Council to establish design panel

An Urban Design Panel will be established by Central Coast Council as part of the ongoing push to regionalise decision-making across the new Local Government Area.
The panel will assess all development applications in the new Central Coast LGA of four or more storeys.
Each review will be completed by one panel member only on a rotational basis.
“In response to an increasing population, Council is seeking to promote a range of housing options which are able to be delivered in a timely, environmentally and socially responsible manner,” Council staff said in a report to the Administrator, Mr Ian Reynolds, recommending the formation of the new Urban Design Panel.
“Good urban design and architecture are essential in creating a vibrant, active and liveable city particularly in higher density locations,” the report said.
“Council plays a major role in the assessment of development applications and is seeking to establish an Urban Design Panel that will provide staff, Council and the Joint Regional Planning Panel with independent urban design advice in order to make decisions on major developments that will produce quality built form and public domain outcomes.”
President of the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Mr Matthew Wales, said he welcomed the decision to form the panel.
“The Peninsula Chamber of Commerce has welcomed Central Coast Council’s decision to seek expressions of interest for a new Central Coast Urban Design Panel,” Mr Wales said.
“The business community sees this as a welcome step in ensuring the highest possible quality in urban design at a time when the Central Coast and the Peninsula are seeing strong growth in the residential and commercial market space.
“We understand that the new Panel will provide an independent design review of significant projects for both private and public developments across the region,” he said.
“It is extremely important that future growth in the region is mirrored by high quality design and the best possible urban outcomes.
“However, many in the building and development industry are frustrated by current delays in processing development applications especially for larger developments.
“While this is a positive step forward for design excellence, the business community will be seeking assurance that the design review process will be independent and will not act as a choke point for development applications.
“We will also be seeking assurance that the process will not hinder the assessment of development applications within the mandatory 40 days,” he said.
From 2004 until 2014, Gosford Council had a Design Review Panel under SEPP 65 Design Quality of Residential Flat Buildings but resolved to discontinue it in 2013 and rely on architectural commentary provided by internal staff.
However, the report to Mr Reynolds did not argue for a SEPP 65 panel but for a panel comprised of “a field of architecture and urban design experts who can be called upon to provide independent design critique and proactive and feasible design advice.
“It is proposed to establish a panel of architecture and urban design specialists who can be contracted on an as needs and rotational basis to provide independent design review commentary in relation to development applications.
“This will prevent contradictory design views being presented to the applicant; minimise the need to coordinate meetings of various designers; minimise the length of meetings, reduce minute taking and secretarial functions.
“The members will deliver practical and pragmatic design advice and outcomes which are appropriate for the local market and respond to market constraints.
“The members will be bound by the terms of reference and will promote the delivery of good quality housing options; local development and investment; practical design solutions which are affordable and responsive to locality specific market conditions, design which contributes positively to the public domain and design which responds to coastal conditions when necessary.”
According to the report to Mr Reynolds, Council already had charges in place that would cover the cost of the panel member.
“An appropriate fee is included within Council’s fees and charges which seeks to recover Council’s cost while minimising the cost to the applicant.
“The current fee is $2400 for the first referral and $1845 for any second or subsequent referral to the Urban Design Panel.
“Based on an approximate hourly rate of $230 to 260 per hour, this will allow for over four hours of assessment against SEPP 65 and the relevant planning controls, site inspection and discussion with staff and/or the applicant where required.
“As such, the fee collected from the applicant will cover the professional service charges which would be charged to Council by the panel member and related administrative costs.”
Mr Reynolds said an expressions of interest process would be used to select panel members but the terms of reference did not specify their tenure.

Agenda item 2.2, 24 May 2017
Central Coast Council ordinary meeting
Media release, 24 May 2017
Matthew Wales, Peninsula Chamber of Commerce