Planning Bill welcome, more improvements still needed

Australian Greens

The ACT Greens have today welcomed the tabling of the ACT’s new Planning Bill, whilst indicating that further issues need to be addressed before final passage through the Assembly.

“This Bill represents the first stage of an important and complex reform. We believe the Bill is a good start towards delivering a refreshed and better planning system, but it does need to be strengthened,” said ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury.

“The new Planning Act (the Bill) introduced in the Assembly today is a central plank of the new planning system, and we have analysed it closely, along with many public submissions made on the draft bill released earlier this year, to gauge how well it will ensure the new system delivers.

“In all relevant discussions, the ACT Greens have indicated our support for this Bill to be tabled. We believe it is important that the community and stakeholders see the next iteration of the Bill and have a chance to examine changes since the close of the consultation period.

“We have also indicated in those discussions that we believe further changes are needed, particularly around ensuring that the new Planning Act strengthens environmental protection and action on climate change and includes clear measures to improve community consultation and engagement through key planning decisions, including Territory Priority Projects.

“Compared to the draft Bill released in March, there have been good improvements, for example it is pleasing that the Bill has been updated to incorporate principles of community consultation and the development of community consultation guidelines.

“But more work is needed to reflect substantive feedback on ensuring the Bill facilitates sustainable environmental outcomes, protection of heritage, and planning responses to climate change. It also needs to respond to calls for clarity on what is meant by good planning outcomes. This is particularly important to ensure that there is a shared understanding on how the Bill will support and ensure that the Territory Plan facilitates high quality sustainable design, affordable and appropriate density, protection of green spaces and urban biodiversity, and a city that moves us away from car dependency.

“For the community to have confidence in the new planning system, it is vital that feedback on the new Bill, the coming new Territory Plan and District Strategies, is listened to and responded to.

The ACT Greens hope to see further changes to the Bill to better reflect community feedback, to both strengthen the Bill itself, and ensure community confidence in the new planning system through the proper incorporation of key feedback received.

“We will continue to work closely with our government partners and stakeholders to deliver a planning review that will more fully meet the expectations of our community and the environment, and we are confident that continuing our good collaboration on this important reform will achieve this.”

Background:

In 2021, the ACT Greens welcomed the planning review and we said we would look for the new planning system to do the following:

  1. Factor in climate change and emissions reduction targets – consider the heat island effect and embedded emissions in the built environment and invest in public and active transport options.
  2. Deliver development that works for people – development should be well designed, high quality and environmentally sustainable. Development should be driven by the needs and strategic priorities of Canberrans, and not led by the priorities of developers.
  3. Create the settings to support more affordable housing for Canberrans. We particularly need affordable housing close to public and active transport connections, parks, schools, shops and businesses.
  4. Respectfully and genuinely listen to communities and provide communities with useful information about planning decisions.
  5. Protect our trees and greenspace for current and future generations, for public use and for the protection of biodiversity and habitat. Development should not harm threatened species and decisions should be based on Environmental Impact Statements that are independently developed.
  6. Recognising the role of Traditional Custodians in preserving culture and stewarding the environment, respectful engagement with Aboriginal traditional custodians on all planning matters and processes that are relevant to and affect them, and doing so according to the principles of free, prior and informed consent.
  7. Provide integrity. Decision-making bodies and all entities that have a role in the planning system need to be adequately resourced. Planning decisions need to be held to account, monitored thoroughly, and enforced transparently. The system should also give the community the right to appeal decisions – something that call-in powers erase.
  8. Ensure that reviews of planning decisions are assessed speedily by adequately resourced review bodies.”

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