Sporties proposal big enough for panel referral

An artist's impression of the proposed redevelopmentAn artist's impression of the proposed Sporties redevelopment

The proposed redevelopment of the Sporties club in Woy Woy is one of only two Peninsula projects big enough to be referred to the Central Coast Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) since 2014.

A meeting of the Panel will be organised as soon as practicable after Central Coast Council has submitted its assessment report. “It is expected that Council will complete its assessment report within 60 days after the close of the public exhibition period,” according to the NSW Government’s Operational Procedures for Planning Panels, September 2016. The public exhibition period for DA53119/2017 closed on December 11 so Council’s assessment report should be delivered to the Panel and made available through its online planning portal by February 10.

The meeting agenda, with date, location and time will be available on the panel website at least seven days before the meeting. The applicant and any person who made a submission about the proposal will have the opportunity to address the panel at the meeting. Given the substantial public interest in the Sporties redevelopment, the Panel has the discretion to hold a public briefing prior to their formal meeting. Community groups and individuals, as well as the applicant, could apply to speak at such a meeting and Council’s assessment staff would be required to note and consider any issues raised.

The Joint Regional Planning Panel is an independent body representing the Crown and not subject to the direction of the Minister apart from in relation to procedures. The panel operates under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP and A Act). The Minister for Planning can declare any area of the state as a region under the EP and A Act and currently the Hunter and Central Coast Panel is one of four, the other three being Southern, Northern and Western. The principal function of the planning panel is to “determine regionally significant development applications and undertake rezoning reviews,” according to the NSW Government’s Planning Panels Operational Procedures. Other functions including acting as the planning authority for preparing and processing a planning proposal (land rezoning) when directed to do so by the Minister for Planning.

It also determines Crown development applications that have been referred by Council or the applicant that Council hasn’t made a decision on within the timeframe prescribed under the EP and A Act. Applications to modify a consent (Section 96 modifications) on a regionally significant development are also decided by the panel and, if the Minister requires, it can provide advice on planning or development matters. The State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) sets out the Council consent functions exercised by the planning panel. The panel consists of five members, three, including the chair, appointed by the Minister for Planning and two nominated by Council.

At least one of the two Council delegates is supposed to have expertise in one or more of planning, architecture, heritage, the environment, urban design, land economics, traffic and transport, law, engineering or tourism. Council remains responsible for receiving, notifying and exhibiting development applications, preparing the assessment reports including consideration of submissions and the post-determination functions including notification of determinations to the applicant and any person who made a submission.

Council may also need to provide venues for meetings, arrange site visits and briefings and provide minute takers. The Sporties proposal is monitored by the panel secretariat and its progress is public via planningpanels.nsw.gov.au. The Local Government Act 1993 (Section 352) provides that a member of Council staff is not subject to direction by councillors as to the content of any advice or recommendation made by the staff member. Equally councillors are not bound by the advice or recommendations made by staff. Staff are responsible for assessing the DA and documenting that assessment in a report. In the case of Sporties, that assessment will be considered by the Panel. “Section 23G has conferred upon the planning panel the function of the elected Council to determine regionally significant DAs and certain other types of DA,” according to the Operational Procedures.

“The elected council is able to make a submission to the planning panel on a DA within their local government area.” Panel members must not discuss developments if they are approached and are supposed to encourage any person wishing to discuss a development to make a submission to Council during the assessment stage. The assessment report provided to the Panel must include a recommendation to either approve the development, in which case it must also include any conditions of consent, or refuse the development, in which case it must include reasons for refusal. The assessment report should also outline any developer contributions (Section 94 contributions) payable to Council by the applicant.

The assessment report has to be provided to the panel secretariat before it can be sent to elected Councillors. Once the panel meeting has heard all public submissions and the recommendation in the assessment report considered, the panel will either determine the application or defer its decision (with reasons stated). If the applicant is dissatisfied with the panel’s determination he can apply for a merit appeal in the Land and Environment Court within six months. The challenge is made against the Council because it is still considered the consent authority so Council would have to defend the appeal.

SOURCE: Website, 7 Feb 2018 Joint Regional Planning Panel, Planning Register Planning Panels Operational Procedures, Sep 2016 NSW Planning Department Website, 7 Feb 2018 DA53119/2017, Gosford DA Tracker

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