Planning laws get overhaul

GARAGES, backyard pools and some houses may no longer need council approval under proposed changes to the state’s planning laws.

Local councils would also be encouraged to appoint independent panels to rule on contentious development and planning decisions.

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Although primarily designed to assist with planning, the panels could also help resolve issues such as Newcastle’s infamous Laman Street fig saga.

The planning system overhaul, the most extensive in the past 30 years, involves 23 significant changes to the planning process.

The proposed changes are included in the New Planning System for NSW green paper, released yesterday.

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said the changes were designed to promote community engagement and efficiency within planning and approval processes.

New planning controls and standards would be developed in consultation with local communities.

‘‘Mums and dads trying to get approval for their house can sometimes take years because of the uncertainty of [current] planning documents,’’ Mr Hazzard told the Newcastle Herald.

‘‘This will give certainty and far faster outcomes. In essence it means that after the planning is done with maximum community input [a complying development application] will get the tick-off far faster and may not need to go to the council.’’

Another key part of the reforms is to encourage councils to appoint independent panels to rule on contentious decisions. Eleven NSW councils currently use the panels, which are made up of appropriately qualified and experienced experts.

‘‘Ninety-seven per cent [of decisions] are already dealt with under delegated authority of staff. That means that the 3per cent can be pretty big in terms of outcomes for the community,’’ Mr Hazzard said.

‘‘We have identified that getting the politics out of decision-making in the state government’s view, is one of the most important factors in driving the state forward.’’

Local government and industry groups said the proposed changes were overdue.

‘‘Local government has been calling for major reform to the planning system in NSW for many, many years,’’ NSW Local Government and Shires Association president Keith Rhoades said.

‘‘The views of communities must be taken on board and the Local Government and Shires Association supports the position of community participation.’’

Australian Institute of Architects NSW chapter president Matthew Pullinger said a streamlined process for approving developments that comply with standards was urgently needed.

“We need to encourage community input at the front end of the development process, the plan making, and away from the back end, the project approvals, where currently so much time and effort are focused and much conflict occurs,’’ he said.

“Architects, their clients and our communities will all benefit from clearer expectations for development. This will lead to fewer objections when design proposals match these expectations.’’

The green paper will remain on public exhibition until September 14, 2012 An online consultation forum has been set up: haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/newplanningsystem.

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