Collins out for power rollback

Paul Collins

FORMER Stirling councillor Paul Collins wants to reverse a “ludicrous” decision that lets council staff approve non-compliant developments over the objections of neighbours.

Until last year any development outside the usual planning rules which attracted an objection had to go before council rather than being rubber stamped by staff. 

It’s a common clause at many councils, but at their June 2020 meeting Stirling councillors voted 8-7 to give staff more discretion; they only have to send developments which have “undue adverse impact on the local amenity” to council for a decision.

Mr Collins says back-to-back houses, built to the boundaries and with no backyards, can now be approved by staff even if locals object.

“It’s a ‘we do not want to hear from you’ attitude from council,” Mr Collins says.

He’s nominated for Lawley ward at October’s election and wants to reverse the rule.

The new system was moved by councillor Sue Caddy who said the change would tidy up the rules and still keep the clause where a minimum of two councillors could “call in” an approval for a council vote if locals complained on planning grounds.

“It doesn’t actually strip away any of council’s power to bring items to council for determination if there is something where we can exercise our discretion,” Cr Caddy said last June.

Councillors David Boothman, Joe Ferrante, Suzanne Migdale, Stephanie Proud, Keith Sargent, Bianca Sandri and mayor Mark Irwin agreed. Opposed were councillors Felicity Farrelly, Chris Hatton, David Lagan, Karlo Perkov, Elizabeth Re, Adam Spagnolo and Lisa Thornton.

Cr Re said councillors weren’t being swamped by planning applications. 

“It concerns me when I listen to people say that this is the biggest council in WA, [and] we have a planning committee meeting and we have one item,” Cr Re said.

“We have delegated so much over the years I’ve been here. It worries me every year that we have no idea what’s going on, sometimes we actually have to read it in the media to find out what’s going on…. I don’t believe we need to delegate so much authority.”

Mr Collins said allowing councillors bring an item before council wasn’t enough, noting that Balga, Mount Lawley and Coastal ratepayers were represented by supporters of the new system and might face an uphill battle getting an application referred to council.

He said residents shouldn’t have to ask “pretty please” and hope two councillors agree to call in a full vote.

“If elected, I will move a motion to reverse this ludicrous 2020 decision,” he said.

Another candidate has also opposed this system, with Simon Wheeler running in Coastal ward. He first picked up on the decision last year, speaking against it at the June meeting and writing on his Stirling Community Matters blog that council had handed over “the last vestige of any input in planning control to an unelected administration”. 

Mr Wheeler says one of his primary goals if elected is to review delegated authority on all matters affecting the community. 

by DAVID BELL

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