Phil Bradley , of  Winston Hills NSW, made the following submission on the project:

Legislative Updates


SUBMISSION BY PHIL BRADLEY ON PROPOSED EP&A ACT AMENDMENTS


General Comments

I urge the Department of Planning and Environment to make additional changes to the EP&A Act to reflect the urgency and enormity of the task of mitigating and adapting to runaway climate change. NSW needs to do better than zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to do its fair share in avoiding dangerous global warming. We need to do this by 2040 or before to have 75% chance of doing this.

I also suggest that the DPE should implement as much as possible of "Planning for People - the Community Charter for Good Planning in NSW" (thecommunitycharter.org).

Affordable Housing

We note that the priorities laid down by former Premier Mike Baird appear to remain with Premier Berejiklian’s, namely: More housing; Faster approval including 90% of housing approvals within 40 days and the halving of major project assessment time; Infrastructure support.

This appears to reflect the belief that the housing shortage is a question of supply without other issues such as inadequate public transport, capital gains tax and negative gearing being taken into consideration, especially in regard to affordable, energy efficient housing.
Sadly, by default, the housing supply is met by private-for-profit developers rather than government social housing projects. Some proposed new legislation may curb undesirable aspects of the profit motive, such as guidelines for sensitive developments and controls on modifications, but restrictions should be matched by more than just floor levels in height. I support a much higher affordable housing target than the government. We suggest at least 30% on public land and 15% on private land is achievable, if necessary with conditional government support or subsidies to ensure private sector compliance well above 10%.


Objects of the Act

The DPE states that "The primary purpose of this package of updates to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) is to promote confidence in our state’s planning system. This will be achieved through four underlying objectives:
• to enhance community participation; [good, but still insufficient enabling provisions]
• to promote strategic planning; [only good if the Act's objects and government strategies are in the interest of the public at large eg. should include commensurate infrastructure provision such as public schools, affordable housing & public transport, and urgent mitigation of climate change by insisting on good passive solar design, energy efficiency and renewable energy use, as well as mandating ESD ]
• to increase probity and accountability in decision- making; [highly desirable, but not done enough] and
to promote simpler, faster processes for all participants." ["simpler" or "plain" English is a good move, but "faster" is not good where it may allow poor planning and development].

There are some serious continuing shortfalls in the Objects. I strongly recommend that Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD), as originally defined in the Protection of the Environment Administration Act, is restored as the primary, overarching objective of the Act, along with Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption. The previous object reference to "health" should not have been deleted, but we strongly support "social" being added in the second Object, despite its weak prescription "To facilitate ecologically sustainable development by integrating relevant economic, environmental and social considerations in decision-making about environmental planning and assessment".


Community participation / complying development:

Although the importance of community consultation is emphasised and that it should occur oeas early as possible” "with neighbours" in the planning process, no real weight is allowed for community opinion (especially in the design stage) and there are questions about implementation. A clear definition of "early" and "neighbours" is lacking.
Consultation is an issue that ties in with complying development.
• I am concerned that the Government is determined to use complying development with fast track pathways being a key part of legislation, rather than timely quality of work. The codes and their details that are the issues needing strengthening and better compliance enforcement.
• On being consulted about plans, the community will still be discouraged from responding because of the complexity of planning requirements. Also, although now requiring a statement of reasons for decisions is good, there is no real avenue for objection or legal right of appeal, in particular after having participated in a PAC (or IPC?)
• There is intentionally limited notification with a Code Development Certificate (CDC). It is proposed to resolve potential negative responses when neighbours are not consulted by ‘education’ and ‘encouraging understanding’ but how is this to be undertaken? It will almost certainly cause difficulty and resentment in communities.
Increased pressure is being placed on ‘local agencies’ (presumably councils?) to undertake groundwork at the same time their powers are being diminished by amalgamations. They must have a community participation plan in place which is subject to guidelines being prepared by the DPE. This is top down decision making, not an upward response to local needs
• How will District plans relate to DCPs and the Council’s LEPs?
• Councils will be allowed to step in if there are questionable circumstances, eg if environmentally sensitive areas are involved. It's good that there will be a compliance levy for CDCs to fund this council work (but needs to be sufficient for the task) and it's great they can suspend work for up to 7 days if they think the CDC is not complying. There are new investigative powers, but this allows only very limited time and councils should have the facilities to police everything.
• I am glad the DPE recognised that private certifiers have been a big problem. They will not be able approve DAs outside the code, but the code itself needs improvement. Similarly, it's unacceptable that courts will not be able to act if the project is code complying.
• Good design is to be applied early in a project but it is unclear how much power designers will have to enforce design on codes.
Although recognition is given to serious problems surrounding Voluntary Planning Agreements and rampant inappropriate spot rezoning like in Parramatta, greater control is needed.



Strategic Planning

I agree with DPE Chief Planner Gary White about promoting genuine Strategic Planning rather than litigious, regulatory complexity, but we don't accept there needs to be less reliance on statutory and regulatory mechanisms which could stop undesirable outcomes, especially a quick no on development proposals like the totally unacceptable toxic Eastern Creek Incinerator.

Although there is reference to earlier community participation, if the planning does not align with community values and needs, it will be opposed, especially if it is based on unrealistic government demands such as the current high population growth assumptions without provision of adequate additional public infrastructure.

The current high population and housing growth assumptions should be downscaled unless the government is prepared to fund and complete adequate additional public infrastructure beforehand
Strategic planning needs to factor in the serious reality of dangerous climate change by requiring much more sustainable design and construction with much greater investment in upfront public transport, renewable energy provision, energy efficiency and waste minimisation requirements.
The Government needs to recognise that endless growth is not possible on a finite planet, and that dirty coal is not clean, even when the coal is lacquered as in a Federal Parliament stunt recently
There needs to be better access and support for community participation in articulating the local views in local strategic planning statements
Conditional affordable housing targets are inadequate to address the needs
There needs to be greater community say in stopping inappropriate spot rezoning which often results in excessive high-rise development
Over simplification of DCPs could result in loss of local character
Strategic planning is still too much top down with little consideration for local issues being able to determine outcomes ie. there needs to be "bottom up" consideration too.
District and Regional Plans should be able to be amended by consideration of Local Environmental Plans
There will be little community trust in strategic planning as long as there is government determination not to return ecologically sustainable development as the primary object of the Act.



Local Planning Decisions

There is concern that quicker approval times and code compliant development will result in low quality outcomes
The proposed big reduction in the number of housing SEPPs is potentially problematic for communities
Claims of stronger enforcement of code compliance is encouraging and positive if delivered
New ability of councils to charge a compliance levy on private certifiers should be helpful if sufficiently high
Good if some problems regarding probity, expertise and poor decision making of local planning panels are to be improved
Good changes to deter unauthorised works outside DAs with Building Certificate, including forced demolition, but sadly a s96 application may still allow unauthorised work to stay.
Probable facilitation of medium density code development where there is overwhelming community opposition is a big worry
Changes should allow, but do not allow for private certifiers to be taken to the Building Protection Board - I urge that this be done
Good that regulations will be able to specify some developments are not to be approved by private ce...