Tough local development restrictions could be under threat after the State Government ordered the council comply with a state-wide planning blueprint by next year.
Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has written to Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC’s) seeking a review of its Local Environment Plan (LEP) and replacing it with a model LEP used across the state.
In a letter to Mayor Daniel Myles received on July 20, Mr Hazzard gave the council until mid-2013 to translate the existing Blue Mountains 2005 LEP into a “standard instrument” format.
“The completion of all standard instrument local environmental plans in early 2013 is one of my priorities,” the letter stated.
“This will allow us to identify land use zonings and appropriate development outcomes to support the delivery of housing and employment.
“It concerns me that the opportunities offered are yet to be seized upon by Blue Mountains Council.
“Please be aware that for LGAS [Local Government Areas] which have not achieved a Standard Instrument LEP by the mid 2013, I will be considering options for how the Government can ensure that the operation of the Standard Instrument is implemented as soon as practicable thereafter.”
The letter has concerned local representatives, who told the Gazette the council’s current LEP protected it appropriately as a World Heritage region.
Clr Myles said while he supported the government’s push for more professional town planning instruments across the state, land zoning was “how we protect the look and amenity of our Mountains”.
“In the Blue Mountains, such is the need to manage urban renewal via sensible development that our finalised land zonings plan must retain the current controls,” he said.
“The State Government’s green paper will give an opportunity to review the operation of LEP 2005 which was first drafted nine years ago. The central tenets of this plan must remain, however.
“I support the push for consistent state-wide planning controls, however there must be significant flexibility for a unique area like the Blue Mountains.
“Both the Premier [Barry O’Farrell] and Minister Hazzard have indicated a willingness to work with us on this difficult and intricate issue.”
Deputy Mayor Mark Greenhill said the council’s current LEP “protects our city and preserves its heritage.
“I was on the council in the early 2000s when we prepared the current LEP. We consulted the community painstakingly for a number of years and this document has protected our city from over-development ever since,” he said.
“I am willing to work with the government but council needs to retain control and the central tenets of LEP need must remain.
“Former mayor Jim Angel made it the case that ex-Labor planning minister [Frank] Sartor never sought to force the model LEP on us. The key arguments have not changed in that time.
“I’ve spoken to former mayor Adam Searle who met minister Sartor in 2008/09 who confirmed that was the case.”
Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage said the standard LEP instrument provided a “standard zoning for all councils in NSW” but that the process was not about “forcing changes” in the Mountains.
“The nature of local government and councils means that there will be differences varying from council to council,” she said in a statement.
“If Blue Mountains council cannot fit the existing area into one of the 35 zones then they are welcome to apply for an exemption through the Department of Planning.
“Council has been asked from the minister for planning, former government, Department of Planning to commence this process as they have asked every council across NSW, the majority of which have been completed for a number of years.
“Minister Hazzard has met with the council directly to discuss the LEP process and has stated that he would welcome specific exemptions and allow great flexibility for council in this process.”
Clr Myles planned to bring a mayoral minute to the next BMCC meeting on the issue, with the “full support” of Clr Greenhill.