Sutherland Shire Council expresses no confidence in local planning panel

Growing pains: Cr Steve Simpson told the council meeting residents were concerned about “the O word” – overdevelopment – and the speed of it. Picture: John Veage
Growing pains: Cr Steve Simpson told the council meeting residents were concerned about “the O word” – overdevelopment – and the speed of it. Picture: John Veage

Updated

Sutherland Shire residents are fed up with “the O word” –overdevelopment – and councillors want the power to decide development applications returned.

That’s the message Sutherland Shire Council will send to the NSW Government just six months out from the state election.

The council, on Monday night, overwhelmingly supported a motion, which included a statement of no confidence in the Sutherland Shire Planning Panel (previously Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel).

Moving the motion, Cr Simpson (independent) said, since March this year, changes approved by the planning panel had varied from the LEP on 24 occasions.

Cr Simpson said residents were concerned about “the O word” – overdevelopment – and the speed of it.

The council will write to Premier Gladys Berejiklian seeking to have councillors reinstated as the consent authority for all development applications (DAs) determined at present by the planning panel.

Opposition Leader Luke Foley will be asked if a Labor government would reinstate the council’s powers.

The council will say “a number of decisions made by the unelected planning panel, which have allowed development with height and floor space ratio well in excess of council’s planning controls, have led to the community’s loss of confidence in a system that seemingly ignores any input from residents, whose amenities and present ‘shire’ way of life is forever lost”. 

The continuation of the present system “will forever change and destroy the character of Sutherland Shire,” the council will say.

Liberals Kent Johns, mayor Carmelo Pesce and John Riad voted against the motion, but it was supported by three other Liberals, along with all Labor councillors.

Cr Johns unsuccessfully sought to defer the decision to allow the council to propose an alternative methodology to the government.

He proposed this include councillors [not just council staff] making a formal submission on all DAs before the panel, and having a further right of reply if the panel rejected their view.

Cr Pesce and Cr Riad indicated they would vote for Cr Simpson’s motion, seeking the return of council powers, if the wording was softened.

Cr Ray Plibersek (Labor) said he had received 200 emails in a year from residents asking him to take action on DAs, but had to inform them he could do nothing.

Cr Diedree Steinwall said it was “really disheartening” when she had to give the same advice to residents.

Cr Steinwall said the DAs previously decided by council were less than two per cent of all those submitted.

Cr Carol Provan (Liberal) said, “Down my end [A Ward taking in Cronulla and Caringbah], residents want to see things slow down, they want infrastructure and parking addressed”.

Cronulla MP and Attorney-General Mark Speakman said, “Labor’s hypocrisy knows no bounds”.

“Last night’s council motion attacks the very changes to planning laws which State Labor itself supported last year, designed to improve the quality of decisions and to reduce the risk of council corruption across greater Sydney,” he said.

Mr Speakman said the two biggest individual new developments in the shire, the Sharks and the “brick pit” projects were “legacies of State Labor’s Part 3A process, which was introduced when Cr Barry Collier was the MP for Miranda.

Cr Collier said it was “really about time Mr Speakman took responsibility for the massive overdevelopment now taking place willy-nilly across the shire, and stopped blaming all the problems on the Labor ministry which left office eight years ago”

”A simple question for Mr Speakman: Are you, [other state Liberal MPs] Ms Petinos, Mr Evans and Ms Gibbons going to give a council back its planning powers or stand idly by and watch the shire being destroyed by your government’s policies?” he said