Councils in Sydney and Wollongong are set to lose the ability to assess Development Applications worth $5 Million or more as part of new rules to be implemented which require the use of Independent Planning Panels.
Yesterday, the Honourable Anthony Roberts announced that Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAP) will be mandatory for all Councils in Sydney and Wollongong. These panels are currently voluntarily in use by 15 Sydney Councils and Wollongong Council.
For Development Applications with a value between $5 Million and $30 Million, assessment by the IHAP will be mandatory. Where the value of the development is over $30 Million, the development application is assessed by the Regional Sydney Planning Panel. The threshold for assessment by the RSPP has increased by $10 Million i.e. from $20 Million to $30 Million.
The reasoning provided for the changes by the NSW Planning Minister include concern about “inappropriate” relationships between Councils and Developers, transparent and accountable processes for assessing development applications of significant value and guarding against corruption.
The President of Local Government NSW, Keith Rhoades expressed concern that the implementation of the mandatory panels could “potentially reduce the accountability and transparency of planning decisions” as Councils are accountable to the community however panels are not. Cr Rhoades also highlighted that “there is no accountability like the ballot box”.