Planning system gets worse

4 July 2011

Planning system is going to get worse, before it gets better


Legislation introduced to the NSW Parliament last night goes too far in an effort to accommodate NIMBY groups, according to the Urban Taskforce. The Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said the abolition of Part 3A was expected, but separate changes to joint regional planning panels were not announced prior to the election.

The NSW Government last night revealed that the panels role would be wound back, by stripping them of responsibility for private sector projects valued at less than $20 million.

Currently all projects whose value exceeds $10 million are decided by joint regional planning panels. (This process has nothing to do with Part 3A projects, which covered residential, commercial and retail development worth more than $100 million.)

Joint regional planning panels consider reports prepared by council staff, but decide the fate of development applications based on their regional, rather than local, costs and benefits. The panels are currently composed of three independent members appointed by the NSW Government and two nominees of the local council covering the development site.

Most projects dealt with by these panels will be handed back to local politicians to decide, Mr Gadiel said.

Whats more, the most important person on each panel – its chairperson now will only be appointed if theyve been approved by the Local Government and Shires Associations.

The panels majority will be local government nominees, rather than independents.

Mr Gadiel said the changes to joint regional planning panels, together with the repeal of Part 3A would further damage the states supply of new housing, retail shops and new workplaces.

Its a win for the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) brigade, Mr Gadiel said.

Mr Gadiel said local councils are good at opposing development based on highly localised concerns, but arent equipped to consider the benefits larger development projects bring to a whole city or region.

By placing local councils back in charge of regional projects, we can expect increased housing pressures, he said.

This means reduced housing choice, higher rents and greater overcrowding in the existing housing stock.

In Sydneys inner suburbs house prices average $1.3 million each, while apartments average $650,000.

Wealthier house owners will be free to use their local council to block more affordable housing and deny middle income earners the chance to enjoy inner suburban living.

Every home that cant be built in the inner suburbs adds to Sydneys congestion pressures – by forcing people to live further away from their work, friends and family.

For example a $15 million 60 home apartment development would typically house people from across a region, not just the existing residents of a local government area.

On the edge of urban areas, a $15 million subdivision for 270 home lots would help meet the need for a supply of houses with private backyards.

This may not always satisfy local NIMBY groups, but new houses meet an important social need for the city as a whole.

Mr Gadiel said that when new commercial or retail development is opposed by a local council, the urban community can end up suffering from increased congestion and reduced business competition.

For example a new $16 million supermarket will meet the needs of residents across a large catchment extending well beyond the boundaries of most councils, Mr Gadiel said.

A single council who blocks such a development reduces the access of many people to competitively priced, low-cost groceries.

Mr Gadiel acknowledged that the new Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, had consulted extensively with the industry on the preparation of the bill.

There are some elements in the bill that mitigate its worst effects – such as a new requirement for councils to approve or reject some development within 120 days.

Nonetheless, NSW already has the nations most difficult planning system, and these changes will make it even worse.

Mr Gadiel noted that no state or territory approves less homes per person than NSW.

While we appreciate the governments intention to reform the planning system in the medium term, the latest changes mean that it will get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.

Download PDF Version