The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act

In 1979, Margaret Thatcher had just made Prime Minister, Neville Wran had just opened the Eastern Suburbs Railway and Paul Hogan was being produced locally at Channel 9.

In that same year the new Environmental Planning and Assessment Act defined how decisions were to be made about what people could do with their land and how development could take place. Councils still use this Act today to develop Local Environmental Plans for the big picture planning and, Development Control Plans for details.

The world has changed a great deal since 1979 and to meet the changing needs and priorities of the community, NSW Government recently undertook a comprehensive review of the Act. Within this process, to generate feedback from local communities, over 40 open forums are being held across the NSW.

In October, fifty-one residents attended the afternoon Forum in Willoughby, raising concerns about various issues including environment protection. Also attending was a large Karing-gai contingent, most unhappy with several large-scale, low-quality, high-impact developments forced on their community with little or no community consultation.

This is a particularly relevant issue for the Willoughby community, with NSW Planning identifying the Channel 9 site as suitable for very large-scale redevelopment. Having seen the approval process taken away from Council, I raised the issue of resident consultation. Planning laws do not guarantee full consultation and participation in the decision process. To an outsider, this CH-9 site is close to public transport and appears ideal for a significantly increased housing density. However, existing local residents see traffic chaos during workday peak hours already and at weekends. Hundreds of additional dwellings will make the matter worse with unsustainable peak-load gridlocks.

The review of the EP&A Act will dictate how the approval developments in this State are made. All residents should be concerned about maintaining rights to participate in the process. If you are unsure of the relevance to you, just ask the residents of Karing-gai how they feel about losing the power to influence planning decisions.

The NSW Government is to publish an Issues Paper in December and the community is able to comment by 17th February. By the end of April, recommendations of the panel will be released and the document will go on exhibition before submission of the bill the NSW Parliament by mid 2012. Sadly, we can not count on Maggie, Neville and Paul for their involvement but, your feedback to the panel could be vital in shaping this process.

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