Controls are designed to prevent the worst development
Matthew Wales is correct that the city's current planning controls were adopted after much discussion and scrutiny ("Planning controls were result of exhaustive consultation", Peninsula News edition 466).
However, that doesn't mean that they were logical, scientifically supportable or even fully understood by all those who took part in the process.
In fact, it is extremely likely that a majority of those involved did not appreciate the implications of many of the elements included in the controls.
Similarly, many of those now complaining about the standards don't really grasp the purpose of the controls and are fixated on one particular issue, such as the height of buildings, without realising that a set of standards should be internally consistent and can't be just mucked about with, one item at a time.
That said, it has to be admitted that the present controls are quite arbitrary and aren't particularly consistent, so it is difficult to sustain an argument that departing from them will cause irrevocable damage.
Development controls are not designed to ensure the best standard of development. They are designed to prevent the worst kind of development.
The outcome is that almost everything that results is the second-worst kind of development.
The gradual uglification of the Central Coast is observable by anybody who cares to look, but enhancement requires positive action, and that is anathema to the mindset of our councillors and to apologists.
Of course, the protestors are incontestably right on one point.
If the controls were really appropriate, it would not be necessary to have constant non-conforming approvals given, and we could avoid the angst of reading about another breach of the standards in every issue of Peninsula News.
Council's professional staff members regularly assess applications as being suitable when they fall outside the parameters of the Development Control Plan, but this is merely a demonstration that the parameters are wrong and need to be adjusted.
Unfortunately, the recent exercise in amalgamating the two disparate sets of controls inherited by the Council failed to take the opportunity of introducing some sense into the compilation and has, in some instances, introduced new and illogical complications that will inevitably lead to complaints and challenges, rather than ameliorate the dissatisfaction widely felt.
Finally, newcomers are more likely to discern shortfalls than long-term residents who tend to become apathetic about mediocrity that has been complained about for years and never corrected.
Furthermore, the views of long-time residents, whose tenure will be relatively short, are less important than the views of incomers who will long have to bear the results of decisions previously made without their participation and without any appreciation of their wishes and tastes.
Development controls are a blunt instrument and will never produce a high-quality (not to mention an obligatorily vibrant) living environment.
Therefore, it is difficult to show that the breaching of development controls, except in the most egregious circumstances, will have a notably negative impact.
The Atlantis development at Ettalong probably will, but the two five-storey buildings in Umina probably won't.
You pay your money and you make your choice.
Email, 25 Mar 2019
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy