Australia Jobs not homes: NSW to push ahead with planning approvals

07:05  03 april  2020
07:05  03 april  2020 Source:   smh.com.au

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Planning Minister Rob Stokes wants to speed-up development approvals to propel NSW's economy into the © AAP Images Planning Minister Rob Stokes wants to speed-up development approvals to propel NSW's economy into the "roaring 2020s" after the coronavirus outbreak.

The NSW government will speed-up planning processes and development applications during the coronavirus pandemic in a bid to forge ahead with construction of major projects, generate jobs and push the economy into the "roaring 2020s".

Planning Minister Rob Stokes, who has vowed to "clear the decks" of proposals stuck in the tangled planning system, said the government would fast-track significant developments, rezonings and development applications, with the potential for more approvals.

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"The COVID-19 response is quite explicitly focused on what we can't do," Mr Stokes said on Friday. "In planning, our duty during the pandemic is to think about what we can do.

"We can cut red tape to provide businesses with flexibility, we can override normal processes to keep people in jobs and the economy moving and we can process so many projects and proposals that have been stuck in the system for too long."

The Berejiklian government's "planning system acceleration program" will also help councils and regional planning panels to quickly process major development applications, and aim to clear the backlog of cases in the Land and Environment Court by appointing additional acting commissioners.

Mr Stokes pointed to the "enormous economic growth and recovery, and also social and cultural development" of the 1920s after the Spanish Flu pandemic, saying the scheme was aimed at pushing NSW past the "economic calamity" of the COVID-19 crisis to "get to the roaring 2020s, faster".

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"This is an incredible opportunity, and we need to think of it in those ways, to get through those projects that are awaiting consideration, or part-way through consideration, so that we have a huge pipeline of projects ready to power us into recovery," he said.

About $70 million will fund infrastructure including roads, drainage and public parks in the fast-growing parts of Sydney' north-west to prepare for the construction of thousands of new residences.

But Mr Stokes said the focus for the next few months should be forging ahead with plans for employment precincts and creating jobs, not on building houses and apartments.

To that end he said the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment had approved 142 major projects, creating about 4500 jobs, and injecting $4 billion into the economy, since January.

The government has changed planning rules to allow construction sites to operate on weekends and public holidays to help the sector cope with the impact of physical distancing requirements.

There have also been tweaks to planning rules to enable food trucks to set up more easily, and to ensure supermarkets and pharmacies can operate throughout the pandemic.

Last week, Mr Stokes asked the Independent Planning Commission to alter how it holds public hearings to ensure they remain "open and transparent" amid calls for the approval process of major projects to be halted during the crisis.

He said on Friday there was "no legal impediment" to the commission using online platforms for hearings and public submissions, arguing the crisis provided more opportunities for people to participate in planning processes.

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