Pretend consultation while secret decisions are made
For a while now, it's been quite obvious that state and local governments are hell bent on "expediting" their own agenda by limiting community involvement.
The so-called Low Rise Housing Diversity Code is a clear example of this.
At a local government level, we can see the effects of this in various ways.
One is the pathetic pretence at "public exhibition" of major development applications.
DA060666 is a current example.
This is a "second bite at the cherry" application for a site comprising five formerly separate properties located at the intersection of Blackwall and Farnell Rds.
The previous application for this block was DA 54551 which was approved after a cursory discussion by councillors more interested in getting back to their incessant political grandstanding than seriously studying the proposal.
Perhaps the reader might think that it is unfair to councillors to make this unsubstantiated accusation.
But the closer you look at DA 060666, the worse it gets.
Even though DA 60666 is a completely different building design from DA 54551, documents from the first application have been reused unchanged.
Presumably, they thought this was an acceptable cost saving measure but it makes a mockery of the development application process.
The arboricultural report is invalid because it refers to trees being retained or removed due to the requirements of the previous application's building footprint, a completely different footprint from the one actually proposed this time round.
The traffic and parking study is even worse as it describes in great detail the basement parking which is not in this application with no mention of the highly dubious 95 metre "dead end" laneway which is.
Ironically, this very traffic study was the subject of a previous letter to Peninsula News (Issue 510).
It concerned Mr Norm Harris's question to the Council administrator as to whether they were granting credence to "fake traffic studies", this one was given as a prime example.
Mr Harris's question was basically flicked aside on that occasion because it referred to DA 54551 and was therefore a historical issue which Mr Persson could not assist with.
However, now that this same Traffic Study has "resurfaced" in a current development application, perhaps Mr Persson will reconsider if asked the same question again.
In any case, the traffic study is totally irrelevant due to major planned changes to the intersections of Farnell and Allfield Rds with Blackwall Rd.
According to Transport for NSW, the design for these changes was finalised in March 2020 after "appropriate consultation with the community".
This "consultation" didn't seem to involve actually telling many people about what they were planning - no media statements for instance, another example of deliberately limiting community involvement.
The Statement of Environmental Effects accompanying DA 060666 shows signs of being a "cut and paste job" from DA 54551.
The most obvious of these being references to "basement parking" which have confused many people including some making submissions on DA 060666.
There's several things in the Statement which may or may not be direct copies from DA 54551, so there's not much that can be fully trusted.
There is much information which is not available on line.
There is no first floor or ground floor plan supplied on line. These are secret.
However, the landscape plan shows a plan of the ground floor which is just as well, as there's not much to show much in the way of landscaping.
When DA 060666 first appeared on line, there was a sense of relief that it was so much smaller than the previous application with only 18 "low rise" units compared to DA 54551's total of 34 units made up of six one-bedroom appartments, 17 two-bedroom appartments, 11 three-bedroom appartments and seven three-bedroom townhouses.
Everyone assumed, looking at the crowded site, that the new applications would be a similar mix to the first one in terms of number of bedrooms per unit. However it was not possible to tell from the drawings supplied.
Another thing missing from the online documents was a copy of the minutes of the "Pre-DA meeting" dated March 7, 2018.
According to the Statement, this document must be read in conjunction with the application.
One of the agenda items discussed at the Pre DA meeting was "setbacks".
As the current application is non-compliant in a number of setbacks, it would be interesting to know what "advice" had been given to the developer.
It is doubtful that the application would have been submitted in such a non-compliant state if the developer had not had some sort of assurances from council staff that it would be ok to do so.
On enquiry at the council offices, I was told that I was not allowed to see the Pre-DA minutes as it was confidential between the council and the developer. More secret stuff.
When I politely pointed out that the Statement had stated that it was mandatory to read this document "in conjunction" with the application, the extremely helpful and patient counter person made several enquiries and I was eventually told that I would have to submit a GIPA (formal request to access government information).
I did this and am still waiting for a reply, not very hopefully.
My enquiries about the number of bedrooms was more successful as the helpful counter person was able to look at the "secret" plans and count the number of bedrooms for me.
It turns out that this application contains a mix of three-bedroom and four-bedroom units.
Initially, I thought that there was to be three four-bedroom and 15 three-bedroom units, making a total of 57 bedrooms.
But after trawling through the minutiae of the Basix Report, I now believe there are four four-bedroom units, making a total of 58 bedrooms.
The average person simply does not have enough spare time to investigate these things.
It's not just Central Coast Council that are allowing developers to limit the amount and quality of information available about planned developments other Councils do it as well.
It will gradually get worse as developers realise they can get away with it.
It can only be stopped by the community telling Council loudly and clearly to either stop the sham of "public exhibition" completely or to make sure it's done properly.
Email, 3 Apr 2021
Frank Wiffen, Woy Woy