Councillors should not vote on plans they can benefit from: Urban Taskforce

Councillors should not vote on plans they can benefit from: Urban Taskforce
Councillors should not vote on plans they can benefit from: Urban Taskforce

Developers who are councillors should not be allowed to vote on any planning instrument that they could benefit from.

It is important that the approval of planning changes that could affect property values are not undertaken by councillors who could be perceived to gain from those changes. This means that any councillor with a pecuniary interest in a property in the local government area should not vote on development applications or on the rezoning of precincts affecting that property.

If a councillor is involved in development, or owns land that could change in value, or could gain an increase in their own land value by opposing more housing supply, then that councillor should not be able to vote on any change to the planning rules.

The Urban Taskforce believes that it is preferable that full time developers do not become councillors as they will be perceived to be involved in increasing the value of land they may own.

There should also be stronger controls on the role of councillors elected to council on an anti-growth platform as they are clearly concerned to maximise the value of existing properties by stopping more supply. Their pecuniary interest is less direct but it would be best for them to not vote on development applications or rezoning of precincts.

If all those who are conflicted on planning issues are excluded from voting it is likely that a quorum of voters may not be achieved. The answer should be to move to a fully independent process of approval of planning issues by Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs) or for the proposed Greater Sydney Commission to take over this role. IHAPS are used successfully in many areas and would negate any real or perceived conflict of interest and result in a clear, transparent decision making process.

It will be better for Metropolitan Sydney to move planning away from the competing interests of factions in local government to an independent process run by experts.


Chris Johnson is chief executive officer of property development industry group Urban Taskforce and can be contacted here.

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