Friends of the City of Unley Society Inc (FOCUS) has been campaigning for 11 years to preserve the heritage and character of Unley. FOCUS holds deep reservations about the impact the proposed reforms will have on the City of Unley. It will favour developer led planning in the extreme with the option of precinct based urban renewal whereby a Precinct Authority (which could be initiated by a land owner/ developer ) over the planning of a selected area with the power to bypass the planning system and override Council Development Plans.
REFORM 1- Establish a State Planning Commission: A Planning Commission to administer the planning system with supporting Regional Boards and Regional Development Assessment Panels would effectively remove what remains of council powers over planning and further reduces community participation. The Report staggeringly does not explain how members will be appointed.
There is a risk of Adelaide losing its unique character areas and having a generic sameness. What happens when there is a change of Government?
REFORM 2-Create a network of Regional Planning Boards and DAP’s The Report surprisingly does not explain the composition of members or how they are selected.
Different areas will lose their individuality. Local Councils will have no control over local planning and decision making will be further removed from local residents.
There is nothing to describe how planning policies will be set. “Form based zoning” will replace zones based on land use development which will result in commercial, residential and industrial zones next to each other.
FOCUS strongly objects to the Regional Planning Board concept but would favour local DAP importing additional expertise for significant developments.
REFORM 3- Enact a Charter of Citizen Participation. FOCUS supports any initiative for genuine community involvement in planning, not token participation. The Report does not explain the degree of or evaluation of this process or protection from future changes.
REFORM 4-Allow for independent planning inquiries This appears to be just a means for politicians and Planning Authorities to justify their decisions. There is a place for a Panel of experts to review planning decisions that are contentious and to be available to council DAP’s on request. The Panel could be selected by the appropriate professional bodies.
REFORM 5-Make the role of Parliament more meaningful and effective: Planning decisions should not be made by politicians but by expert planners, currently most important planning decisions are not made based on good design and environmental concerns but based on political concerns.
Political donations by developers should be limited to a set amount and transparent.
REFORM 10-Place Heritage on renewed foundations: FOCUS has serious concerns with the Report and the consequences for heritage protection.
The removal of heritage protection from Council control and placing it in a single body eg a subcommittee of the Planning Commission will further reduce heritage protection. FOCUS also opposes the proposal to carry out an audit of heritage listings and the giving of regulatory powers to private Heritage Consultants.
FOCUS strongly opposes that Contributory items are not considered in the report. Conservation, historic and heritage zones have no protection under the new planning proposals. These character areas are under the biggest threats of all in allowing new developments.
Residents have embraced the certainty of specific policies for character and heritage zones as in Unley. It has been stated that restorations and extensions account for 3 to 4 times the value of new builds in Unley.
Specific policies are needed for conservation zones in areas such as Kensington and Unley as are generic zones for other areas. UNLEY is its character and heritage that is why people choose to live here. Residents have worked with Council for 10 years to have the protection for its character areas whilst still having DPA’s that allow for the population increase required by the Government. Different areas will value their character differently; this is where Council planning can respond to local needs.
The Minister should be required to accept recommendations from the Heritage Council.
FOCUS sees it likely that majority of submissions will be from vested interests and skew result in favour of “developers.” FOCUS sees a further round of consultation being essential to inform the ordinary person and obtain their views.