Campbelltown mayor starts campaign for greater council powers

Campbelltown mayor George Brticevic. Picture: Chris Lane
Campbelltown mayor George Brticevic. Picture: Chris Lane

Campbelltown mayor George Brticevic wants to see planning powers returned to publicly elected councillors.

Cr Brticevic has asked Campbelltown Council staff to write to state government ministers and the Office of Local Government "expressing the council's and the community's frustration with the NSW Government's decision to remove the powers of determination for development applications away from the elected council and the community".

The mayor is frustrated with the councillors' increasingly limited ability to made determinations on developments and planning proposals in Campbelltown because of the introduction of the Local Planning Panels (originally called Independent Hearing Assessment Panels, or IHAPs).

"In 2011 the Barry O'Farrell government was elected on a commitment that planning powers would be returned to councils," Cr Brticevic said.

"But they didn't do that.

"What happened instead was the Local Planning Panels were brought in, and there are lots of very qualified, very experienced people on these panels but oftentimes they've got a job that we can do better."

Cr Brticevic said the planning panels were "very rigid" in the way they followed the Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plans.

He said the panels were designed to see things in black and white, where councils could operate more in the grey zone and take each development on their merits.

"For example, I remember a case where a man from St Helens Park had a DA in to build a granny flat for his recently widowed mother, so she could stay with them," Cr Brticevic said. "Even though it didn't exactly fit the restrictions, he addressed the council and we decided to approve his development.

"This is what people have elected councillors to do and the state government is preventing us from doing that."

Cr Brticevic hopes his council motion will encourage other local councils to pursue similar campaigns and pressure the state government into returning power to local government.