Parramatta councillors call for a report into IHAP planning panel

Andrew Jefferies
Andrew Jefferies

The state government may have another fight on its hands regarding Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels.

Parramatta councillor Bob Dwyer has called for an urgent report regarding more detail about its panel, including the pros and cons, who’s on it, cost to council and the number of times it has met.

State legislation has passed to take development assessment controls away from councils for developments valued more than $5 million, which will be enforced for all councils next March.

Panels were established at Parramatta and Cumberland councils following the proclamation last May.

The Hills Council voted to seek an exemption from the panel last month.

Cr Dwyer’s motion was unanimously adopted on Monday. His aim is to get a better understanding of the panel and how councillors can serve their community.

“I was contacted by a number of residents in Winston Hills who had new residential developments approved in their street,” he said.

“They had a number of objections but felt they had no one to talk to. In the past, they had the councillors to lean on. We need to ensure the panel is serving the needs of the community.”

Fellow North Rocks councillor and former Hills mayor Andrew Jefferies called on Minister Anthony Roberts to review the panel reforms. He referred to a currently proposed duplex development in Carlingford, where residents don’t have a voice through the elected council.

“While I have no issue with large-scale developments with a construction value of over $5 million being referred to an IHAP or planning panel, it beggars belief that for small-scale housing proposals, in particular, those in the R2 low density zone, that local councillors are unable to properly represent any concerns and objections raised by neighbouring residents,” Cr Jefferies said.

“As a Liberal Party member for more than 20 years and having experience with two councils, it’s only fair that I firmly express my view when our side of politics has made the wrong call. In this instance, installing an IHAP for small-scale, local DAs is clearly an over-reach.”

Clr Jefferies supported The Hills Council’s position to seek an exemption from IHAP and believed Parramatta should also consider this approach, following the tabling of a further report. Councillors hope to discuss the report on December 11.