THE proposed new Planning Bill vests too much power in the hands of the planning authority, says the Combined Community Councils of the ACT (CCC)
As the peak body for the eight Community Councils in Canberra – Belconnen, Gungahlin, Inner South, North Canberra, Tuggeranong, Weston Creek, Woden Valley and Molonglo – the CCC is calling on members of the Legislative Assembly to ensure the new Planning Bill is not approved until governance, clarity, and community engagement concerns are addressed.
CCC Convenor Peter Elford said the Planning Bill is just part of the new planning system, and its interaction with other components needs to be clearer and simpler.
“It should not be approved until other key components such as the new draft Territory Plan and draft District Strategies, and their interaction with the Planning Bill, can be subjected to full public and independent expert scrutiny,” says Elford.
“Land is the ACT’s greatest natural resource and residents expect strong stewardship of that resource. The Planning Bill vests too much power in the hands of the planning authority and one person, the Chief Planner. There should be better checks and balances to manage governance risks and to restore confidence and trust in the planning system.
“The Bill provides for a major shift from a rules-based to an ‘outcomes focused’ planning system, the most significant change in 15 years, and there needs to be greater clarity about how the new system will work in practice given the Bill’s subjective decision-making criteria.”
Elford says while there have been problems with the current pre-development application consultation, it would be better to fix them rather than jettison the process completely.
“For example, such community consultation should occur at the same time as the Design Review Panel is considering significant development proposals,” he says.
“Finally, while we were led to believe that the new planning system would be easier to understand, it is in fact more complex. The Planning Bill alone now has 648 sections compared to 517 sections in the existing Planning Act. The Planning Bill and its interaction with other components needs to be clearer and simpler.”
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