From the Mayor’s Desk with City of Coffs Harbour Mayor Paul Amos

LET’S talk development applications (DAs).

This is a really challenging space for every Councillor because with every decision on a contentious DA that comes to Councillors for assessment there are winners and losers.

The aspect of being a Councillor that the community probably notices the most is when there’s controversy about a development application.

Coffs has recently experienced a huge increase in Development Applications.

Two years ago a total of 868 DAs were assessed over the whole year.

But last year, there were 1,005 and only three months into this financial year, we’d already got 331 DAs in the system.

The current boom that we’re experiencing is putting great pressure on Council’s planning staff – and the development proponents too as they can have tight timescales.

The assessment of sensitive development applications is, I believe, probably the most complex part of a Councillor’s responsibilities. It’s at those times that we have to put our planners’ hats on – on top of our community hats – and consider DAs through the lens of the planning laws and regs.

Many councils, particularly in metropolitan areas, have actually had this task taken away from them and been replaced by independent planning panels.

Here in Coffs Harbour, most DAs are actually dealt with at the staff level, but we’ve taken the view that the community still wants the Councillors to look at the more contentious developments.

A DA comes before Councillors mostly if it has generated significant public interest, is sensitive development or breaches the development guidelines by more than ten percent.

With planning, the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) is applied.

The LEP is the zoning and permitted land use of any lot or area, while the Development Control Plan (DCP) provides the ‘box’ in which a building is built.

The contention comes when an owner wants to build outside this ‘box’.

This can lead to the situation that one person’s great development outcome is seen by another as a very poor development outcome.

You may not be aware that Regionally Significant Developments worth over $30m go to a state-appointed regional planning panel for assessment.

Projects of state significance are also determined by the state government.

This is what has happened with the Yarrila Place project and is happening with the new film studio that’s being planned for Pacific Bay Resort Studios and Village.

But even if we Councillors don’t deal with the really massive developments, making these decisions is always a big responsibility to bare.

I’ve heard it said that good outcomes indicate good planning.

I’m more inclined to think good process is the secret to good planning consistently and ultimately.

By City of Coffs Harbour Mayor Paul AMOS

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