Woolies on Burrell, the Railway Street block, DA processing times and a proposed spike in council fees – development issues have been the hot button topic of this council term.
- Railway Street block: Has emerged as a key election issue. Should council have sold a prime piece of community land while the market was bottoming out? How heavily will the new retail/accommodation development impact on existing businesses? Was the community consulted enough on the sale?
- Commercial development: Council has shown it will stand by its principles – and community sentiment – by attempting to block the Woolies on Burrell development. Business leaders, however, remain critical of other commercial planning decisions, including the Griffith Central location and the move to allow bulky goods retailers at the end of Jondaryan Avenue, rather than in existing industrial areas like Mooreville, Battista Estate and Wickham’s Hill.
- Development costs: If council’s current proposal to dramatically increase water and sewerage costs for new residential blocks is successful, Griffith will become one of the most expensive regional areas in NSW to develop. This will act as a clear disincentive to invest in the area.
- Lake Wyangan subdivision: Council’s bid to build a low-cost housing development at Lake Wyangan has been an unmitigated disaster. Why is council competing with private developers on subdivisions?
Paul Pierotti, Griffith Business Chamber president:
“The main issue for us is the general apathy of this council. Other councils, like Leeton, have a can-do attitude towards attracting development but any major developer will tell you Griffith is one of the most expensive, difficult and time-consuming councils to deal with. There has been a pattern of poor planning here, especially allowing Griffith Central to open in an area with no pedestrian access. Creating a new bulky goods hub away from the existing industrial areas has also been a disaster. The latest saga with development costs for new land is also an issue.”
Ben Dartnell, Dartnell Building Certifiers:
“The biggest issue for us is interference from the state government. There is over-regulation and too much red tape with applications. Even for a small shed or carport, you need things like a statement of environmental effects. The perception of council that things take longer than they should is a bit misplaced. They are audited by the government and are required to comply with things like the housing code, which is very city-centric.”
Forced to follow rigid state government planning guidelines and faced with sometimes impatient applicants, council is on a hiding to nothing when it comes to processing development applications.
Nevertheless, there is some foundation to claims council “milks” developers with excessive fees and often takes too long to process DAs. Criticism of council’s sale of the Railway Street block – much of it pushed by vested interests – is a bit tougher to swallow. Selling public land is never popular but ratepayers must accept that at a time of intense fiscal pressure on council, tough financial decisions must be made.
The next group of councillors must keep a close eye on planning issues and help strike the balance between community sensitivities, council’s bottom line and attracting new development.