Blacktown Council is bracing for further infringement on local government planning powers from the state government.
The NSW government is reportedly planning to mandate the use of independent local planning panels (LPPs) in metropolitan areas for developments above a certain value.
The panels, formerly known as independent hearing and assessment panels, are already in place optionally at councils including Liverpool and Parramatta.
Blacktown Council sought clarification from the NSW government over the role of the panels in March, in a submission that included concerns about giving the planning minister the power to direct a council to appoint an LPP.
The council’s submission noted that of the 2604 development applications Blacktown received in 2016, the vast majority were approved under staff delegation. Less than one per cent were determined at a council meeting.
The council also sought to substantially raise the threshold of what is considered a ‘regionally significant development’, from $5 million to $15 million or $20 million.
The council’s concerns were echoed by Local Government NSW (LGNSW) in a statement released earlier this month.
LGNSW president Keith Rhoades said a move to make local planning panels mandatory could “further erode local democracy”.
Mr Rhoades said councils should be able to decide whether the system is right for their area.
“LGNSW is concerned that this has the potential to actually reduce the accountability and transparency of planning decisions,” he said.
“Councils are accountable to the community where LPPs are not. There is no accountability like the ballot box.
“Councillors are their community's voice at the table - they have been elected to represent community views on key issues such as planning decisions which will have long-term impacts on neighbourhoods.”
Mr Rhoades said the Independent Commission Against Corruption and other watchdogs also have jurisdiction over councillors.