New rules for schools are unacceptable says Hills Shire Mayor

A proposed state policy will give child care centres the ability to open next to homes in residential streets without Council consent and will automatically approve up to four storey schools, both public and private.

The State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) for Educational Establishments and Child Care Facilities, which is currently on exhibition, will give child care centres the ability to open in low density residential zones (in R2 zoned areas) using a new set of guidelines that overrides Council’s controls.

The proposed policy would also allow more uses on school grounds without development consent, including before and after school care to operate on school sites, and for all new public and private schools to be approved by the State Government instead of local Councils.

The SEPP will broaden the types of development for schools and tertiary institutions, including school buildings up to four storeys in height, to be built in the R2 Low Density Residential Zone without formal development approval processes and community consultation.

Mayor of The Hills Shire, Councillor Yvonne Keane said Council would lose the ability to protect The Hills community from contentious development if this policy was to be approved by the State Government.

“The new policy is outrageous and overrides our ability to plan our own community. Not only will Council lose input into proposed developments, residents won’t have a say to what happens in their street, which is really sad,” Mayor Keane said.

“I believe our Shire’s beautiful character will be greatly impacted as a result of the Sydney West Central Planning Panel or private certifiers approving controversial developments, which don’t meet the needs of our region or are incompatible with their surroundings, causing further problems to our growing suburbs.

“Child care centres will be able to pop-up anywhere, and schools can be built without regards for the character of the neighbourhood.

“As a mother of two children and with many young families moving to The Hills, it’s imperative we have access to good child care centres and educational institutions. They are very valuable assets and they need to be built in the right locations so as to add to the amenity of the area and not destroy it.

“This policy is about the State Government ignoring our needs in The Hills Shire.

“We will make it our mission to fight for our residents and their rights on this issue,” Mayor Keane added.

Deputy Mayor of The Hills Shire, Councillor Robyn Preston said the draft policy should “ring alarm bells” for residents.

“We are here to stand up for the right of our residents, but this new policy will quash that,” Deputy Mayor Preston said.

“When I came on board to Council more than nine years ago, the main outcry was child care centres being built in low density residential areas.

“If this policy is approved, we can expect to see more traffic and parking complications as a result of these facilities being constructed and opened in areas which are already under huge demand because of population growth.

“We need to push back very hard on this and say ‘no’ because we pride ourselves on putting time and energy into creating a beautiful Shire.

“Hopefully other Councils will join us as we fight this unacceptable policy,” Deputy Mayor Preston added.

Council will now lodge a submission with the Department of Planning and Environment detailing the key concerns.

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