Inner west labelled ‘developer’s playground’ as rezoning proposals pledge almost 5900 new units
INNER West Council has warned it is “powerless” to determine plans for more than 5800 units across the region under laws leaving local authorities sidelined from the approval process.
The council’s planning department has been tasked with assessing an “unprecedented” 15 private rezoning proposals which aim to turn swathes of commercial and industrial land into medium and high-rise housing.
Combined, the plans equate to 5864 dwellings — equivalent to the number of homes standing in the entire suburbs of Haberfield and Stanmore combined.
Mayor Darcy Byrne said the proposals have swamped the council’s planning department at a time when staff are stretched responding to major state projects including WestConnex, the Sydenham to Bankstown strategy and the transformation of Parramatta Rd.
There is also frustration that despite the council responsible for assessing the plans, the final say rests with the State Government Planning Department under laws originally designed to speed up the approval process.
“Developers have got the message that they only have to pretend to engage with council and the community before pursuing approval through a gateway process at the earliest opportunity,” Cr Byrne said.
“At the same time the Sydenham to Bankstown and Parramatta Rd strategies — even before they are adopted into law — are being used as justification for developers to submit massive proposals that would never have been considered before.
“That tactic is being carried out across the local government area and my concern is that the council and residents have been removed from the process.
“Any of these proposals will have big impacts on the community and residents are rightfully concerned the area is turning into a developer’s playground.”
Planning laws now allow the Planning Department to take control of rezoning proposals it considers to be of “clear strategic merit”. Plans with investment above $20 million are meanwhile determined by the Sydney Central City Planning Panel.
New figures show 354 proposals were lodged to the Planning Department in 2016-17, with 352 gateway determinations granted over the 12 month period.
The department said a strengthened test was introduced in September last year to “ensure that rezonings … exhibited clear strategic merit” before proceeding to approval stages.
But the sticking point for the council has been the loss of industrial and commercial land proposed in many rezonings, forcing some tenants into closure or to relocate from the inner west.
Cr Byrne said the most “egregious example” was Mirvac’s plans to rezone land on Carrington Rd, Marrickville, which supports 223 businesses, into 2600 units.
This has prompted calls for proposals to strike a “balance” between existing and new zoning. An example is the Victoria Rd precinct in Marrickville, approved by the Planning Department last week, which has pledged industrial and creative space alongside new housing.
Sean Macken, who represented applicants in the plans, echoed Cr Byrne’s calls for rezoning decisions to revert back to councils.
Mr Macken said the gateway process had been brought about as a “blanket response” to councils refusing to budge on development plans.
Cr Byrne called for a stronger focus on upgrading infrastructure and transport before further rezonings are approved.
Source: David Barwell, “Inner west labelled ‘developer’s playground’ as rezoning proposals pledge almost 5900 new units”, Inner West Courier Inner City, The Daily Telegraph, December 5, 2017