Planning Panel rejects poor value for money implications

Chair of Central Coast Local Planning Panel, Donna Rygate

We are worth the money, says the Local Planning Panel (LPP), which in July took over the role of determining some development applications that used to go to council meetings.

Under the NSW Planning Act, the four panel members are paid from a minimum of $500 per meeting for the community member, $1,500 for the two professional representatives and a minimum of $2,000 per meeting for the chairperson – plus GST.

The LPP has taken issue with a Council report, tabled at the LPP’s December 10 meeting, that outlined the estimated cost of the Panel.

The LPP said it rejects the poor value for money implications in the paper.

The Panel, chaired by Donna Rygate, also questioned estimates of the meeting costs and the suggestion of significantly increased costs if face to face meetings were to be held.

The council report said the sitting fees and travel expenses of the panel members totalled about $6,570 per meeting and the costs grew to $11,865 when counting the additional cost of council staff and secretariat services.

These estimates are based on the conduct of remote meetings.

“It assumes costs would increase were meetings conducted in person, as a result of booking meeting space, catering, cleaning, and security,” the report said.

The panel members conduct site visits and read lengthy reports before meeting via zoom, to determine applications.

The panel accepted the report but added “notwithstanding that, the Panel rejects the value for money implications in the paper, and questions the full meeting cost estimate provided in the paper and its suggestion of significantly increased costs were face to face meetings held”.

It also noted Council’s intention to pay ‘business undertaken outside of meetings’ rates for matters determined by circulation of papers only.

That rate is significantly lower, ranging from $71 per hour for the community member to $214 for the professionals and $285 for the chair.

The report included changes to the panel’s operation and its meeting dates for next year.

The panel agreed that objections should reach 15 before a matter is brought to panel.

Other reasons a development proposal might go before the panel included contentious proposals and council owned applications.

The councillors voted for the panel in May, but noted that they were opposed to it and they wanted the community to understand that it was being imposed by the State Government.

Merilyn Vale