Call to return Cessnock council powers

LESS than a week after receiving the tick of approval from the Department of Local Government, Cessnock councillors said it was high time they had their planning power reinstated.

Councillors contacted by the Newcastle Herald said it was time to lobby both the Coalition and the ALP to obtain a commitment that the council's planning panel would be dismissed after the March 26 election.

Nationals duty MLC Trevor Kahn said it had been shown that NSW Planning Minister Tony Kelly had little to no justification for removing the planning powers.

His comments followed the release of NSW Planning's Local Development Performance report 2009-10 that found that before Labor's removal of local community control, Cessnock council's time to process development applications was below the state average for both residential alterations and single new dwellings.

"This shows that Labor's decision to strip the powers from the local community late last year was politically motivated," Mr Kahn said.

The report shows residential alteration development applications were turned around in 43 days when the state average was 53 days.

Cr Rachel Main said it was not "very just" to have the powers taken away in the first place.

"I'm not entirely sure there's a huge point in going for this before the state election with the promise [Opposition Leader] Barry O'Farrell is making but hopefully we will get them back.

"However if the ALP remains in power then we need to take the next step to plead our case."

Cr Dale Troy will put a notice of motion to the next council meeting to put the question to the State Government and ask for the council's planning powers back.

"It's time to intervene," he said.

Cr Neil Gorman believes the powers will be reinstated if the Coalition is elected.

"First they will ask for a report from the solicitor general which will be the responsible thing to do," he said.

"They will want some evidence and the 430 report gives us a pretty good tick of approval," he said.

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