Concerned citizens form planning watchdog

A group of concerned and informed residents from all over the Central Coast has established a planning watchdog group and wants to see more community involvement in major planning decisions.

The Central Coast Community Better Planning Group (CCCBPG) comprises community representatives from every Ward on the Coast and aims to advocate all levels of government to improve planning outcomes and achieve more environmentally sustainable, ecologically sound and liveable environments for communities in the region.

Spokesperson, Gary Chestnut, said the group would monitor planning matters to promote environment protection and enhance built, historical and natural attributes and would lobby for, advocate and support community involvement in planning matters.

“We would like to see all levels of government and planning panels allow greater community involvement,” he said.

Chestnut said the group would lodge submissions on all planning proposals that are of concern to the community, alert them to planning proposals of significance and encourage community involvement.

The group lodged a 33-page submission on the Local Strategic Planning Statement (LSPS) after going over it with a fine-tooth comb and raising 81 specific dot points of concern.

The LSPS is a 20-year planning vision, including land use, infrastructure and sustainability objectives to demonstrate how the Central Coast will change to meet the community’s needs over the next 20 years.

Council will consider the LSPS at an Extraordinary Meeting next Monday, June 29, in order to meet the deadline for delivery to the State Government on July 1.

“This is a very important document,” Chestnut said.

“What’s really concerning is that the Department of Planning is going to rely upon the LSPS to prepare for the next version of the regional plan which is due for review next year.”

Chestnut said the group made inquiries at the department and received written confirmation from the Executive Director of the Office of Planning, Industry and Environment that “the Central Coast Regional Plan of 2036 is due for renewal in 2021 and will be informed by Council’s by LSPS”.

He said there were many things that needed more consideration, adjustment or amendment to reflect the community’s expectations and wishes and information, such as maps and profiles, in the LSPS which needed to be less confusing and to better reflect what is actually planned.

The CCCBPG submission says that the draft LSPS is not a true reflection of future planning directions as desired by the community.

In writing the LSPS, Council relied upon community feedback about the Urban Spatial Plan, which only drew comment from 0.026 percent of the population, the submission says.

“The question arises what does the other 99.974 percent of the Coast population regard as local planning challenges and opportunities,” it says.

“Therefore, we believe the current draft LSPS has been prepared from the top down, rather than from the ground up.

“The document itself looks really nice, it’s got some great photographs but when you start reading the text it’s actually full of lot of jargon, so for the average person to read it’s fairly confusing and you don’t really know what it’s leading to.”

Chestnut said the CCCBPG objectives and actions would ensure population growth was sustainable and enriched rather than diminished quality of life, while protecting the residential amenity of neighbourhoods by encouraging consideration of noise, traffic and other nuisances which could impact upon people’s quiet enjoyment of their homes.

“We’ll be encouraging developments to address infrastructure, transport links, parking, local character, cultural issues and that all are inclusive and accessible to all people regardless of their age or ability,” he said.

Chestnut said the group would promote and protect the Coastal Open Space System, biodiversity, wetlands, ridge lands, vegetation, wildlife corridors, waterways, coastline, beaches, agricultural lands and water catchments and well as retaining pockets of suburban bushland.

“Also, we’ll advocate that climate change be taken into consideration in all planning matters,” he said.

He said the group would work with First Nations people to protect traditional heritage.

CCCBPG has also lodged a submission to the draft Biodiversity Strategy, which was not adopted by Council at the June 22 meeting, and instead will be further considered and reported back to Council in September.

Interview, Jun 22
Gary Chestnut, Central Coast Community Better Planning Group
Reporter: Sue Murray