Mr ROB STOKES (Pittwater—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.39 p.m.]: Spot rezonings have long been the bane of planning processes. More than anything else, they erode public confidence in planning. Planning is all about providing communities with a predictable process and a foreseeable vision of how cities, towns and suburbs are likely to change in the future. The problem with spot rezonings is that they introduce an element of surprise into planning, and that unpredictability can have huge impacts on people’s homes, neighbourhoods and lives. A recent example was in my community at Warriewood. Until recently, this sylvan place was a peri-urban environment of paddocks and glasshouses, yet over the past 15 years it has been developed into a vibrant medium-density suburb characterised by townhouses and detached homes on smaller blocks with a standard density of 25 lots per hectare. Following an unplanned, unwanted and unsupported part 3A development under the former Labor Government for a series of residential tenements, the Planning Assessment Commission called for a strategic review of the development potential of the remaining undeveloped land in Warriewood.
The new Liberal Government agreed and cofounded a strategic review with Pittwater Council based on independent reports and evidence that determined that the existing density limitations were overly restrictive, and determined that a general yield of 32 lots per hectare on the remaining undeveloped sites across Warriewood was environmentally, economically and socially feasible—in other words, it was sustainable. This review was adopted by council and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, and was reflected in local zoning controls following extensive community engagement. It really was a textbook example of the sort of up-front community engagement being promoted in the new planning system. Yet, within days, an applicant had submitted a planning proposal under the pre-gateway process for a development that offended the brand new strategic planning vision not by 10 per cent or 20 per cent, but by a staggering and outrageous 300 per cent. Appropriately and unanimously, the council rejected the proposal for inconsistency with the strategic plan.
The Department of Planning and Infrastructure inexplicably determined that the proposal had strategic merit and allowed it to proceed to determination by the joint regional planning panel, which, predictability, threw it out as a joke. I am delighted that the director general now has dismissed the application on the basis of inconsistency with the strategic review. Of course, no-one will be surprised if, like zombie, the proposal rises again, only to go through another process with all the cost, waste and conflict this generates, all to potentially facilitate a private profit at overall loss to ratepayers who have to fund the process, citizens who have to fund the inflated cost of retrofitting infrastructure to support unplanned development, and neighbours who every day have to put up with the adverse changes to their community brought by overdevelopment. It would add insult to injury if the developer were to surreptitiously attempt to reshape the development, modification by modification, into the application originally rejected. I call on the director general of Planning and Infrastructure to remain strong, and continue to reject any proposal inconsistent with the strategic review.
However, the clear lesson from the case study is that the current pre-gateway process needs reform. Fundamentally, any appeal against a refusal of a rezoning application should start with a consideration of the strategic merit of the proposal. This consideration should be based on certain and consistent criteria. The fact the proposal has been rejected already by the local community means that the general presumption must be to respect the community’s wishes and reject the proposal unless there are seriously compelling reasons for unexpected change. This occurs in the following limited circumstances. First, where local planning rules clearly are out of date and do not reflect changes in local needs, aspirations and demographics; secondly, where local planning rules are too prescriptive to facilitate a sensible proposal that is broadly consistent with the local planning strategy and the character of the area, but which might offend development standards in an insignificant manner; thirdly, where an entirely new land use comes along that simply was not contemplated by planners or the community when the local planning strategy was developed and where there is a demonstrable public interest in having a novel or unique proposal assessed.
The appeal process should be about re-examining sensible proposals put in good faith where the existing planning rules are manifestly unreasonable, not in providing endless backdoor opportunities for disreputable developers to push their proposals. Put bluntly, where a spot rezoning is all about the developer’s interest and the case for public interest is not crystal clear and compelling, it simply should not happen. Under the new planning system, we need to move away from one that allows for assessment by faceless men. Contentious decisions, such as appeals on rezonings, must be made openly and transparently by representatives of the people directly in a council chamber, in a court by a commissioner or by an appropriately qualified independent panel. While I am happy that the right decision has been made for the Warriewood planning proposal, neither I nor the community had any insight into how the decision was reached or how deliberations took place behind closed doors within the department. This needs to change. The Government’s proposed planning reforms have not been permitted to proceed because of unworkable amendments passed in the other place. This example of the flaws in the pre-gateway process demonstrates powerfully the need for reform to enable the Government to deliver on its commitment to return planning powers to local communities and to restore trust in government. The process of managing appeals against refusal of spot rezonings needs to be refined. The old planning culture whereby some developers just put in ambit claims and ignored established planning rules needs to change. The Warriewood decision is an encouraging start, but planning proposals that ignore or flagrantly breach up-to-date local planning rules must continue to be put in the dustbin where they belong.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, 26 March, at 9.00 a.m. Warriewood residents and members of the Better Planning Network will be at Parliament House in Macquarie Street, to call for the abolition of the Government’s Pre-Gateway process.
The move follows the rejection last week by the Department of Planning & Infrastructure of a rezoning application to facilitate an enormous development proposed for the Warriewood Valley, a proposal which would have seen 98 dwellings per hectare in an area designated by last year’s Strategic Review as being suitable for a maximum of 32.
In this instance, following intense lobbying by the Warriewood Residents Association, supported by local MP, the Hon Rob Stokes, and Pittwater Council, common sense prevailed and the rezoning was rejected, but not until it had first been rejected by the community, Pittwater Council and finally the Government’s own Joint Regional Planning Panel which carried out the Pre-Gateway Review.
But under the Pre-Gateway system, there’s nothing to stop developers starting the whole process over and over again, applying for as many different densities as they like. So, the community could be dragged through the whole process all over again.
That’s why the Warriewood Residents Association is determined to keep up the pressure and the campaign until Pre-Gateway is abolished.
Chris Hornsby, the President of the Warriewood Residents Association says: “It’s 3A by default. The Coalition promised to get rid of the hated Part 3A of the Planning Act, and it did. But all it’s really done is give it a different name – the Pre-Gateway Review.
“The community is forced to finance its opposition to these proposals, just to support the local environment plan. This is unfair because it destroys people’s faith in the NSW planning process when every council rejection can be taken to the Government’s Pre-Gateway Review process for reassessment. This is surely bad government.
“Our community is committed to this fight until reason; logic, transparency and fairness are returned to the planning system.
“We’ve fought and won the first round, but that’s just a skirmish in our ongoing campaign against this unjust and unfair system which deprives communities of the right to have a say over their environment.”
Greens MLC The Hon David Shoebridge and Shadow Minister for Environment & Climate Change, The Hon Luke Foley, will address protesters shortly after 9 a.m.
Media Contact: Niamh Kenny
0418 290 431
See Link below to Business Insider – Australia
People Power Wins in Warriewood
The Warriewood Residents Association (WRA) has applauded today’s announcement by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure that the rezoning proposal of land at 2 &18 Macpherson Street and 23, 25 & 27 Warriewood Rd, Warriewood has been rejected for Gateway Review.
The community has been awaiting a final decision since the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) rejected the proposal on 5th February 2014.
The WRA thanks the Premier Hon Barry O’Farrell and the Minister for Planning & Infrastructure Hon Brad Hazzard for their intervention in telling the bureaucrats in the department to listen to the community which along with Pittwater Council overwhelmingly rejected the proposal in 2012.
Chris Hornsby, President of the WRA said, “This decision is an acknowledgement by the Minister that the findings of the Joint Strategic Review of up to 32 dwellings per hectare must be adhered to in any future development proposals for Warriewood Valley. The community was extremely disappointed that the Council’s rejection of this proposed development last September was even eligible for review in this so called Pre-Gateway process, introduced by the new Liberal Government,” he continued.
The WRA now calls on the Minister to abolish what is fast becoming the hated Pre-Gateway process which has replaced the former Labor Governments notorious and failed Part 3A process.
“The Premier and Minister must honour their recent commitments to restore planning powers to local councils and return trust and certainty to the planning process. I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister to secure assurances that another massive overdevelopment for Warriewood Valley (known as the Southern Buffer) will not be considered eligible for review under the Pre-Gateway process and that the community and Council’s rejection of the proposal will be upheld.” He demanded.
The WRA also expressed their thanks to the local member Hon Rob Stokes and Pittwater Council for their support of the community in getting this proposal rejected.
Niamh Kenny M: 0418 290431
NO GUARANTEES FOR RESIDENTS AS MASSIVE OVER-DEVELOPMENT LOOMS
The Director-General of planning and Infrastructure, Sam Haddad was confronted by protestors at his Bridge Street headquarters yesterday morning. A bus load of residents from the northern beaches suburb of Warriewood gathered outside and their efforts were rewarded with an invitation to meet with Mr Haddad.
President of the Warriewood Residents Association (WRA) Chris Hornsby said while the meeting was convivial there is still no imminent outcome for the residents concerned about rampant over-development in Warriewood Valley.
What is at stake is the future and character of the Warriewood Valley, ( and the rest of the Northern Beaches) a suburb where residents purchased homes based on a liveable community with agreed density criteria.
A Strategic Review held last year, settled on an acceptable density of 32 dwellings per hectare for the remaining undeveloped land in the Valley. The review was endorsed by Sam Haddad, the Director General of the Department of Planning on 1 May 2013 and adopted by Pittwater Council on 12 June 2013.
But Mr. Haddad attached an ambiguous letter to his endorsement which said he considered there could be future opportunities for higher density which could be assessed on merit. That letter has opened the door for changes to the agreed development and that’s why the residents are concerned. A new proposal was lodged seeking 98 dwellings per hectare, a 300% increase.
“We are grateful for the meeting with Mr Haddad however there are no guarantees the proposal will be quashed but we trust in due process,” said Chris Hornsby. “Time is running out and all we got from the meeting was some ‘bureaucrat speak’ about departments and planners and know one really knows who is going to make a decision and when. What we do know is if this rezoning of land does go ahead, that’s a big win for developers who gain a 300% increase in what was agreed to and a slap in the face to the residents.”
Mr Hornsby and members of the WRA refuse to give up.
“We won’t stop until Sam Haddad agrees with what the JRPP concluded and to stop massive overdevelopment in Warriewood. While we are fighting for our suburb what this means for other parts of NSW is land can just be rezoned at the whim of the department of planning. We are concerned that consultation with the community means nothing to this government, it’s all forgotten now the election has been won.”
FURIOUS RESIDENTS DEMAND MEETING WITH PLANNING MINISTER
Tomorrow at 9.00 a.m. Warriewood residents will be at the offices of Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, in Dee Why to find out why he won’t meet with them.
They’re furious that despite their calls and emails the Minister has refused to discuss a massive development proposal for the Warriewood Valley, which makes a mockery of the 18 month Strategic Review carried out by Pittwater Council, the Department of Planning “and Infrastructure” and the community “groups”.
The Strategic Review held last year, settled on an acceptable density of 32 dwellings per hectare for the remaining undeveloped land in the Valley. The review was endorsed by Sam Haddad, the Director General of the Department of Planning on 1 May 2013 and adopted on 12 June 2013.
But Mr. Haddad attached an ambiguous letter to his endorsement which said he considered there could be future opportunities for higher density which could be assessed on merit. That letter has opened the door for changes to the agreed densities and that’s why the residents are so worried about the sort of development that could now be considered suitable for Warriewood.
On 7 June 2013, a Planning Proposal was lodged with Pittwater Council for the construction of up to 98 dwellings in 5 storey blocks of flats on two separate sites in Macpherson Street and three in Warriewood Road.
Pittwater Council rejected the application on 2 September 2013, but the developer is now taking it through the Government’s Gateway process, which will see council’s decision scrutinised by the head of the Planning Department and the Minister.
Chris Hornsby, the President of the Warriewood Residents Association says: “Millions of dollars and months of time were spent on “your” Strategic Review, which residents assumed gave them certainty. But the Director General of Planning and the Minister think otherwise. Now, all we’re asking of the Minister is the opportunity to meet with him to express our concerns.
“Our message to you, Mr Hazzard, is that this community is important and we feel betrayed by a Minister who insists that the main reason for rewriting the planning laws is to ensure the community is fully informed and involved from the very earliest stages of all development applications.
“That may be the theory, Minister, but it certainly isn’t the practice. Your Strategic Review and LEP obviously aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. And hiding behind your department is not good enough”.
2013 – The Strategic Review settled on an acceptable density of 32 dwellings per hectare for the remaining undeveloped land in Warriewood Valley
1 May 2013 – The review was endorsed by Sam Haddad, the Director General of the Department of Planning
7 June 2013 – Planning Proposal was lodged with Pittwater Council for the construction of up to 98 dwellings in 5 storey blocks of flats on two separate sites in Macpherson Street and three in Warriewood Road.
12 June 2013 – review adopted by Department of Planning
Media Contact: Niamh Kenny 0418 290 431