IHAPs hic­cups

Monthly Chronicle - - News - Jenny Bar­lass

While the NSW Gov­ern­ment has an­nounced that new planning pan­els will now as­sess de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tions in Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby, the first panel meet­ings are al­ready caus­ing is­sues.

The de­ci­sions of the sec­ond Hornsby IHAP meet­ing were made be­hind closed doors, an­ger­ing both residents and Coun­cil­lors.

In­de­pen­dent Hear­ing and As­sess­ment Pan­els (IHAPS) were set up to free up coun­cil­lors to work on more press­ing Coun­cil busi­ness and broader vi­sions for their area, as well as giv­ing the whole DA ap­pli­ca­tion process a greater depth of ex­pe­ri­ence through the ex­per­tise of panel mem­bers.

Un­der new planning leg­is­la­tion, there are three lev­els of ap­proval based on the es­ti­mated cost of the de­vel­op­ment: un­der $5 mil­lion, un­der $30 mil­lion and over $30 mil­lion.

The low­est level will cover the ma­jor­ity of house re­lated de­vel­op­ments and will be de­ter­mined by Coun­cil staff. The sec­ond level of un­der $30 mil­lion will be de­ter­mined by IHAPs, as well as DAs where the Coun­cil is the Pro­po­nent or where there are more than 10 ob­jec­tions. Large res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ments over $30 mil­lion like se­niors hous­ing, will be de­ter­mined by the Syd­ney North Planning Panel.

But at the first Hornsby meet­ing in March, af­ter residents had spo­ken, Chair Garry Field­ing closed the meet­ing for de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

“It’s an­other rea­son why de­ci­sions on con­tentious DAs should be made by elected coun­cil­lors ac­count­able to the com­mu­nity,” said Coun­cil­lor Emma Heyde who at­tended the meet­ing.

“It shows IHAPs’ de­ci­sions will not be done demo­crat­i­cally and they’re not ac­count­able. They’re be­ing used to fast track de­vel­op­ments with­out the usual checks and bal­ances.”

Hornsby Coun­cil has written to Mr Field­ing to com­plain about the closed na­ture of the de­ci­sion mak­ing.

“There’s al­ready con­sid­er­able un­ease within the com­mu­nity about de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tions be­ing taken out of the hands of the lo­cally elected coun­cil,” Hornsby Mayor Philip Rud­dock added. “It’s in the in­ter­ests of all par­ties to make the process as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble.”

Prior to the Panel con­ven­ing, it con­ducts a site visit of each of the DAs it is con­sid­er­ing on the day of the meet­ing to as­sess DA va­lid­ity, and hear from Pro­po­nents and ob­jec­tors.

At the time of go­ing to press no letter had been re­ceived by Mr Field­ing, but when con­tacted by the Monthly Chron­i­cle, Mr Field­ing said that “the de­lib­er­a­tions would be com­pro­mised if they were be­fore an au­di­ence.

“At a coun­cil meet­ing it is ad­ver­sar­ial with de­bates be­fore Coun­cil­lors reach a de­ci­sion, while in a Panel it is more of an in­quisi­to­rial na­ture.”

While the pub­lic may not be able to hear the de­ci­sion mak­ing process for both Coun­cils, rea­sons for the fi­nal de­ci­sion and how peo­ple voted are pub­lished on a Coun­cil web­site within 48 hours of the meet­ing. It’s in the Op­er­a­tional Di­rec­tions that the Panel may sit in pub­lic or pri­vate for its fi­nal de­lib­er­a­tions.

The Hornsby IHAP is set to cost ratepay­ers $110,000 a year, or $330,0000 the Pan­els have been man­dated to ini­tially op­er­ate for. Ku-ring-gai is un­able to as­cer­tain a cost for its IHAP as yet.

Ku-ring-gai’s IHAP meet­ings will be held at 12.30 on the third Mon­day of each month, at the Coun­cil Cham­bers in Gor­don. De­tails of the IHAP and forth­com­ing meet­ing agen­das are on the Coun­cil's web­site at www.kmc.nsw. gov.au/ihap. The next one is on May 21.

Hornsby’s IHAP meet­ings are on the fourth Wed­nes­day of the month at 6.30pm. The agenda will be made avail­able seven days prior to the meet­ing. Mem­bers of the pub­lic can ad­dress IHAP meet­ings with a time limit of three min­utes speak­ing time. To reg­is­ter to speak visit www.kmc. nsw.gov.au/ihap by 3pm on the Fri­day be­fore the meet­ing.

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