Georges River Council to request changes to independent planning panels

Georges River Council wants changes to the way future Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels will operate.
Georges River Council wants changes to the way future Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels will operate.

Moves to make future meetings of the Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels more accessible to the public are being pursued by Georges River Council.

IHAPs will be mandatory for all councils in Sydney and for Wollongong City Council from March, 2018.

An IHAP, is a panel of independent planning experts and a community member who assess development applications valued at between $5 million to $30 million, or where there may be a conflict of interest, where there have been more than 10 objections, where a DA varies by more than 10 per cent from development standards, or is associated with a risk of corruption.

Georges River Council already has an IHAP in place but will suggest a number of changes to the future operation of panels.

The council wants IHAP meetings to occur no earlier than 6pm to enable residents and other community members to attend outside of usual business hours.

Currently, Georges River IHAP carries out site inspections at 1pm following by hearings at 4pm on the same day for applicants and objectors to address the panel.

The council also wants to panel’s deliberations to occur in open session rather than the current practice of deliberating behind closed doors.

And the council wants the panel’s decisions to be published the same day, not the following day as currently happens.

It will also ask that IHAP meetings should be scheduled on a regular basis to avoid any unnecessary delays to the determination of development applications.

It will request that the appointment the Georges River IHAP chairperson be undertaken as soon as possible to to allowing final operational procedures to be put in place prior to the start of the new panel in March.

Mayor Kevin Greene will write to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and Department of Planning secretary Carolyn McNally requesting that any IHAP guidelines include the measures.

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