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Mayors angry at loss of planning powers

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Suburban mayors have hit out at the State Government’s surprise move to strip them of approval powers for new multi-storey apartment projects in their suburbs.

Mayors in Unley and Norwood say the first time they heard about the move was when Premier Jay Weatherill announced it at a press conference yesterday.

As part of the State Government’s Inner Metropolitan Growth Development Plan Amendment, which came into force yesterday after a three-month consultation period, any projects in the rezoned areas that are five storeys or higher will be assessed by the State Government’s Development Assessment Commission instead of the local council’s development assessment panel.

“We are very unhappy with that,” Unley Mayor Lachlan Clyne said this morning.

Clyne’s council area covers Greenhill Rd and Unley Rd, parts of which the State Government’s DPA rezones for higher density development.

“Councils are the best placed to assess development and the State Government is taking control and the decision-making away from us,” Clyne said.

“It’ll create confusion in people’s minds as to who they need to be speaking to in relation to representation associated with developments. It confuses the process.”

Norwood, Payneham and St Peters Mayor Robert Bria said his council was being unfairly tarred as anti-development.

“I can understand that the State Government has been frustrated over a long period of time and the way that they’ve handled certain developments, but that’s the Adelaide City Council,” Bria said.

“I think that as a matter of good faith they should be giving councils at least an opportunity to see how they go processing applications for that sort of density.”

At yesterday’s press conference the Premier said councils should be involved at a policy level but shouldn’t use the assessment process to fight political battles.

“We want local government intimately involved in the development planning process,” he said. “Where we think it’s proper to have a different process is in development assessment.

“Where the democracy gets incorporated is in the plan. It’s a much more technical exercise to take an application and say does it meet the plan.

“It’s not an opportunity to rerun your political arguments at the development assessment process and fight off these developments case by case – which is what we see in Burnside, frankly. The ultimate goal, for places like Burnside, is no development, no change.”

The State Government has been making noises about reducing the role of local councils in development approval for the last year, but Weatherill’s comments yesterday were the strongest indication of intent yet.

In September the State Government overrode Adelaide City Council’s move to deny development approval to a hospital development in Hutt Street.

Rau later told InDaily he wanted councils removed from the development assessment process altogether.

The changes to the approval process will require State Government regulations to be passed. A spokesperson for Planning Minister John Rau said this morning those regulations were likely to be introduced to parliament before the end of the year.

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