Draft West Central District Plan rates a ‘could do better’

The Hills Shire Council is calling on the Greater Sydney Commission to give utmost priority to its feedback on the Draft West Central District Plan – and take a more detailed look at The Hills community and its priorities.

Mayor of The Hills Shire, Councillor Yvonne Keane said local suburbs were in danger of being left behind if the draft plan is adopted in its current form.

“I acknowledge the great work the NSW Government has done to date with its heavy investment in infrastructure like motorways and rail links that will pay dividends to the productivity and quality of life for Sydney’s residents for decades to come,” she said.

“The Greater Sydney Commission provides a unique opportunity to change the slow and disconnected bureaucracy we currently operate within – and I support the Commission in its effect to achieve an outcome.

“Unfortunately, I believe the draft plan ‘could do better’ for our community – for me it simply restates what we already know,” she said.

Mayor Keane said the plan must go further than relisting housing and job targets – and softening up communities to take even more density without committed actions for supporting infrastructure.

“We would like to see a plan that clearly states why Sydney’s housing is unaffordable and what should be done at Federal and State level to address it. The affordability policies articulated in the Plan is really just playing in the margins and it does not seem to deliver real outcomes,” Mayor Keane said.

“We would like to see a plan that gets excited about our whole region and recognises that the polycentric 30-minute city they describe can only occur if all areas of the West Central District are given equal focus and support.

“And we would like to see a plan that backs us up on providing the larger apartment sizes for Hills families that Council has fought so hard for.”

Mayor Keane said further evaluation is needed on critical issues for the growth of The Hills, including the role rural lands can play to support housing and jobs growth; the elevation of Castle Hill to a ‘strategic centre’ and the ways in which affordable housing can realistically be achieved.

“Previous attempts to address housing affordability by increasing densities, reducing standards, reducing lot sizes and reducing apartment sizes – as well as capping developer contributions – has done nothing to curb the spiralling costs of owning a home in Sydney,” Mayor Keane said.

“Council opposes the affordable housing policy articulated in the plan as it will have zero impact on affordability – in reality leading to even higher densities, more congestion, crowded schools and a less desirable quality of life.

“This is specifically an area where the plan could – and must – do better.”

Mayor Keane said that now the draft plan has been released, The Greater Sydney Commission has a real opportunity to listen closely to feedback and develop a more detailed plan that will ensure the Hills of the future realises its full potential.

“I call upon the Commission to hear our voice and listen hard to what our community is saying,” Mayor Keane said.

“We know we have to grow. We know we can do it and do it spectacularly. We just need the NSW government to address those things that are causing us so much concern.

“It is of future concern that the role of Councillors is being increasingly diminished with impersonal Planning Panels made up of Government appointed private consultants with no connection to the area – who incidentally, can work for developers when not performing panel duties – presiding over important decisions.

“It is worrying that NSW Government agencies are immobilised when it comes to getting those things that are critical to our delivery of more homes happening. For instance, the delay in the signing off on the Box Hill Section 94 plan is causing critical delay.

“We sincerely hope our submission on the Draft West Central District Plan is given the Commission’s undivided attention and that The Hills can be proud of the role it plays in Sydney’s future growth,” she said.

The Hills Shire Council’s submission will contribute to the final version of the District Plan. The draft plan can be viewed at www.greater.sydney.