The Community Alliance SA was part of the “Community and Interest Groups Working Party” within the Planning Reform Reference Group, along with the Environmental Defenders Office (SA), Conservation Council SA, National Trust (SA), South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) and Mainstreet.
The Expert Panel’s final report – The Planning System We Want (Dec 2014)
Kirsten Alexander, Vice-President of Community Alliance SA, sent a submission on the final report, together with detailed comment on each of the reforms:
The Expert Panel’s second report – Our Ideas for Reform (Aug 2014)
The Community Alliance SA was involved in making two submissions on this report:
Further input – Community and Interest Groups Working Party submissions to the Expert Panel (Apr 2014)
The Expert Panel’s first report – What We Have Heard (Dec 2013)
For its listening and scoping phase, from July to October 2013, the Expert Panel held a series of workshops and briefings with key stakeholder groups, including with the Community Alliance SA.
Our submission outlined community experiences with the current planning system and what we would like a new planning system to achieve: Community Alliance SA submission to Expert Panel (Oct 2013)
Summary of the key points in our submission:
EXPERIENCES OF THE CURRENT PLANNING SYSTEM – Overview
The concerns raised by our members centre on the lack of genuine community, stakeholder and expert engagement in planning, including the failure to draw on the extensive local and broader knowledge and expertise of local residents and community groups, and this contributing to:
- Development at a local level that is inconsistent with desired character and results in loss of amenity for local residents and the community as whole
- So-called ‘planning’ that fails to deliver sustainable and integrated development at the local, regional and state level
In recent years, poorly planned development is being pushed through at an extremely fast rate, with even less controls in place. This is seen with:
- The adoption of the 30 Year Plan and its implementation with a rapid series of Development Plan Amendments (DPAs), rezoning city areas for significant changes in building type and height, and greenfields areas for development that can only be described as sprawl.
- Standardisation of planning processes to reduce so-called ‘red tape’:
- Changes to allow private certifiers to assess for development plan consent
- The introduction of the Residential Code
- Changes to the significant tree legislation
- The inappropriate use of Ministerial interim operation powers for DPAs
3. The diminishing role of local government in major planning decisions. This is particularly evident with the increasing number of Ministerial DPAs and pressures on councils to rezone areas for urban development based on the 30 Year Plan, and the processes involving DPAC and the ERD Court. The ability of local communities to have meaningful input into proposals for urban development through their local councils and elected members has been progressively undermined.
4. The almost total disregard for heritage protection that has resulted in the loss of significant heritage items and the character of our built environment, following on from the separation of heritage from the Development Act and the effective destruction of the Heritage Branch.
There is a perception that developers’ interests and ‘development-at-any-cost’ are put above community interests and good planning in general. This fast-tracking is totally inappropriate when occurring against a backdrop of a planning system that is already failing under current demands.
OUTCOMES WE WOULD LIKE A NEW PLANNING SYSTEM TO ACHIEVE
The Community Alliance SA would like a new planning system that has the following, relating to governance at both the state and local level:
- Integrated planning We would like a planning system that delivers integrated planning, based on high quality research and principles of sustainability, and which integrates early on in the planning process issues such as transport planning, prioritisation of public transport, infrastructure provision, environmental aspects, management of natural resources, biodiversity, energy use, renewable energy, resilience to and mitigation of climate change, food and water security, land supply, open spaces, paths and recreation, social and health aspects, sustainable urban and building design, built and natural heritage, liveability, amenity, employment and economic viability.
- Genuine community engagement We would like a planning system where governing bodies, developers and communities come together to enter a meaningful dialogue and learn from each other, with the communities engaged from the onset and actively involved in the planning process. Information about proposed developments should be easy to understand and readily accessible throughout the process and this engagement should continue in an open and collaborative manner, from the development of strategic plans to the issuing of building approval.
- Transparent and accountable decision-making We would like a planning system where all decision-making is transparent and accountable, and the decision-making process is genuinely independent, independently reviewed and subject to public and parliamentary scrutiny. We believe that the appointed bodies responsible for decision-making should be independent of ministerial or industry control, follow a widely understood set of guidelines supported by the law, and provide access to both the details of the proposal and their reasons for approving or rejecting it. Genuine and extensive expert and community consultation should play a central role in this formal decision-making process.
We would also like to make the following specific points:
- This planning system must include a reformed process for the environmental assessment of development that currently falls outside of the normal processes (including major projects, and Crown and public infrastructure developments) that also meets the abovementioned standards.
- It must protect sensitive areas where particular types of development, such as mining, cannot occur based on environmental, social, economic or cultural criteria.
- Serious consideration should be given to where the responsibility for the administration of planning should lie in order to better deliver integrated planning based on principles of sustainability and to ensure that development is consistent with future needs. Putting ‘planning’ under the responsibility of the environment portfolio may be a way of better achieving this outcome.
- Although difficult to legislate for, a change in the planning culture towards a proactive approach and a genuine desire to engage and incorporate community and stakeholder views is essential. A requirement for the use of appropriate engagement tools and specialists at the strategy and policy stages is needed to bring this about. A good start would be the genuine and appropriate implementation of the State Government’s ‘Better Together” engagement strategy for all stages of planning and development.
If the government adopted this wide planning reform agenda it would regain some level of respectability with the public by distancing itself from the current ‘development-at-any-cost’ mantra and by supporting planning policies which will be of environmental, social and economic benefit for all.
Forward vision is needed to ensure that planning now is ‘planning for the future’!