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26th March, 2009
Part 1 of a series on the Wagga Wagga Local Environment Plan
By Wagga Guide
Councillors, planners and developers urge community:
“Examine and comment on the LEP before it’s too late.”
Wagga Wagga’s draft LEP, launched on 15 January, will be available for public exhibition for only three more weeks. After 15th April, any submissions to the LEP will no longer be accepted and property owners will have to wait a long time before they get the opportunity to again comment on the LEP.
Wagga City Councillor Rod Kendall, property consultants Peter Fitzpatrick and Richard Fitzpatrick and the Mayor Councillor Kerry Pascoe have urged all ratepayers and the whole community to inspect and study the draft LEP, and to make comment on any aspect of the LEP and present it in a submission to Council.
The LEP is Council’s fundamental planning instrument and provides the framework and regulation for land use. The LEP sets the zonings, defines what activities can go where, defines building heights and sets broad strategic directions for all locations and activities. The LEP can be thought of really as the blueprint for the city’s physical and environmental growth and development for the future. It’s that important. The LEP is a State Government instrument and once it is signed gazetted, it becomes law.
Councillor Kendall emphasises that the draft LEP was prepared essentially by consultants and the planning panel who are all based outside of Wagga Wagga. This is because Council was divested of the power to develop the LEP by the Minister for Planning in November 2007.
“So the LEP has been developed by people from outside the city, however with a lot of input from staff,” Councillor Kendall said. “So it’s a document that’s not so well owned by the Community as say the previous 1985 LEP.”
Due to this reason, the Planning Panel has urged the community to study the draft LEP and make submissions on issues that they think the LEP has failed to or has inadequately addressed.
“What I’m encouraging people to do is to look through the LEP and the maps,” Councillor Kendall said. He said that people should pay particular attention to the proposed zonings contained in the plan, which basically defines what the allowable and prohibited uses for any land are.
“People need to look very carefully at each one of those zonings and make sure that they’re happy that that fits with the nature of Wagga,” Councillor Kendall said.
Property owners might have looked at the maps and at the zonings and thought that what they saw was reasonable. But Councillor Kendall stressed that people should look deeper – into the writing of the actual LEP itself.
“Look at the document and look at the writing that says this is what you’re allowed and this is what you’re not allowed to do,” he explained.
The draft LEP has sections that are written in black print and sections that are written in red print. The sections in black are set by the State Government. They are compulsory and not changeable in any way.
The red sections are optional content. “And that is the area that people need to particularly look at,” Councillor Kendall urged.
“They need to relate it to what they believe is the true nature of Wagga and whether or not those issues and those particular comments, whatever they are, whether they should or shouldn’t appear in the format they are in.”
As an example, Councillor Kendall presented the issue of zoning for bulky goods centres in particular. He explained that there has been a large increase in the propensity of bulky goods centres, which have the potential to take away from the Central Business District.
“This was recognised in the LEP and areas have been set aside for bulky goods,” he said.
Councillor Kendall explained that the new draft LEP has prohibited bulky goods trading in General Industrial and Light Industrial Areas.
“But if you look through our Light Industrial Area and General Industrial Area in particular, and the definition of ‘bulky goods’ in the LEP, the existing industrial areas have a large number of operations that are ‘bulky goods’ by the new definition of the LEP,” Councillor Kendall pointed out.
“The Planning Panel I know doesn’t agree with my interpretation that many of these existing industries that have traditionally set up would no longer be allowed to set up.”
Once the new LEP becomes operational with the new definition of ‘bulky goods’ in place, this could actually change the look of Wagga Wagga’s traditional Light Industrial and General Industrial Area.
“It could change the uses and it may force small business operators to have to operate from a centre and be at the mercy of major developers that are developing the few centres, rather than being able to buy a block of land and put their own business (there),” Councillor Kendall said.
Property development consultant Peter Fitzpatrick advised property owners along similar lines.
“First look at the plans and the zoning colour,” Mr Fitzpatrick advised. “Then after that, unfortunately, you have to read the document.”
For people who have issues on the LEP that they want to discuss, a town planner is on regular duty all the time at the front desk of Council who can help answer their questions.
“If you have issues, you should talk to them,” Mr Fitzpatrick said. Don’t sit back because you’ll miss your chance and will have to come back in five years.”
He suggested that even if people see one aspect of the draft LEP that they are unsure of, they should still make a submission on this to Council. The submission process is not complicated and there are template forms that can be used. Council staff are always on hand to assist those who may be unfamiliar with the process.
Mayor Kerry Pascoe said the new draft LEP was developed after extensive public consultation and had been placed on public exhibition from today, January 15 for three months until April 15.
Wagga Wagga City Mayor Kerry Pascoe said that Council is looking forward to engaging the community to hear their thoughts on the draft LEP and urged residents to participate in the process and give feedback.
“The plan belongs to the people of Wagga City, so it is imperative they have input, because it becomes the roadmap for future development in the City,” Mayor Pascoe said. “Whatever is put in place now will influence what happens down the track.”
Wagga City Council’s Planning Department has earlier informed that community consultations and discussions will follow after the close of submissions on 15th April. This does not mean, however, that affected persons can still make comment on the draft and expect these comments to be considered for the final plan.
“My understanding is that there will be no more submissions or consultation after April 15 so it’s really important that people make their submissions prior to that,” Fitzpatricks Real Estate Director Richard Fitzpatrick explained.
Any committee Consultations that will follow post 15th April might be informative or educational in nature.
Mr Fitzpatrick said that land owners who are intending to develop their property in a certain way might lose this opportunity once the new LEP is signed.
“So I would advise them to get some town planning advice because they have got a limited opportunity to put a development application in now under the existing provisions,” he advised.
The draft LEP contains “savings provisions” that will allow for some developments commenced under the current LEP to continue even after the new LEP takes effect. What property owners should know is that the new LEP has more restrictions on what kinds of developments people can make on their land.
The important thing for property owners to do is seek Council or professional advice and act now. Mr Fitzpatrick stressed that even if property owners make a submission to the draft LEP, this does not automatically save or preserve their right to develop their land in the way they want to and can do right now.
Ultimately, it is the City itself that will benefit if the whole community takes an active part in helping shape the final LEP.
Councillor Kendall said that if community members make well reasoned comments to the draft LEP, then the exhibition of the draft LEP should then result in an LEP that is good for Wagga.
“If people ignore the draft, don’t make submissions, what’s there now will be adopted, and it’s too late after it’s adopted to say ‘but I didn’t realise that this was going to happen’,” Cr Kendall said. “So my encouragement is for people to look at the LEP.”
This is the first major review of Wagga Wagga’s LEP since the mid-80s. Once gazetted, the next review of the LEP will come no earlier than five years.
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