Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3032 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
That is quite significant, given the nature of the design and siting guidelines. Those guidelines contain performance objectives and criteria as well as quantified performance measures, such as setbacks and height controls, that are considered to meet the performance objectives. However, a house that does not meet the performance measures can still be approved if PALM considers that the design meets the overall performance objectives. PALM officials are therefore given considerable discretionary power to approve dwellings that cannot be legally challenged by neighbours who might be directly affected by the development.
With the increasing level of housing redevelopment in inner Canberra, including the complete demolition and rebuilding of houses in established neighbourhoods, I have received a number of representations from constituents who are now living next to huge houses that overshadow their block and reduce their privacy, but about which they could do nothing. Sure, they were able to put in objections to PALM on the development applications for these houses; but, if they did not think that PALM adequately took their objections into account in approving the applications, they had no avenue of appeal. That system made the planners unaccountable for their decisions.
These concerns were vindicated in a recent AAT hearing regarding a development application for a large house extension close to Manuka shops. A neighbour lodged an appeal against the house extension on the ground that it would overshadow his block. The appeal was allowed only because the house was in a heritage area. Normally, there would have been no rights of appeal. It was revealed in the hearing that planning officials regularly applied the low solar access standards that normally apply to medium-density housing redevelopments to single house developments in low-density residential areas. The AAT questioned that approached and refused the application.
What worries me is that PALM adopted this approach to overshadowing without any public knowledge or debate. It became public and was able to be successfully challenged only as a result of a planning appeal. Appeals may be cumbersome and delay the development approval process, but they also perform a very valuable role in providing the necessary checks and balances to the planning bureaucrats and maintaining the integrity of the ACT's statutory planning system. This part of my Bill will simply revert the third party appeals rights available for development applications for single dwellings to what existed before 1997 when the Liberal Government tightened planning appeal rights.
My Bill incorporates important reforms to the ACT's planning system to provide greater transparency and accountability, and I commend it to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth ) adjourned.