Business raises Local Environment Plan fears

A new proposed planning policy for the Blue Mountains “threatens the economic and social sustainability of our community”, according to local business groups.

The groups — including the combined local chambers of commerce, Biznet - Blue Mountains, and the Blue Mountains Accommodation and Tourism Association —  have raised “major concerns” about the draft Local Environment Plan (LEP) 2013.

The new document is required by the state government to fit a standard template of LEPs across the state.

“We want a planning instrument that balances environmental protection for the World Heritage Area with the economic and social needs of the residents of our 27 towns and villages. But the draft Local Environment Plan 2013 gets this equation badly wrong,” said group spokeswoman, Angela Lougheed.

“It seriously hampers — and indeed actively discourages — future investment in sustainable business, tourism and residential development. This means no local employment growth or the provision of housing for such groups as seniors, people with a disability, singles and low-income families,” she said.

“It threatens the economic and social sustainability of our community, especially our village lifestyle”. 

Among business concerns, Ms Lougheed said a change of language in the draft LEP will make it harder for residents and businesses to challenge a council decision in court.

It also ignores a recommendation to introduce a new zone to foster innovative tourist development, and will effectively put tougher restrictions on medium-density housing within 800m of town centres and railway stations.

A spokeswoman for Blue Mountains City Council said they welcomed the involvement of peak business groups in the development of the draft LEP and would “review the submission... along with the other 600 community and government submissions to determine what elements of DLEP should be maintained to meet community expectations, and what may be changed subject to further public engagement”.

The spokeswoman stressed the draft LEP was about converting council’s existing LEP to meet the new state government requirements.

“It does not attempt to re-position the council’s primary planning platform, which was established with significant community input and support during the preparation of LEP 2005,” she said.

Changes “like introducing multi-unit housing areas in character areas” would require a high level of engagement “that would proceed as a separate later round of work”, she said.

The business lobby has gained the backing of Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage in their concerns.

“The serious concerns of all the hardworking Blue Mountains business people these groups represent cannot be taken lightly. I share their determination to ensure that any new LEP allows our small businesses and villages to flourish,” she said.

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