DRA President Peter Wurfel, Vice-president John Bell, and Committee member Tony Eastaway met with the ACT Planning Minister Simon Corbell on 5 February 2014.
After some introductory discussion about DRA’s concerns and interests, the delegation raised a number of specific issues for the Minister’s consideration. Issues and Mr Corbell’s responses are summarized below (see other posts on this site for background on issues):
1. Considering the garden city principals and anticipated increases in Deakin’s population, DRA is looking for more certainty in planning rules and their application.
- The Minister noted the Government’s policy to concentrate growth in centres and along public transport corridors, including Adelaide Avenue. He did not anticipate major changes in Deakin, but some redevelopment with some block consolidation and some more dual occupancies.
- He considers that matters of scale, etc. are adequately covered through the Territory Plan. In the context of discussion about the R2Z zone (higher density closer to the shops) Mr Corbell indicated that there was some room for adjustments to zoning boundaries.
2. Development of more detailed Precinct Codes for individual suburbs, and budget funding to support this.
- Mr Corbell supported the idea of a “statement of desired character” in Precinct Codes. This would provide values that would inform planning decisions. It would be done in a way that was “workable”, locking into the statutory development process.
- Funding would depend on the ACT budget and he would be working with relevant departments to establish future priorities.
3. Concerns about the operation of planning processes, inadequate consultation and loopholes for exemptions.
- Mr Corbell said that complaints were few compared with the numbers of development applications and. he is happy with existing arrangements. In his view, exempt development provisions are “pretty tight” and work well overall.
4. Confusion over the accountability of building certifiers nominated and hired by builders.
- Mr Corbell noted that work is in progress on reviewing the operation of building certifiers. Where appropriate, he will strengthen the provisions and penalties in the Building Act.
- He had been advised that transgressions in Deakin have been minor, and amended plans subsequently approved.
- However he agreed the Registrar needs more powers to enforce the rules in a more timely manner.
5. Establishment of a Planning Advocate to reduce burden and cost to parties of Tribunal and Supreme Court action on planning issues.
- Mr Corbell noted that ACAT decisions remain subject to Supreme Court review and the Government can’t stop people from engaging legal representation in ACAT. He said that the mediation process is designed to improve the process. One third of cases are resolved this way but it appears that there is room for further improvement.
6. Express bus stops on Adelaide Avenue.
- Mr Corbell said that he was supportive in principle but that the costs were many millions of dollars (he mentioned lifts and escalators) and the likely increase in bus usage did not justify this expenditure. He thought that bus stops could be a 1-5 year possibility.
7. Jervois Street redevelopment.
- Mr Corbell noted that the issues needed an independent investigation and that the matter was now in the hands of the Ombudsman. If the DRA did not like the outcome, it could go the Supreme Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act.