29 Nov, 2013


City of Adelaide has voiced its dissatisfaction at a decision by the State’s Planning Minister to remove the important referral role played by Council’s independent Development Assessment Panel (DAP).

Cr Natasha Malani, Chair of Council’s City Planning & Development Committee, said Minister Rau in a letter to Council this week, had confirmed his intention to remove referrals to DAP for assessing property developments in the city and North Adelaide over $10 million.

“We understand the State will move immediately to gazette the decision, which is disappointing given we’ve not been consulted in any way and we maintain a Heads of Agreement with the State on how decisions like this are supposed to evolve,” she said.

“With the Minister undertaking a wide ranging State Planning Review headed by QC Brian Hayes, common sense would suggest any change to the planning system should be an outcome of that overall reform process – not sit outside it.

“The Minister’s letter tells us the current arrangements are causing duplication and creating costly delays, but the reality is the panel plays a constructive role in providing independent assessment of large scale development which takes into account the needs of running a capital city, and those of local neighbourhoods,” Cr Malani said.

“In having the DAP assessment involved in the process til now, the panel has been able to provide critical advice on the interface of a particular development and the city before applications pass to Development Assessment Commission (DAC),” she added.

Council’s independent Development Assessment Panel is a nine member panel made up of five independent expert members, including an independent chair, and four City of Adelaide elected members.

DAP Chairman John Hodgson emphasised the important role played by his Panel in ensuring that complex, large scale development applications took into consideration the fine-grained elements intrinsic to planning in a capital city and factors important to the local community.

“Until this decision by State Government, our referral role had allowed us to provide important input to the Development Assessment Commission on the way in which factors such as traffic management, public transport, cyclist and pedestrian movement, interact with major proposals being considered by the DAC.

“We were also able to take into consideration how waste management would operate in and around development sites as well as considering critical community factors, finding ways to ensure large developments through measures such as street level activation or appropriate scale, were able to work with or complement existing, well established neighbourhoods and streetscapes.

“Getting these local issues right is fundamental to achieving the high quality city to which we all aspire.

“The decision to strip the panel of its referral powers may well result in these issues being given little, if any consideration by the State’s Development Assessment Commission.

“In my view it’s essential that those who manage the city or neighbourhoods where this applies have a primary role in shaping development outcomes,” John said.

“If these local issues slip through the cracks, it will be Councils which will have to deal with inappropriate relationships between major new developments and existing infrastructure, neighbourhoods and streetscapes”, he added.

In his letter, the Minister was also critical that Council and developers had not achieved any agreements using the pre-lodgement process which is designed to see parties work together to achieve approvals outside the panel process.

David Chick, Council’s GM of City Planning said that there had only been two developers formally seek a pre-lodgement agreement with Council in the time the option’s been available.

“One agreement was deferred by the developer and the other, the Adelaide University Medical School on North Terrace wasn’t supported by DAP because it wasn’t consistent with the North Terrace Masterplan or the Development Plan which asks for buildings to incorporate setbacks and a landscaped setting.”

“In questioning the lack of pre-lodgement agreements the Minister ignores the fact that most developers are using the pre-lodgement case management system offered by the State which provides tangible support to developers during the application process.

“This process is achieving better proposals through the co-ordinated input of all parties, including the Government Architect and Council,” he said.

“In removing Council’s statutory role the Minister risks removing key local input and puts at risk that outcome sought of the case management system which is to resolve planning and design issues upfront. It’s widely recognised that early involvement is the best way to achieve high quality outcomes.

“This decision by the Minister places City of Adelaide in a similar situation to inner rim councils who have recently had their ability to influence large scale developments removed as part of the Government’s Inner Metropolitan Growth Project,” Chick added.

For more information

David Hill