Does Council respond any better than Planning Panel?

Chair of the new Local Planning Panel, Donna Rygate.

[Forum] Liesl Tesch says that the Local Planning Panel is not “transparent, efficient and accountable” (“Planning Panel proves to be more costly, says Tesch”, PN 497), although how she could come to that conclusion, when the Panel has had only one meeting, is difficult to see.

On the other hand, Adam Crouch says that the Panel “removed politics from the local planning system”, allowing “independent experts to get on with the job of making merit-based determinations”, which is certainly a defensible argument, given the parochial tendency of many councillors.

However, these are obviously just political positions, with nothing to substantiate either view, and only future results will determine the truth of the matter.

Nevertheless, given that panels have operated for some time in other jurisdictions, it would be interesting to know whether Mr Crouch would support an independent review of their functioning, in order to provide the public with some information about the process on which a judgement could be made.

Ms Tesch says that “developments need to reflect our community”, and this is a truism that few will cavil at, but is there any evidence that the local council responds to community wishes any better than the panel might, once it is fully operational?

A reading of Forum letters in your publications would suggest that there is a widespread dissatisfaction with the way the council has managed many aspects of the city’s development, from long-range planning to individual project approvals, and the snail’s pace of council’s development processes doesn’t inspire confidence that matters are going to improve under the present administration.

The council seems to be adept at publishing reports and making announcements, such as the Woy Woy team, “to provide a strategic, streamlined and cost effective approach to ensure priority service delivery” (probably a specification provided by a random-word generator), but concrete results are elusive.

If there has been any improvement to the Woy Woy town centre during this council’s term, it isn’t visible to the naked eye.

The council seems to be well versed in bureaucratic pettifoggery, (eg, excuses for not having soap in public toilets), but weak on any big-picture intentions for the city or on any mechanisms for expanding Central Coast into a liveable, economically-sound community.

My prediction is that, as long as the donkey vote goes on electing the same old political hacks on to the council, we shall have to look at new and untried methods (such as Planning Panels) to get any relief.

Email, 30 Jun 2020
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy

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