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Planning shake-up mooted

Wednesday, 17th April, 2013

Barlow Builders carpenter Ray Barlow at one of the company’s current development sites. Barlow Builders carpenter Ray Barlow at one of the company’s current development sites.

By Darrin Manuel

Families looking to build their own home are set to benefit from a NSW government plan to slash red tape in the construction industry.

An overhaul of the state's planning system would see around 80 per-cent of development proposals fast-tracked, including new homes and extensions.

Under new guidelines most development applications would be determined in less than 25 days, a move which the government believes could save businesses and families around $174 million a year and make housing more affordable.

Barlow Builders carpenter, Raymond Barlow, said the plan could have positive effects on the local housing market in the future.

"It's good news for New South Wales, although our local council is generally quick and approachable when it comes to development sites," said Mr Barlow.

"But if people know there is less paperwork involved they might be more encouraged to build a new home."

NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said it was logical to expect a drop in prices if more housing was coming in to the market.

Meanwhile NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell said the changes represented the most significant reform of the state's planning laws in more than 30 years.

"What we are delivering is an opportunity for communities and councils to work together to plan their suburbs, their streets and their regions.

"To deliver homes more affordably, to deliver the jobs closer to where people work and to do so at the same time as infrastructure is being delivered."

Under the changes, communities will have a legal charter to participate in upfront planning of areas, deciding where developments will go, what type they will be and what infrastructure will be needed to support them.

Community consultation was the centrepiece of the reforms, Mr Hazzard said.

"There will be guaranteed capacity for the community to have their say on how they see their local area developing."

However Greens MP, David Shoebridge, was not as positive about the impact of the reforms.

Mr Shoebridge predicted the changes would put extra pressure on councils and result in unwelcome and unexpected developments in residential areas.

"If this becomes law then the first notice most people will have that a new house will be built next door is when the bulldozers arrive," he said.

"If you don't get a say on development next door then that can lead to new development that cuts all the light from your kitchen, overshadows your backyard or solar panels and greatly reduces the amenity of your home."

The government paper, to be released today, recommends forcing councils to give rulings on development applications within 10 days or risk losing decision making powers.

Councils will have to green-light the fast-tracked approvals if the new homes are less than two storeys and don't impact neighbours' properties.

The approval process for some apartments, townhouse developments and new shops and land subdivisions will also be sped up under the plan.

The white paper is now open for community consultation for the next 10 weeks. Legislation will be introduced to parliament in the second half of this year. -BDT/AAP

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