Planning powers for multi-storey development would be handed back to inner city councils under a state Liberal policy announced this morning.
A string of planning changes by the State Government late last year substantially reduced the role of local government in approving multi-storey developments with the aim of speeding up high-density development in the inner city.
Under regulations released in October – which came as a surprise to many local councils – the State Government became the approval authority for developments of more than four storeys in the city and inner rim.
Shadow planning minister Vickie Chapman this morning told InDaily she’d hand many of those powers back from state to local government.
“Local councils should remain in the planning assessment role,” she said. “We have confidence they can do it. We don’t think there’s any necessity for there to be a transfer of that responsibility to a state agency.
“They would give the public a right to be consulted before decisions are made, right from the start – and not just have state imposition, which is what we’re so angry about. It would reintroduce local knowledge to local decision making.”
The State Government is on the record as supporting the removal of local councils from planning approval altogether.
Chapman said she supported the goal of increasing building density in the inner city.
She rejected the Government’s arguments that taking approval powers from councils would speed up development by giving greater certainty to developers.
“We don’t oppose having an urban infill policy. We just think that the Government should stop trying to take control of these things – buying up property themselves, developing their own projects in the urban inner rim … and refusing to let the property development industry get on with it through a proper and timely process through local government.”
Tensions between government, developers and community groups came to a head last year as residents groups mobilized to oppose the government’s planning changes.
Chapman said residents’ opposition wasn’t rooted in a dislike of high density but rather in an opposition to changes to the process.
“They weren’t opposed to urban infill largely. They were concerned about the design of what was going to be happening, and they were quite happy to work with the infill commitments that the local Governments had made.”
Giving power back to councils wouldn’t result in more developments being opposed or blocked and might actually speed up the development process, she said.
“There’s such public outrage when ministers oppose these that they then go into meltdown over managing the outrage from the public that ultimately they can take even longer. People are badly bruised along the way.”
Planning Minister John Rau called Chapman’s policy announcement “anti-business and anti-jobs”.
“This all about Ms Chapman being the member for Burnside and nothing to do with good planning policy for the rest of the state,” he said.
“The Marshall Liberal Party has shown that it wants to choke business in red tape.
“It is a backwards step, caving in to Local Government pressure ahead of good planning policy.
“Local input in planning policy formulation is fundamental and has been enhanced under Labor.
“However, holding significant development decisions hostage to the vagaries of Council DAPs will rightly scare the development sector.
“This will cost jobs and result in increased charges to business.”
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