UPDATED 19 September 2014 – A coalition of community groups including the Better Planning Network has won support of the New South Wales Labor Party and the Greens for a Community Charter for Good Planning in anticipation that development will be front and centre of the NSW election in March next year. The issue is especially volatile after a number of politicians were forced to resign in recent months following revelations of development-related corruption in the Independent Commission Against Inquiry.
The charter is the next step in the growth of the Better Planning Network, which was established by a range of community groups after the state government revealed its intention to reform the planning regime. Contained within those plans, now on ice, are a range of provisions that disallow community engagement beyond the strategic level, among other causes for concerns. Developers worry that community groups are mustering support against almost any development, a charge the BPN denies.
The charter was launched at the Domain by a coalition of community groups, including the National Trust of Australia, the Nature Conservation Council NSW, the Better Planning Network, the National Parks Association of NSW, the Total Environment Centre, the Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development and the Our Land Our Water Our Future campaign.
Shadow Minister for Planning and the Environment Luke Foley said he signed the charter on behalf of the Labor Party.
Likewise, Greens planning spokesperson David Shoebridge said he was pleased to announce his party’s endorsement of the Charter and hoped that it would become the “greenprint” for planning in the next term of government.
The NSW Minister for Planning and the Environment, The Hon Pru Goward, sent her apologies to the launch, a media statement from BPN said.
The group will ask candidates in next year’s election to endorse the charter, with response to be documented on a website, thecommunitycharter.org
BPN spokesperson Corinne Fisher said: “Today was a really important step in gaining the endorsement of both the ALP and Greens political parties. We are now urging the NSW Liberals to sign up.
“I think it is very clear from the latest round of ICAC investigations in which we have heard stories of property developers literally handing out cash in envelopes to election candidates that the community desperately needs to have its confidence restored in the political and planning systems.
“The Charter would restore the right of all people to appeal planning decisions. It is recognised by the ICAC that the right to appeal the merits of a decision is an important anti-corruption mechanism.
“Ever since the 1970s, when the community demanded new laws, the development industry has been encouraging the government of the day to make approvals quicker and to give the community less rights to appeal.
“Well the people are speaking up again today. We want more rights not less. We want environmental protection, not over-development. We want genuine community participation. And we don’t want corruption!”
The Charter calls for:
The well-being of the whole community, the environment and future generations across regional, rural and urban NSW
We call for a planning system that integrates short and long term social, environmental and economic considerations to create lasting benefits for communities, now and in the future. This is the concept of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) as currently defined in the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991. ESD must be the overarching objective of the planning system. For more information about ESD refer to the Charter Companion document.
Effective and genuine public participation in strategic planning and development decisions
Everyone has the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. People affected by a planning or development proposal have the right, knowledge and experience to contribute to the final decision. The role of planning authorities includes facilitating community input into the preparation of strategic plans prior to public exhibition and genuine, open dialogue between stakeholders. The role of consent authorities is to consider public comments on development proposals and ensure compliance by developers.
An open, accessible, transparent and accountable and corruption-free planning system
Decision processes must be transparent and accountable. Decisions must be made in public, respond objectively to issues raised in submissions, provide reasons and be subject to the rules of procedural fairness.
The community’s ability to seek review of a decision is important in preventing corruption and poor decision-making. All information considered when
assessing a proposal must be publicly available and accessible prior to the decision being made. So called ‘fast-tracking’ of development does not benefit the public interest. Anti-corruption measures must be effective and enforceable.
Disproportionate influence from vested financial interests has no place in planning decisions. The ability to lobby decision makers is a democratic right. However, it is inappropriate to allow companies, wealthy individuals or lobbyists a greater level of access than is available to the public.
The integration of land use planning with the provision of infrastructure and the conservation of our natural, built and cultural environment
An integrated approach is the key to achieving the kind of sustainable settlement patterns that are needed now and into the future. This type of approach will allow future planning to maintain the integrity of natural areas, take into account natural hazards and constraints, locate employment and key social infrastructure in accessible locations, and ensure the provision of sustainable infrastructure systems that use less energy and resources.
Objective, evidence-based assessment of strategic planning and development proposals
The foundation stone of a good planning system is a sound knowledge base that is publicly accessible and is updated and maintained by government in the public interest. The current system in which the developer pays for reports, such as environmental impact statements, creates conflicts of interests. Whilst it is equitable for developers to pay for reports, the objectivity of reports must be ensured by requiring professional standards and keeping the appointment of consultants at arm’s length from developers.
A companion document is available here
The Charter has been endorsed by: Alexandria Residents Action Group Australia International Council of Monuments and Sites Better Planning Network Crown Land Our Land EcoNetwork-Port Stephens Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development National Parks Association of NSW National Trust of Australia (NSW) Nature Conservation Council of NSW Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance NSW Heritage Network Inc. NSW Labour Our Land Our Water Our Future REDWatch Shelter NSW The Factory Community Centre The Greens NSW The Myall Koala & Environment Group Inc. Tighes Hill Community Group Total Environment Centre Transport Action Central Coast