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.
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