Port Stephens Council has devised a policy to guide how it will assess development applications that depart from certain planning standards.
Under state environmental planning policies developers are allowed to apply for exemptions under clause 4.6 where building heights or minimum lot sizes, for example, are considered unreasonable or unnecessary.
It is the same clause under which the Ascent apartments on Church Street were approved and it’s again been called upon with plans to redevelop the old Colonial Resort site.
“Council has prepared a Clause 4.6 policy to provide guidance on the administration of these development applications,” a spokesman for the council said.
“The policy adopts transparent reporting and other recommendations issued by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption to facilitate greater transparency when decisions are made, and better decision making through robust assessments.”
The proposed policy includes six steps to assist council staff with the assessment, to be used in parallel with the state government document Varying Development Standards: A Guide (2011).
The council policy states that where a variation of greater than 10 per cent is sought the application will be peer reviewed by someone who is not a subordinate to that officer, as part of the assessment. The council would also create a register of those applications where a variation to the development standard is approved. The council initially advertised the policy with the Progressing the Nelson Bay Town Centre and Foreshore Strategy: A revised implementaion and delivery program 2017 but has since put the document on exhibition separately at the request of Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association.
TRRA planning committee convenor Nigel Waters said draft policy amounted to a “complete surrender” on planning standards.
“It more or less invites developers to apply for major variations such as the more than doubling of the height limit for the Church Street apartment tower in Nelson Bay, which council approved in 2017,” he said.
“Our concern is that the draft policy does not include any serious criteria for approval of variations, or follow state government guidance that variations should only be approved in exceptional circumstances.”
The draft policy is a key agenda item at the TRRA general meeting on April 18.