Planning changes remove community certainty

A worrying new era of uncertainty for NSW communities was ushered in yesterday when state parliament quietly passed laws gutting one of the most important type of planning rules in the state, the Development Control Plan (DCP).

A sample of DCP provisions for the protection of heritage in Kings Cross. New laws mean the community can no longer be certain that these protections will apply.

DCPs are detailed policy documents that Councils create in consultation with the community that set out how various neighbourhoods will grow over time.  It sets out what will change, and how, as well as what should be preserved as it is.  They give communities certainty about how their neighbourhood will look in years to come, certainty that gives a level of security to people looking to buy a house or set up a business in an area.

Sadly the changes pushed through state parliament by the Liberal government, with the support of their good friends in the Christian Democrats and the Shooters Party, will end that security.  Under the new rules Councils will have to be ‘flexible’ in how they enforce the provisions of their DCPs, which in this context sets off alarm bells as it’s generally code for ‘let the developers do whatever they want’.

It will also mean Councils are unable to consider the cumulative impacts of multiple developments as rules in DCPs will not be considered maximums but ‘as of right entitlements’.

These laws represent a slap in the face to Councils throughout the state who have invested significant time and money in the creation of DCPs based on the understanding that this would help shape their neighbourhoods for the better.  City of Sydney in fact spent seven years consulting on and developing its new DCP, representing a mammoth investment in staff time that will now be largely wasted.  I fought hard to have the new DCP contain progressive provisions such as the requirement that new developments not cast neighbouring properties into permanent shadow, however this victory seems now to have been short lived.

These new laws are a massive broken promise from a government that, prior to being elected, promised to give planning powers ‘back to the community’.  They are also very strangely timed given that the government is only half way through their more extensive review of the entire planning system.  These laws represent a massive gift to developers and one wonders what favours the government will be expecting to reap from the industry in the coming months and years.

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