Voluntary Planning Agreements

VPAIn the Local Government section, page 28, of today’s Sydney Morning Herald, there is an article concerning confidential negotiations between Meriton and Marrickville Council over a “Meriton offer to pay the Council $5 million to allow greater density for a controversial development at Lewisham.” A Green Councillor who disclosed this to Fairfax Media was suspended by the Council, but reinstated by the administrative appeals tribunal.

What justification is acceptable for offers and negotiation of VPAs to be conducted in confidence? Surely the unsolicited selection of items in the VPA should require community consultation, (probably by exhibition), and discussion in open Council? The VPA is a form of compensation for losses to the community of sunshine, privacy, and de facto requisition of infrastructure capacity, with the old Section 94 dimensions of functionality,spatial and temporal nexus. Cash payments can lead to the systematic elimination of Council objectives such as affordable housing from developer’s choice of offerings.
A VPA implicitly allows violation of strategic master planning, and can be a backdoor side-payment for inappropriate spot re-zoning.
JIm McCredie

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