Page 2612 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 28 June 2011

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key areas: improving the pre-development application consultation process and widening the notification requirements for development applications in the code, merit and impact tracks.

Firstly, talking about the pre-DA consultation process, today’s Canberra Times, in talking about Jamison Inn, reflected that for at least some people the major issue was simply the consultation process and then the amount of parking. It seems that it is possible that in this instance a lot of angst could have been prevented by a better pre-DA consultation process.

I also note that the fairly new ACT government architect, Alastair Swayn, said that the development process should be less adversarial, and that if developers made more effort to meet informally with various community stakeholders then planning outcomes would be greatly improved. I agree with this completely. The more the community are informed about a proposal in the early stages, the longer they have to get used to the idea of it and to formulate their responses. Sometimes people just need some time to realise that their neighbourhood is changing and to get used to the idea of what it is to become. Sometimes residents have very valid concerns, but at the DA stage are not given sufficient time to gather and formulate their thoughts and do the relevant research so that their comments on the DA can be meaningful.

It also often seems far too late at the DA stage for a developer to take on any comments to make significant changes unless they are forced to do so by not complying with relevant codes or legislation. If the community comment is given to a developer in the very early planning stages, before the developer has invested too many resources in the details of the plans, they are far more likely to be able to integrate community comment. In short, pre-DA consultation should be a plus for both the developer and the community—and of course the government.

ACTPLA currently has a pre-DA lodgement community consultation summary form. However, there is nothing in the legislation which binds any developer to needing to undertake any of the actions listed on the form. Actions on the form include a letterbox drop, holding a community meeting and meeting with the local community council. My amendments would have sought to make these actions mandatory for particular instances.

For instance, the pre-DA lodgement community consultation form—I must stress the word “form”, not actually doing it—must only be filled in compulsorily for residential buildings higher than three storeys and more than 50 units, buildings with more than 7,000 square metres buildings and buildings and structures higher than 25 metres. However, of course, it is not mandatory to actually do these things; you have just got to fill the form in.

The Greens think that it should be mandatory for developers to take these three options I have outlined—a neighbourhood letterbox drop to as big an area as appropriate for the scale of the development, to meet with the relevant community council to explain the development, and to host a community meeting which would be promoted in the letterbox drop. I note here that I do commend ACTPLA for recently increasing the notification period by an extra five days for these instances.

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