In the July 21st Council meeting, Council passed my motion asking the NSW Government to withdraw aspects of its COVID changes allowing building work on Sundays and public holidays. The motion also raised issues with the Government’s “Planning System Acceleration Program”.
The full motion (given below) was passed with 8 councillors in support and one against. The motion refers to recent changes in law by the NSW Government to government and council rules because of the COVID pandemic, passed on 24th March this year. Most of these changes were necessary and important. However, in some ways they have created precedents that take power away from councils, leaving the door open for significant overdevelopment, bypassing Council controls and community concerns.
I heard about community complaints regarding noise on Sundays. No doubt, some builders face substantial pressure while ensuring compliance with COVID social distancing and and potential delays. However, the impact of unrelenting noise on the community while spending more time at home is equally great. The NSW Government has not given the community an end date for this major change.
In addition, the Government’s Planning System Acceleration Program continues the trend of recent Coalition and Labor governments of centralising development controls in the hands of the NSW Government, at the expense of local council decision-making on development. Given the challenge of the COVID-19 virus, efforts to maintain jobs in the construction sector are worthwhile. However, changed government rules create the net effect of putting unprecedented power in the hands of the NSW Planning Department (DPIE) and the Minister.
Background (published on the Council agenda with the motion)
The NSW Government has recently passed legislation which allows the construction industry to work on Sundays and public holidays. However, the use of this provision has extended far beyond its beginnings as a measure in dealing with the COVID virus. Substantial complaints are emerging from local residents in Canada Bay, and especially in Rhodes, concerned with noise on large and small construction sites.
The NSW Government has also initiated the “Planning System Acceleration Program” to “cut red tape” and fast-track development, apparently including three sites from Canada Bay. This motion highlights the importance of Council’s decision-making role in coordinating development.
- Affirms that planning decisions should be community led and that local councils are best placed to make decisions about planning that is appropriate for their local area and constituents.
- Notes that the COVID-19 related amendments to the EP&A [Environmental Planning and Assessment] Act, which allow the Minister “to authorise development to be carried out on land without the need for any approval under the Act or consent from any person” could potentially be applied to developments other than hospitals, ICUs, morgues, or other directly COVID-19 related works, because of the ambiguity of the wording of clause 10.17(5)(b) regarding works “necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of members of the public”.
- Writes to the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces the Hon Rob Stokes MP and the Premier Gladys Berejiklian to express its opposition to the recent changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act which grant the Minister unprecedented powers to override planning decisions made by local councils.
- Requests that in light of complaints from neighbouring residents about ongoing disturbances, the Minister revoke the permission granted to the construction industry to operate every day including public holidays.
- Seeks assurance from the Minister that Council’s ability to conduct due diligence in line with community expectations will not be impeded by the recently announced “Planning System Acceleration Program” to fast-track assessments of State Significant Developments, rezonings and development applications.