19 September 2005

Community Councils call for formalised roles - please let it not be so

| johnboy
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Following on from earlier news about an 18 storey development in Belconnen, the ABC brings news that the Belconnen Community Council now wants a formal say in planning decisions.

The Belconnen Community Council is calling on the ACT Government to establish community reference groups to ensure residents have a say in local planning and development issues.

Unless the Electoral Commission is going to govern election to these bodies I say PLEASE GOD NO!

Another layer of self-important and unaccountable busybodies sucking on the public teat is the last thing we need.

What we need are simple zoning parameters under which approval would be the default position for developments that meet those parameters.

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community councils are so undemocratic it is not funny.

also they are heavily infiltrated by the ALP. look at the BCC, the current president is a former ALP assembly candidate!

in a town of this size proper community consultation should be easily done, but it isnt.

thank you majority govt.

A reasonable point of view.

Thumper and johnboy,

Once upon a time, there used to exist the sort of consultative bodies that the BCC is calling for; they were called Local Area Planning Advisory Committees (LAPACs). These were established in areas that were subject to high levels of redevelopment pressure, and provided some checks and balances on the depredations of developers, and the (not inconsequential) incompetence of planning authorities (just look at the ACT AAT site to see how badly they regularly stuff up on decisions).

The LAPACs were made up of resident representatives (some drawn from residents’ associations, others not), developer and business representatives and Ministerial nominees.

These worked quite well – some problems were apparent, largely because of the volume of redevelopment in some areas and hence workloads were very high.

What they were able to do was bring a community focus to what was happening within an area prior to a development application being lodged. Not least, they were an opportunity for people to know what was going on, ask questions, (sometimes)influence the outcomes, and get used to the idea. In many cases, the developers were able to either convince residents of the value of the proposal, or were able to modify it to reduce the impact. When the development proposal was then lodged, the number of objections and appeals were far fewer.

Corbell in his wisdom abolished the LAPACs, promising to replace them with an alternative. He came up with a plan that was universally rejected, so he spat the dummy and has done nothing to put in place a community-based structure to advise on planning matters.

Instead, he has given this role to the Community Councils, which were never set up to review planning matters (particularly suburban developments), don’t have the expertise that the LAPACs had, and in any event are only invited to review a small selection of proposals, after the DA is lodged. This latter point is quite important – it is during the pre-application phase that changes can be quite quickly and easily incorprated. Once the DA is lodged, the only input from affected residents is through objections and appeals.

Any ability of residents to influence developments in the pre-application stage has been destroyed by Corbell – hence this idea again being floated by the BCC.

Chris Shelling
Garran Community Association
(Former) Member, (former) Burley Griffin LAPAC

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