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The proposed reforms to the New South Wales planning system involve measures that, if implemented, pose significant threats to our built heritage.

The NSW state government revealed its sweeping proposals in November 2007 in a discussion paper titled ‘Improving the NSW Planning System’. In its submission in February 2008, the Walter Burley Griffin Society outlined issues that would be damaging to heritage generally and the Griffin Conservation Area at Castlecrag in particular. The Society’s full submission can be viewed below as a pdf.
In its submission (to briefly summarise) the Society stated that:

– the proposed standardisation of development consent conditions has the potential to irreversibly damage the highly sensitive and unique heritage of the Griffin Conservation Area;
– the proposed mandatory default code to define exempt and complying development which would allow for non-compliance, if introduced as a single statewide code, would be a counterproductive and backward step;
– existing council DCP standards that have been developed with extensive community input to address the special circumstances of environmentally sensitive and heritage areas (such as the Griffin Conservation Area) should be accredited as the complying code; and
– that proposals ‘to extend the ambit of exempt development’ should not be applied to heritage areas, particularly not the Griffin Conservation Area.

The state government received 538 submissions in response to the discussion paper. Since then on 3 April the government released its Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2008.

The media release from the Minister of Planning Frank Sartor that accompanied it states the draft bill is “the first legislative step towards reinvigorating the NSW planning system. … Mr Sartor said many of the key reforms outlined in the discussion paper were reflected in the exposure bill”.

The bill has ignored the arguments put forward in the submissions and continues to seek a significant dumbing-down of standards both in urban design and architecture. The proposed blanket approach, if enacted, would inevitably lead to poor-quality outcomes.

The situation is summed up well in Moir’s cartoon in the Sydney Morning Herald of 7 April where Sartor, in the guise of Napoleon, sits at his desk with a sign behind him proclaiming “NSW Government … for the people in property development”

Public comment on the Bill closes on 24 April 2008.

Further information

WBGS letter-Planning reforms.pdf (140KB)