Fears heighten on Ballina high-rise
By Alex Easton
COMMUNITIES will lose control over how they are developed if the NSW Government continues taking over development approvals, the State's peak local government body has warned.
Speaking after Planning Minister Frank Sartor approved a $70-million development for Ballina that breaches council limits on building heights, Local Government Association president Cr Genia McCaffery said the association was prepared to launch a major campaign against the State Government if it continued to erode councils' control over planning matters.
Of particular concern to Cr McCaffery was a proposal to introduce independent 'planning panels', made up of industry professionals who would assess development applications based on each council's planning laws.
Ballina councillor Alan Rich also said he was alarmed at the idea of planning panels, particularly after Mr Sartor backed the idea at this month's Shires Association conference.
In a report to Ballina Shire Council's ordinary meeting tomorrow, Cr Rich says Mr Sartor 'remains active in his commitment to planning panels and remains a threat to elected representation'.
"This is not just about councillors," Cr Rich told The Northern Star. "It's all the community at large who don't want their own planning powers taken away through their elected representatives."
Cr McCaffery said residents would prefer planning decisions be in the hands of locally-elected representatives.
A spokeswoman for Mr Sartor said there were no plans to introduce planning panels.
"While the NSW Government is currently considering further measures to cut more red tape and get NSW moving, the Minister has made it clear that he has an open mind on exactly what steps might be necessary," she said.
"He has also stated clearly that it must involve genuine community debate and will be subject to a range of consultation measures."