Planning system takes rights away from locals

CONTROVERSIAL reforms to the state planning system will see approval for development on the Coffs Coast stripped from local hands.

And the first you may hear about a new development is when work starts next door.

This week, the NSW Upper House approved reforms to state planning, which the government claims will deliver a more efficient and transparent system.

But already the waters are muddied, with Coffs Harbour mayor Keith Rhoades identifying one reform that will see decisions on multi-million dollar residential and commercial developments made by regional panels and not local government.

"Setting up regional boards for approvals means that developments in Coffs could be determined by people from outside Coffs Harbour," Cr Rhoades said.

"Taking away the rights of local people to have their say, either positive or negative, is not a step forward."

Another issue Cr Rhoades fears will slip through the cracks is the notification of development to an adjoining property.

A recent DA for a dual occupancy on Breakers Way at Korora was rejected by Coffs Harbour City Council due to proactive community involvement.

"This could be the last DA council determines if notification to adjoining properties is lost in the reforms, which means residents wouldn't know construction had been approved until the tractor turned up next door," Cr Rhoades said.

However, NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor said the changes would cut red tape for ordinary homeowners and small businesses, and introduce independent decision-making into the system.

The reforms have been welcomed by the Property Council of Australia, who called them 'a giant leap towards a faster, fairer and smarter system'.

"The property industry will now be given a fair go through a less politicised system that sees larger projects determined on their merit by planning professionals," NSW executive director, Ken Morrison, said.

But Regional Alliance for Sustainable Planning spokesman Mark Graham said planning in NSW has been 'in dire straits' for years and the reforms have worsened the situation.

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