Is Council ever wrong?

Following our last meeting we expressed concern on the way Council handles applications lodge by former senior staff. Below is there response:

Further to your recent inquiry, I have made additional inquiries with staff and can now advise you as follows:

Planning Proposals

  • All Planning Proposals are reported to full Council for Council to resolve whether to proceed to Gateway/exhibition.
  • If Council resolves to proceed to Gateway, the Planning Proposal is referred to the Department of Planning and Environment who may determine to issue Gateway or not. If a Gateway determination by the Department is not issued the matter cannot proceed any further.
  • If Gateway is issued it proceeds to public exhibition.
  • Following exhibition the Planning Proposal is reported back to Council. If Council resolves to proceed it is again forwarded to the Department who again may or may not decide to make the LEP change.

As you can see there are a number of checks and balances in the process

Development Applications

  • Council Officers are required to report certain applications to Council for determination including:

–          applications where Council is the applicant or involves Council property, other than changes of use or internal alterations to premises within a business zone;

–          applications which, in the opinion of the General Manager, are sensitive or controversial and should be determined by Council, on the basis of (amongst other things) it involves a site rezoning.

Again there are checks and balances in the process.

Code of Conduct

Council Officers are also bound by the Council Code of Conduct which states:

4.14        How you manage a non-pecuniary conflict of interests will depend on whether or not it is significant.

 4.15        As a general rule, a non-pecuniary conflict of interests will be significant where a matter does not raise a pecuniary interest but it involves:

  1. a) a relationship between a Council official and another person that is particularly close, for example, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, lineal descendant or adopted child of the person or of the person’s spouse, current or former

spouse or partner, de facto or other person living in the same household

  1. b) other relationships that are particularly close, such as friendships and business relationships. Closeness is defined by the nature of the friendship or business relationship, the frequency of contact and the duration of the friendship or relationship
  2. c) an affiliation between the Council official and an organisation, sporting body, club, corporation or association that is particularly strong.

 4.18        If you are a member of staff of Council, the decision on which option should be taken to manage a non-pecuniary conflict of interests must be made in consultation with your manager.

In the case of the 688-692 Pacific Highway Planning Proposal

  • In accordance with Council practice the planning Proposal was reported to the full Council.
  • As senior staff at the proponent company (Aqualand) had previously held senior roles at Council and worked with Council staff the Planning Proposal was referred to independent consultants to undertake assessment to avoid any perceived conflict of interest. This included urban design advice (Kennedy and Associates) and overall planning assessment (Ingham Planning).
  • The urban design advice was provided to Ingham Planning for consideration in their assessment of the scheme as a whole. As you will note form the report, Ingham Planning’s assessment did not concur entirely with the advice of Kennedy and Associates.
  • The reports of Kennedy and Associates and Ingham Planning were forwarded to Council as an attachment  to a Covering Report – prepared by Council Officer’s in accordance with Council’s Business Paper format. The recommendation in the Covering Report was the recommendation of Ingham Planning.

Other Planning Proposals submitted by Aqualand

Aqualand have also previously submitted a Planning Proposal for 31-35 Herbert St, St Leonards. An early assessment of this application by Council staff determined it was not worthy of support and was reported to Council on this basis.

A further application has now been lodged for 31-39 Herbert St. The initial assessment of this application is similar and it is likely to be reported in a similar manner.

These more recent applications have been dealt with under my direction as the Director of Planning and Infrastructure.  I have no previous connection with Aqualand staff.

Future Development Applications and Planning Proposals by Aqualand

It is intended to treat any future application (whether Development Application or Planning Proposal) submitted by Aqualand in a similar manner namely:  

  • if an initial staff assessment indicates it is not worthy of support, it will be reported directly to Council
  • if a more detailed assessment is required, it will be referred to Independent Consultants.

Hurrah Clr. Stevens

Councillor Stevens celebrates 20 years of service to the Willoughby community

 mandyWilloughby Councillor, Mandy Stevens was presented with an Outstanding Service Award at Monday evening’s Council meeting, to recognise her service to the community through Local Government NSW, covering a period of 20 years as a member of Willoughby City Council.

Willoughby Mayor, Gail Giles-Gidney presented the motion on behalf of fellow Councillors and Willoughby Council staff.

Councillor Stevens has served the Willoughby Community for more than 30 years, 20 of those on Council, and is well known in community groups and clubs in the area, notably the West Ward Progress Association, the Chatswood RSL Club and West Ward Community Fire Unit.

She has worked with Meals on Wheels for more than 32 years and in fund raising for the Red Cross.

Councillor Stevens served on The Greek Orthodox Committee and helped bring about positive changes to aged care. She was instrumental in providing more childcare facilities to the area including the Johnson Street and Pelican Childcare services and in updating the playground and amenities at Lowanna Park Children’s Playground.

She supported moves to rename Western Park as Kenneth Slessor Park, and supported the Artarmon Loop Bus and West Chatswood Bus.

She has been a tireless advocate for balance in development in Chatswood and environmental sustainability and for her work with the Bushland Preservation Committee. She served on the NSW Local Government Women’s Association and on the Welcoming Committee for the Friendly City Relationship with our Sister City Suginami in Japan.

“Our community is fortunate to have people such as Councillor Stevens who are willing to give up their time and energy to contribute to and improve our community. On behalf of everyone at Willoughby City Council, I would like to congratulate Councillor Stevens on receiving this Award,” said Willoughby Mayor Gail Giles-Gidney.

 

Public land

The following series of maps clearly show the extent of public land in West Ward. Apart from roads (owned by the Crown), public land falls into two categories: Crown Land and Council Owned land. Crown Land can be reserved for many purposes (e.g for a stock route in the country). In Willoughby, most (if not all) Crown Land is reserved for parks or recreation). Council owned land falls into two categories: Community Land (typically used for parks and ovals) and Operational Land typically used for conducting Council business (such as office buildings, depots and the like).

This first map shows the location of Crown Land:

crownlandmap

This map shows the location of Council owned land:

councilownedland

This final map shows Crown Lands, Council owned lands and Open Space in West Ward. You can see from this final map that apart from the swathe of Crown Land below Millwood Avenue, the majority (if not all) Crown Land and Council owned open space is being used for parks, reserves and ovals.

openspacewestward

Crown Lands

At the last meeting we were asked to obtain a map of Crown Land. Council has obliged with a map of Crown Land and Open Space. Crown Land is shown as pink with Open Space as green.

crwonland001

In the 1800s the entire length of the Lane Cove Riverside between Mowbray Rd West and Millwood Avenue was Crown Land. This was known as the 100 ft Reservation. Over the years, portions of the Reservation were alienated. The Starch Mills near Mowbray Rd were allowed to purchase some of the Reservation. Other portions seemed to have been passed over to Willoughby Council for use as Open Space. Either way, the public has full right of walking access today between Millwood Avenue and Mowbray Rd West.

The group of Crown Land building blocks off Avian Crescent previously contained houses. These have been demolished. A large portion of Mowbray Park is Crown Land.

Not sure about the scythe of Crown Land below Millwood Avenue. Suspect that this might adjoin the Lane Cove National Park.

The main portion of Crown Land east crwonland002
of the railway line currently houses Chatswood Park (and Oval)
and the Chatswood Croquet Greens

Campbell Park

campbell-park-banner

Council has developed a draft landscape improvement plan for the reserve. The draft plan includes a playground upgrade, including a new swing, climbing structure and slide. There is also to be new furniture, footpaths improvements and additional planting.

More informationis available at www.haveyoursaywilloughby.com.au. Comments close by 5pm Sunday 16th October 2016.

If you have questions youcan contact Council on 9777 1000 or send an email to email@willoughby.nsw.gov.au

 

Council Meeting Agenda

Every couple of weeks, Willoughby Council meets to consider matters pertaining to the City. Below is the agenda for the next meeting on Monday 26th of September 2016.

There are some matters of particular interest for West Ward such as:

You can ‘click-thru’ the item to download details.

AGENDA

15. Reports From Officers – General Manager

16. Reports from Officers – Customer and Corporate Support Directorate

17. Reports from Officers – Community, Culture and Leisure Directorate

18. Reports from Officers – Planning and Infrastructure Directorate

19. Notice of Motion

20. Confidential Items

21. Questions

No amalgamation. Yet?

The NSW Land and Environment Court has handed down its decision in relation to the proposed merger of Willoughby, North Sydney and Mosman Councils.

The Commissioner found:

The proposed Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby amalgamation

  1. I have concluded that only one of the specific complaints raised by the Councils which challenged this amalgamation is valid. This means that the Delegate who had been assigned the task of inquiring into, and reporting on, this proposed amalgamation had failed, adequately, to have regard to one aspect of the elements mandated by s 263(3) of the Local Government Act 1993 (the Local Government Act) as part of his inquiring into and reporting upon this proposed amalgamation.
  2. The consequence of this failure is that the report prepared by the Delegate, and provided by him to the Local Government Boundaries Commission (Boundaries Commission) and the Minister, does not constitute a report, in this regard, in satisfaction of the statutory requirements of the Local Government Act.
  3. The outcome is that the Delegate has not completed the task for which he was appointed and thus, at the present time, there is no proper statutory foundation for this proposed amalgamation. This means that this proposed amalgamation remains in the hands of the Delegate.

In making this determination, the Commissioner found:

Provision of adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities

  1. As earlier set out, the Councils’ complaint on this point is that the Delegate failed to give any adequate consideration to “the ability of the councils of the areas concerned to provide adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities”.
  2. The Councils’ written submissions addressed this point as follows:

75.   The next error committed by the Second Delegate was to fail to consider factor (e1) relating to the impact of any relevant proposal on the ability of the councils of the areas concerned to provide adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities. As such, the Delegate was required to consider the impact of the Second Proposal on the provision of adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities.

76.   The Second Delegate’s consideration of this issue is contained in section 5.6 of his report. After summarising submissions made concerning likely levels of service under the proposed new entity, the Delegate concluded (as p.33) that under the merger proposal, and pursuant to Government policy, the service level trajectory was fixed for 4 years, and that beyond that time, service levels would be a matter for any new merged to determine. The Delegate comprehensively failed to consider the fundamental issue, namely whether service levels would be likely to decline or not. That was the conclusion reached by the Boundaries Commission.

  1. To give a context to the above, I reproduce the relevant extract from the Boundaries Commission’s comments on the s 263(3)(e1) aspect of the Delegate’s report. The Commission said:

[5.2.6] – Service delivery and facilities

Section 263(3)(e1) of the Act requires the Delegate to have regard to:

“the impact of any relevant proposal on the ability of the councils of the areas concerned to provide adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities”.

The Delegate stated that service delivery received a large level of interest with around half of written submissions identifying service factors. He noted the themes presented in this factor included differing levels of satisfaction with current service delivery, concerns over loss of services in a merged entity, local community service involvement (“volunteerism”) and the different needs of the different council areas.

The Delegate stated that under Government policy for merged entities, the service level trajectory would be fixed for four years. Beyond that time, the Delegate considered that service levels would be a matter for any new merged Council to determine in consultation with its community as part of the Integrated Planning and Reporting process including consideration of the maintenance of an administrative presence at North Sydney, Chatswood and Mosman. The Delegate also concluded that volunteering would not be expected to decrease in the event of a merger.

The Commission’s view is that the Delegate did not adequately consider the issues under this factor.

In conclusion the Commissioner found:

Mosman and North Sydney Councils

(Note: Willoughby Council had been ‘joined‘ to the case’)

  1. I have concluded that none of the general complaints concerning the proposed amalgamation process for these Councils are well founded and those complaints provide no basis to prevent this amalgamation from proceeding.
  2. However, for the reasons earlier set out, I have concluded that the Delegate’s functions pursuant to s 263(3) have miscarried in that the Delegate constructively failed to address one of the provision’s mandatory requirements, that being the requirement to have regard “to the need to ensure that the opinions of each of the diverse communities of the resulting area or areas are effectively represented” (s 263(3)(e5)).
  3. On the other hand, I am satisfied that the Delegate’s exercise of his functions with respect to any of the other elements of s 263(3) did not miscarry.
  4. These findings mean that the Delegate has not yet completed the task delegated to him by the Acting Chief Executive.
  5. For the reasons earlier discussed, the appropriate outcome in each of the Mosman Municipal and North Sydney Council proceedings is the making of a bare declaration that the report furnished by the Delegate to the Boundaries Commission is not a valid report in satisfaction of the requirements of s 218F(6)(a) of the Local Government Act.

Costs

Mosman Municipal Council matter
  1. In Matter No 155301 of 2016, the orders of the Court are:
  1. Declares that the report furnished by the Delegate to the Boundaries Commission is not a valid report in satisfaction of the requirements of s 218F(6)(a) of the Act; and
  2. Unless a party files a Notice of Motion proposing an alternative order on the question of costs by the close of business on Tuesday 4 October 2016, I will, on the day after that date, order that the First to Fourth and Seventh Respondents are to pay the Applicant’s costs as agreed or assessed.
North Sydney Council matter
  1. In Matter No 158919 of 2016, the orders of the Court are:
  1. Declares that the report furnished by the Delegate to the Boundaries Commission is not a valid report in satisfaction of the requirements of s 218F(6)(a) of the Act; and
  2. Unless a party files a Notice of Motion proposing an alternative order on the question of costs by the close of business on Tuseday 4 October 2016, I will, on the day after that date, order that the First to Fourth Respondents are to pay the Applicant’s costs as agreed or assessed.

Commentary

What does this mean? The Government cannot forcibly amalgamate Willoughby, North Sydney and Mosman Councils at this time because the report submitted by the Delegate to assess the amalgamation proposal was deficient in one aspect. The Commissioner found that the proposed amalgamation lies in the hands of the Delegate.

The Government might reappoint the Delegate (or another Delegate to provide a complete report. Whether such a report would come to the same conclusion (recommending amalgamation) would be open to conjecture.