The ACT Greens will table sweeping legislation in the Legislative Assembly today (Thursday) which the party believes will deliver a better planning system and address key concerns about building quality, environmental impacts and community input.
The Bill will be tabled by Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur, who has been frustrated by the slow progress on planning issues in her time in the Assembly.
“I am disappointed we haven’t done more in planning in the past four years,” she said.
But she is hopeful that the ”shopping list” of items will make the planning system better, more sustainable and easier for residents who are impacted by development proposals to actually know what’s happening, have their say and be listened to.
”We’re not building a more sustainable Canberrra,” she said.
There was too much piecemeal development and its accumulative effects were being ignored, she said.
She said much of what the Bill proposes should already be happening, such as extending development application consultation periods over the Christmas/New Year period by three weeks and ensuring better access to information for residents and environment groups online.
”It’s crazy that DAs go up online for the consultation period and then they disappear,” Ms Le Couteur said. ”That’s something ACTPLA should have fixed 10 years ago.”
The legislation proposes that for the first time climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions will be considered in the assessment of DAs and require high-emission developments to undertake an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The Greens want the community and residents to have more say, calling for EIS exemptions to be appealed in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal and further public consultation before a DA can be lodged if a developer makes major changes after the initial consultation.
They also want residents of newer suburbs such as Wright, Coombs, Denman Prospect, Lawson and Moncrieff to no longer be excluded from pre-DA consultation.
The planning directorate should also be able to reject a DA if it contains false or misleading information.
The Greens believe the Design Review Panel should scrutinise large retail developments such as those expected in Mawson, Kippax and Cooleman Court in Weston in coming years to achieve more attractive and functional buildings.
They also want the Legislative Assembly to have greater oversight and scrutiny of controversial decisions such as Ministerial call-ins and applications to deconcessionalise leases, which can provide windfall profits to organisations that have benefited from discounted land acquisitions.
The Manuka tree controversy has prompted a call for the restoration of third-party appeal rights for development approvals that allow the removal of a Registered Tree.
And the energy efficiency ratings for rentals should be extended to 18 months so there are more listed in rental advertisements, with no additional cost for landlords.
Ms Le Couteur said she did not believe the proposals would be impediments to development and hold back the economy.
”The things we are building should be lasting 50 to 100 years,” she said. ”I am confident that there will be enough things that people will want to build that will be affordable and environmentally sustainable. More scrutiny of development proposals is not going to stop the construction industry.”
She hoped the Assembly supported the Bill, saying it was in the interests of all Canberrans.
“We need a planning system that delivers for all Canberrans,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“The community expects that the decisions made for our city’s future are sustainable – prepare us for a more extreme climate reality – and give our community a say. When it comes to urban planning, progress has been far too slow.
“To keep Canberra a great place to live, as well as the ‘bush capital’, we really should be leaders in sustainable urban development. The changes I’m proposing will help make this a reality.”