Planning reform

Development – whether it’s unwanted or considered inappropriate – is a major source of annoyance for many members of the Hills community.
Most residents give scant regard to the State’s planning system until one day they discover they’re going to have a telecommunications tower or a housing estate on their doorstep.
Then they find that decisions about what can go where are determined by a document called the Development Act which is full of planning jargon that can be interpreted in different ways by different planners.
Many residents find the system daunting and confusing and feel at a distinct disadvantage.
Developers find it expensive, obstructive and time consuming.
The State Government currently has legislation before Parliament which it claims will reform SA’s planning laws to make the system clearer, simpler and quicker.
That sounds good except those who work with the system at the local level, through council Development Assessment Panels (DAPs), fear communities will lose the ability to have a say about interpretation and to have that input count.
At present DAPs – which decide only a small fraction of planning applications but usually the most controversial ones  – are made up of independent members with appropriate industry experience and elected councillors with local knowledge.
Under the proposed new laws they would be replaced with regional boards run entirely by independent professionals.
The idea is that applications would be judged impartially, dispassionately and consistently against the provisions of the Development Act by industry experts who are not community advocates.
The problem is a “one size fits all” approach to planning doesn’t take into account local issues, local conditions and local knowledge.
It’s also a matter of local democracy, with the proposed changes putting residents very much at arm’s length from the decision-making process.
This legislation goes back before the Upper House when Parliament resumes next year. If Hills residents don’t like the direction of the reforms, they need to lobby their local MPs now.