30 May 2023
The ACT Government’s response to the ACT Assembly Standing Committee on Planning’s Inquiry into the Planning Bill 2022 is underwhelming and dismissive according to the Combined Community Councils of the ACT (CCCACT). The response validates the widespread view held across the community that the outcome of the Planning Reform was always predetermined and that the opportunity for meaningful reform has been missed.
The CCCACT welcomed the announcement of the Planning Review in 2019 expecting that constructive and innovative thinking would be applied to put in place a planning system for future generations of Territory residents with a focus on climate mitigation, liveability and affordability. However, the Reform process has lacked adequate or appropriate engagement, an evidence base and a well-designed evaluation framework.
Planning Minister Gentleman’s response dismisses many of the Planning Committee’s 49 recommendations. Closer reading of recommendations highlights how many community views have not been accepted. For example, the Planning Committee recommended that the ACT Government publish explicit and detailed reasons in a listening report or consultation report as to why the recommendations that were made by those who submitted to the government consultation were not actioned in the Bill, Territory Plan, or District Strategy. The government’s response, that feedback was “grouped by theme”, did not adequately address the questions and did not acknowledge the hard work undertaken (as evidenced by the 1,300 individual feedback and submissions).
Reasonable people can accept decisions they may not agree with that are made through good process, but the CCCACT believes they will not accept them if the process is not transparent. The Government runs the risk that the processes prescribed in their Planning Bill will not be regarded or accepted by the Community.
The Planning Bill should not be considered by the Assembly until all the relevant parts of the legislation (Territory Plan, Explanation of Intended Effects, Design Guides and District Strategies) are available and have been comprehensively discussed with the community.
Each Community Council is considering their positions carefully, based on their district’s residents’ views.
The CCCACT’s specific concerns regarding the Planning Reform and the Government’s response to the Planning Bill Inquiry include:
Many probity and governance risks are still presented in the Bill, undermining the proper stewardship of our greatest natural asset, our land. Specifically:
- The rejection of opportunities for Assembly debate and scrutiny, particularly regarding Territory Priority Projects.
- The rebuttal of calls for independent panels of experts to advise the Directorate or for an independent review of the Planning Bill
- The absence of case managers for Development Applications
- An over reliance on notifiable instruments such as the Minister declaring a Territory Priority Project
- A continued lack of a clear definition of “planning outcomes” and examples of how they may work in practise
- The lack of clarity over minor and technical amendments without clearer penalties for deterring exempt development breaches.
COMMUNITY CONSULTATION, LIVEABILITY AND AFFORDABILITY
Community consultation, liveability and affordability are not adequately addressed:
- There is a lack of community consultation and understanding on “knockdown rebuilds” and other “exempt” development
- The time for consultation on Territory Priority Projects is inadequate
- Pre-DA consultation has been eliminated and consultation guidelines are not yet available
- Community members are unable to apply for a controlled activity order regarding a development not meeting its conditions of approval
- The recommendation to set up a social planning committee or unit has been dismissed
ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION and CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION/ ADAPTATION
The Bill does not include the human right to a healthy environment or mandatory rules for Development Application assessment against the Territory Plan relating to access to sunlight, planting area for deep-rooted trees and other vegetation, private open space, and adherence to the Heritage Act in relation to natural, cultural and built heritage sites and precincts. This threatens the Garden City principle that is highly valued by residents. Further
- Environmental controls and compliance powers are inadequate
- Lack of agreement to a landscape architect
- Powers to override the Conservator of Fauna and Flora
- It is unclear how the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment will fit into the new Bill
Peter Elford, Convenor, Combined Community Councils of the ACT (email@example.com)
Lachlan Butler, Chair, Belconnen Community Council (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Henley Samuel, President, Gungahlin Community Council (email@example.com)
Marea Fatseas, Chair, Inner South Community Council (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ryan Hemsley, Chair, Molonlgo Community Forum (email@example.com)
Joachim Zeil, Chair, North Canberra Community Council (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Glenys Patulny, President, Tuggeranong Community Council (email@example.com)
Bill Gemmell, Chair, Weston Creek Community Council (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fiona Carrick, President, Woden Valley Community Council (email@example.com)