Councils losing power

THREE-storey height limits along the Tweed Coast could be the next victim of State Government plans to gradually strip local councils of planning powers.

A move towards more centralised planning control in New South Wales, which has already been marked by government-dominated planning panels set up to consider major developments, is also about to restrict the powers of councils in setting other rules controlling development.

Some Tweed councillors even fear they might lose their power to decide on land-use zonings, with the government insisting all councils follow “templates” for their major planning documents, known as local environment plans.

Former Tweed mayor Warren Polglase said the templates would set out what can and cannot happen and that would be it.

He warned that could push aside policies outlined in the council's local development control plans (DCPs), which include height restrictions.

Last month Greens Party councillor Katie Milne warned that the council's refusal to insist the state government abide by the three-storey height limit at Cabarita Beach in considering a retail and residential complex, including a Woolworths supermarket, could set a precedent.

The DCPs were not a legal document and the new local environment plan templates could result in new high-density areas along the Tweed Coast, Cr Polglase said.

“Because the cost of infrastructure is enormous, the government is trying to consolidate high-density areas,” he said. “This could include high-rise, whereas the community attitude is 'we don't want them'.

“DCPs are not a legal document, only a recognition of what the community wants.

“We are slowly losing community input into where we want our town to go.”

However, one of the council's senior planners, Iain Lonsdale, said the new “standard instrument” - the templated LEP - allowed for 34 land-use zones and it was open to local councils to use as many of them as necessary to meet local land-use planning requirements.

The local council would then be able to determine the appropriate full range of permitted or prohibited land-uses in each zone, based on the prescribed zone objective and any additional objective added by the council, Mr Lonsdale said.

“The ability of local councils to determine and regulate the land-uses is therefore largely unchanged, save for those prescribed by the standard instrument.”

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