Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Red-eye rule: planning law 'rammed through'

Frank Sartor Planning Minister

A controversial NSW planning reform bill was passed in the Legislative Assembly in the early hours today.

The bill went through at 2 am after a long debate and amid criticism Labor forced the changes through while the public's attention was focussed on the state budget.

The changes will transform the way planning is done in the state.

Opposition planning spokesman Brad Hazzard said it was the biggest bill the Government had introduced in the past few months "and they've rammed it through under the shadow of budget day".

Opposition to the planning reforms is gathering pace, with a survey of more than 8000 ratepayers showing overwhelming disapproval of the proposed changes.

A plebiscite of Baulkham Hills Shire ratepayers found that 84 per cent opposed the proposed changes, which would give government-appointed panels control of development applications, overriding councils on the matter.

Mr Hazzard said the Opposition would be calling for an Upper House inquiry once it had passed the Legislative Assembly.

The president of the Shires Association of NSW, Bruce Miller, also condemned the timing of the debate, given the bill was tabled a fortnight ago.

"The major concern with all of this is we do not believe it will stand up to public scrutiny," he said.

A spokesman for the Planning Minister, Frank Sartor, said yesterday: "There's no surprises and no attempt to hide anything at all. It's all out there and has been for some time."

The Baulkham Hills Shire plebiscite also found that 83 per cent opposed the appointment of independent certifiers to evaluate the work done on developments and 89 per cent were opposed to proposed changes which would force councils to change the way developer contributions to council are administered.

The plebiscite was sent out to 53,841 ratepayers with 8600 ratepayers responding.

"The results indicate that our ratepayers are concerned about losing their current community role in participating in the future development of the Shire," Baulkham Hills Shire mayor Sonya Phillips said.

"Nearly nine out of ten respondents do not want the State Government to be the primary determining body in local development."

NSW councils have been critical of the changes, which will transform the way planning is done in the state.

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