The Central Coast Regional Plan 2041 has been released for comment (CCN 322).
On the principle of never using one word when three will do, the Plan covers 105 pages, most of them cribbed out of elementary planning textbooks, without having much new to say about the practical issues of developing a city for the 21st century.
There are many statements of principle – a 15-minute city not reliant on cars, provision of infrastructure before development, supply of a full range of affordable housing, enhancement of the natural environment, promotion of local employment, integration with other regions, renewable energy targets, to name but a few – but no indication of how any of these goals are to be achieved, which is always the crux of any planning exercise.
Our modern Coordinator-General seems to have been lost in the formulation of this collection of platitudes, and we now have, in her stead, a Central Coast Urban Development Programme Committee whose membership must strike fear into the hearts of anyone with the interest of the city at heart.
We have the Housing Industry Association, the Property Council of Australia and the Urban Development Institute of Australia represented, but not one social-development organisation or one community-based group to suggest that there might be concerns in Central Coast about something other than business profits.
When this is coupled with the adjuration that future development must be “nimble” (polispeak for fewer development controls and less community involvement in decision-making), it is easy to see the direction being laid out for this latest iteration of the regional plan.
On the beguiling coloured maps, it is interesting to see that Tuggerah is now intended to be a regional city (five years after this should have been obvious to the meanest intelligence) but that the promotion of Gosford as the “metropolitan city” (whatever that means, if it means anything, which it probably doesn’t) remains as an objective, presumably based on the SEPP for Gosford centre, although, if anybody is taking the slightest notice of this futile exercise, it isn’t obvious on the ground.
One step forward is that the city has been divided into (more or less) rational planning districts, as opposed to the imbecile Council decision to plan by wards, so that some details begin to emerge about local priorities.
It would repay the residents of each of these districts to pay close attention to what is shown, as they will be living with the results of these planning decisions far beyond 2041.
Implicit in all the language of the Plan is the intention to transfer more decision-making from Central Coast Council to the state level.
There are a few grudging references to Council’s taking responsibility for some implementation elements, but it is obvious that Council is intended to be very much a second-grade player in the forum where all the important factors are weighed up.
Given Council’s abysmal past performance, it is easy to see the appeal of this shift, but it must be a concern that the residents are being frozen out of the system and left with limited opportunities to make local views known.
Perhaps, the intention to move developer contributions more under control of the State Government is a first step towards establishing priorities for Council to follow rather than lead.
The exhibition of these kinds of documents is always an off-hand affair, to meet statutory requirements rather than in any belief that public feedback will be worth listening to.
I can recall very few instances where public comment has resulted in any significant shift in official policy.
Nevertheless, the principle that silence gives consent requires that everybody voice any adverse comment that comes to mind, so that it cannot be said later that everyone was consulted and there were few objections to the proposals.
Speak up now or forever hold your peace: it will avail nobody to complain in five years’ time that elements of the plan lack community backing, because, by then, we shall be set on a path from which there will be no turning back.
Email, Dec 13
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy