The RSWUA along with other community action groups has now joined the Better Planning Network which advocates for more community rights in government planning processes.
At a recent workshop with senior officers of the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure, participants called for the community to have mandated rights to participate in and challenge planning and/or development decisions.
“This was a positive and productive workshop,” said Corinne Fisher of the Better Planning Network. “The Departmental staff undertook to present a summary of the issues raised to the Minister so that he is aware of community views before the White Paper is finalised. On the other hand, there is no commitment to implement our suggestions.”
Better Planning Network representatives were adamant that Ecologically Sustainable Development should be the driving factor and prime objective of the new Act. They also argued that State Planning objectives should include conservation of biodiversity, protection of prime agricultural land, heritage protection and promotion of community wellbeing.
“These issues are fundamental to good planning,” said Ms Fisher. “They must go hand in hand with open, transparent and accountable decision-making at all levels of planning and development. All decisions should be open to scrutiny and should be accompanied by written explanations of how and why they were made.”
Participants also pointed out that if the community is to participate meaningfully in the strategic planning phase, as the government has claimed, there must be sufficient resources and time to enable genuine and meaningful dialogue. This will require professional facilitators.
Among the points raised at the workshop were:
· - There must be no direct employment relationship between developers and private certifiers
· - The system should encourage a collaborative relationship between developers and community for code-assessable projects
· - Community members must have the right to comment on site-specific and local development issues including building design, overshadowing and social amenity
· - The community must have the same rights to challenge planning/development decisions as those granted to developers.