Public service stymies character housing zone

Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey Appleby, with Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker MP and Derek Fowlds as his private secretary Bernard. BBC image

Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey Appleby, with Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker MP and Derek Fowlds as his private secretary Bernard. BBC image

Is there a Sir Humphrey Appleby in the NSW public service determined to stymie Blue Mountains council?

Sir Humphrey, the quintessential public servant from BBC programs Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, was notorious for ensuring that any political promise or action finished up just as he – not his minister – wanted.

And Cr Daniel Myles thinks there’s more than a sniff of Sir Humphrey about the latest letter to council over its desire to protect character residential housing in its Local Environment Plan (LEP).

Three recent planning ministers have promised council that the housing zone (R6) could be included in the latest LEP. Council was simply waiting on the Planning Department to get the wheels in motion.

But a letter last month from the department’s deputy secretary for planning services appeared to stop the process dead.

He wrote: “I appreciate that council seeks to apply the proposed zone to land that was deferred under the Blue Mountains Local Environmental Plan 2015. However, introducing a new zone will require consultation across the state, and will require an amendment to the Standard Instrument (Local Environmental Plans) Order 2006 (Standard Instrument).”

Cr Myles said the response “was not good enough”.

“NSW Planning Ministers from Frank Sartor to Brad Hazzard and Rob Stokes all recognised the importance of protecting the special character of the Blue Mountains. R6 is integral to that,” he said.

“The bureaucrats of the Department of Planning have consistently opposed this and have simply waited for each minister to move on before reverting to their previous position.

“This is not good enough."

The mayor, Mark Greenhill, also urged the latest Planning Minister – Anthony Roberts – to honour his predecessors’ commitments.

He said council had been waiting almost two years since LEP2015 was approved. “And I think the patience of the Blue Mountains community is wearing thin.

“The department has played the ball slow and waited for changes to government in the hope that this proposal will just go away.

“Well, we won’t,” Cr Greenhill said.

The council voted to write to the Premier and Planning Minister seeking an urgent meeting on the lack of progress of the R6 issue.

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