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The NSW Government has recently introduced changes to the EPA Act (clauses 10.17 and 10.18) and introduced the Planning System Acceleration Program (Media Release dated 3 April 2020) to fast track rezonings and development applications, justifying this by the need to stimulate the State’s economic recovery during the COVID-19 crisis.

It will enable the NSW Minister for Planning to approve DAs previously refused by local councils and/or Local or Regional Planning Panels. An example of such inappropriate development, that has been given the green light, is at 41 McLaren Street North Sydney which has a height control set in the recently updated NSLEP at maximum 100 metres, but the Planning Proposal is for a 226 metres high residential tower, more than twice the height, which would cast a huge shadow over much of North Sydney CBD Council to the south of this development.

The metropolitan and regional Councils’ strategic plans have been developed in consultation with local communities and all major stakeholders and identify the need for significant growth in housing and employment and important local priorities. They should not be ignored and over-ruled by the Minister. It is not in NSW’s best interests to give the green light to these inappropriate proposals that will almost inevitably have detrimental impacts on the heritage, environments and social fabric of Sydney and NSW in the long term. Such an opaque approach is fraught with risks.

As Elizabeth Farrelly pointed out in her Sydney Morning Herald article of 25 April 2020 “The government says fast-track planning processes will keep people in jobs and the construction industry moving throughout the COVID-19 crisis. If that were the priority, though, you might expect similar support for the arts sector which generates $16.4 billion to NSW GDP and employs 118,000 FTE [Full Time Equivalent] workers.

The Society has written to the NSW Minister for Planning and the Treasurer requesting that the Government revise its recent legislation and program to ensure transparency and quality planning outcomes that are not detrimental to NSW and future generations.