Government tries to return powers

FIRST the State Government took planning powers away from councils, now it wants to give them back – provided elected councillors get no say in the major development applications that are returned to them.

State Planning Minister Tony Kelly has written to Lismore City Council saying the Government wants to return to the councils some of the ‘regionally significant' development applications that were put to its controversial Joint Regional Planning Panels.

However, instead of going to a council vote, Mr Kelly wants councillors to nominate a council officer to make the decisions for them.

Lismore council officers have recommended councillors turn down Mr Kelly's request for now while they watch how a 12-month trial of the plan plays out.

Mr Kelly's letter, which is attached to the agenda of next week's Lismore City Council meeting, named three types of ‘regionally significant' development application that would be returned to councils for a decision by a council officer:

‘Straightforward applications', where there have been no objections and an assessment report on the application recommends a development be approved.

Developments worth $5 million or less, regardless of objections having been lodged, where an assessment report recommends the development be approved.

Development applications in areas or precincts that have had detailed planning done, regardless of any community objections, provided the application ‘is strictly in accordance with identified key planning controls' and an assessment report recommends the development be approved.

An officer's report prepared for next week's council meeting says Lismore has not yet had to send any developments to the local joint regional planning panels since they were introduced a year ago.

However, the report takes a cautious approach to the panels, noting they had caused headaches for coastal councils where ‘greater restrictions' applied to development applications.

The report recommends councillors turn down the request to join a 12-month trial of the delegated officer system.

Instead, the report recommends that councillors tell the Minister they would like to review the system at the end of the trial period next year.



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