Fears over proposed planning laws

PROPOSED changes to state planning laws could remove residents' rights to stop unacceptable development, Penrith Labor councillors claimed.

A fiery debate on party lines took up much of Penrith Council's time on Monday.

The state government's recent green paper proposes that communities establish their own development guidelines, stating what types are acceptable, so developers are more certainty about what they can propose.

Development applications would then be decided by panels of experts, rather than councils, although the government did not rule out future council participation.

Mayor Greg Davies said Liberal councillors had repeatedly lambasted the previous state Labor government for its constant overriding of council planning decisions.

"In this green paper not only do we see state-significant developments being taken away, every decision will be taken from the council," he said.

"We're going to hand it over to a group of businessmen who weren't elected.

"Decisions about what gets built next to your house is going to be made by a group of faceless men in a room."

However, Liberal councillor Ross Fowler said the green paper stated that councils ought to have a final say if the community objected.

"The green paper is proposing a degree of certainty for the community and for developers; where they can build, how they can build and when they can build," Cr Fowler said.

"What's wrong with that? It's obvious few here have any idea what's in the paper."

He proposed the council defer any action on the proposal.

But Labor councillor John Thain said the paper did not rule out removing councils' power on development.

Cr Thain also said the deadline for submissions — September 14 — allowed too little time for Penrith Council to comment, particularly after it went into caretaker mode for the September 8 election.

The council voted to approach the Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard, for assurances from his department that the proposal would not override Penrith's local environment plan or affect section-94 funding.

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