From the Willoughby Area Action Group.
Greetings to all on our contact list,
On June 23 Council was finally informed by the Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC) that on May 31, the last day of the three months that Channel 9 had to lodge an appeal against the PAC determination of its concept plan, that, in fact, an appeal had been lodged with the Land and Environment Court. Currently, Council is obtaining legal advice as to whether they and possibly the Willoughby Area Action Group (WAAG) can be joined with the PAC in defence of its determination. It will be the PAC and thus, indirectly, the NSW Government that will be the defendant in the appeal hearing. The timing of the hearing has not been set at this time but the parties appeared in court on Friday June 27 to set hearing dates.
PAC’s determination on 5th March 2014 substantially agreed with the position presented by the Willoughby community and Willoughby City Council. The PAC approved a medium density scale development of 350 apartments instead of the 450 apartment high rise development proposed by Channel 9. PAC’s determination came after an assessment by the NSW Department for Planning and Infrastructure which recommended the approval of the 450 apartment development.
The PAC was established as an independent body by the previous NSW Labor Government to ensure that planning decisions were not affected by political or other influences that might otherwise be brought to bear on the decision making process.
The PAC’s independence is important. Channel 9 appears to be well connected with the Liberal NSW Government with a number of former high profile Liberal Party members employed by Channel 9 including the former NSW Liberal Party Deputy Director, Scott Briggs, as their Director of Regulatory Affairs, and former Treasurer Peter Costello, as a Director of Nine Entertainment. The PAC’s independence ensures that development applications are evaluated on their merits.
The PAC’s Channel 9 determination is a good example of their independence. This independence can only be preserved if the NSW Government actively defends the PAC’s determinations. Without appropriate legal defence the PAC’s role and independence is lost, leaving behind a question over possible political influence.
The respondent to Channel 9’s appeal, responsible for defending the PAC’s decision, is the NSW Minister for Planning and Infrastructure.
Channel 9’s appeal exposes a potential weakness in the independent structure and operation of the PAC. Its Channel 9 determination overturned the NSW Department for Planning and Infrastructure’s recommendation to approve Channel 9’s 450 apartment/12 storey development. Having had its recommended development overturned by the PAC, it now falls onto that same NSW Government department and minister to defend the PAC’s decision.
Willoughby Area Action Group spokesman Peter Wilton said, “It is disappointing that Channel 9 have not accepted the decision of the independent Planning Assessment Commission and continue to push for an inappropriate development on their site. We call on the NSW Government to ensure PAC’s continued independence by rigorously defending PAC’s determination. Channel 9 are still the one not listening to the issues identified by the Willoughby community and the Planning Assessment Commission. Channel 9 appear committed to leaving an unsustainable legacy in Willoughby with little regard to the resulting issues that will be felt by the community for years to come”.
Willoughby Council is investigating through their lawyers whether they can be joined with the PAC in defence of the determination they made in February. Perhaps the community as represented by WAAG may be able to be called by the PAC as evidence. We’ll keep you all posted as things progress.