New Development Control Plan on right track
Port Stephens Council will be adopting a new Development Control Plan (DCP) later this year. TRRA made a major Submission on the Draft which was on exhibition in early 2015 We welcome both the structure of the new DCP, which should be easier for both developers and the community to understand, and also much of its content, which sets out the detail of planning and design criteria that Council expects new developments to meet.
We recognise that a DCP does not have the same force, under the law, as a Local Environment Plan (LEP). Port Stephens adopted a New LEP in 2013, and it was a significant improvement on the previous (2000) plan, providing greater environmental protection and having tighter controls, for instance, on what developments can take place on rural land (approval of many inappropriate developments has been an ongoing problem). Height limits were also incorporated in the LEP for the first time – they were previously in the non-binding DCP – and this should help prevent unacceptably tall buildings changing the visual character of the Tomaree peninsula.
We have some outstanding concerns about the draft DCP, including its failure to incorporate all the good work done on the Nelson Bay Town Centre and Foreshore Strategy, and Salamander Centre planning principles [can’t find anywhere as one document – have asked planners to supply]. It also allows too many high impact developments to be processed without public notification. We are also concerned that the language of the draft over-emphasises the possibility of exemptions or exceptions from the preferred standards – almost encouraging developers to bid for lower standards. We think that the DCP should be very clear that it represents the local community’s expectations, and that lesser standards are only acceptable under exceptional circumstances.
TRRA hopes that Council has taken on board our comments and those of other community groups, and that we see an even better DCP put to Council for adoption in the coming months.
TRRA welcomes new use for nursery site at entrance to Nelson Bay
TRRA was pleased to see a DA submitted recently for a Child Care Center on the site of the former Christmas Bush nursery on Stockton St. This site, along with the adjacent former Bunnings site, are too prominent and important to be left derelict. Additional child care facilities, meeting an obvious need, seems an appropriate use in this location.
Welcome new Council transparency initiatives
TRRA has been disappointed that neither Council itself, nor the Port Stephens Examiner, provide enough information for the community about major new development proposals and approvals. We therefore welcome two new initiatives by Council. The first is a new regular e-newsletter PSC Informe and the second is a new online DA Tracker which allows the public to see details of Development Applications on exhibition. While TRRA thinks Council could go further, the new system is a major breakthrough – those interested in a DA no longer have to visit the library in the hope that some of the papers might be available for limited inspection. Anyone with internet access can now review DAs that may be interest at their own convenience. Hopefully this increased transparency will lead to higher levels of community engagement with planning proposals, and head off the dissatisfaction that occurs when people unexpectedly find a building going up that they might have wanted to comment on.
Nigel, Geoff & John – Planning Sub Committee
Our TRRA Planning Sub Committee monitors all D.A.’s of interest submitted to Council and the Department of Planning and regularly updates Committee Members on current submissions etc. We thought that this information should be shared with our membership so check on this post regularly to keep up to date on what is going on in your area.