure. They should be at the core of both Policy and of assessment.

So where to from here?

You may or may not agree with my take so over to you. The choice is yours on March 15, one month from today.