Cessnock Council puts case to minister

PLANNING Minister Tony Kelly should consult the Local Government Department before moving to strip Cessnock City Council's planning powers, the council has urged in its formal response to be considered tonight.

The council has asked Mr Kelly to halt the move altogether, or delay his decision until the Local Government Department completes its 12-month review after a critical council report in February last year.

Local Government investigators were at the council preparing their review in the week before Mr Kelly's surprise May 11 announcement that council had 21 days to show cause why its planning powers shouldn't be removed.

Moving to strip a council of its planning powers was "an extremely large step" which would not be "in the best interests of the community", Cessnock mayor Alison Davey wrote as part of the council's formal response.

The council produced 2009-10 figures to show reforms recommended in the Local Government Department report had been enacted and produced improvements.

The council also disputed or clarified figures cited in government reports and speeches to NSW Parliament.

This included that it had seven town planners, and not 17, in 2008-09, and each planner handled an average 107 development applications against the state average of 58.

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