Hawkesbury VPA policy put on hold despite being deemed an essential

Hawkesbury VPA policy put on hold despite being deemed an essential

Hawkesbury Council has a poor track record when it comes to entering into Voluntary Planning Agreements with developers, according to Councillor Paul Rasmussen.

"Our VPA track record has not been brilliant to say the least," he said. "Particularly some of the bigger ones we've entered into over the years have been faulty and flawed."

Cr Rasmussen's comments came during debate at last night's open meeting of council discussing the possible adoption of a new policy setting guidelines for future developer VPAs, something he said was timely.

A voluntary planning agreement can be entered into by council and a developer during the application process.

It sets out the size of the developer's contribution towards any supporting infrastructure that may be needed to compliment the said development, be it for road works or other community amenities outside of council's budgeted management plan.

The proposed policy establishes standard guidelines for council, including a process of review to guarantee any VPA commitments are met.

At this point, Hawkesbury Council has no set policy for dealings with VPAs, nor does it have a city-wide development plan, which necessitates its reliance on VPAs.

Without a plan or a VPA, the council would lose out on contributions from the developers.

Last night it came a step closer to endorsing the policy, which had been placed on public display earlier this year, however, it opted to defer the matter for the review of its Internal Audit Committee.

It means that for another month at least, should it be required, the council will be without a set instrument to guide its contribution dealings with developers.

Adoption of the policy was recommended until Councillor John Ross cast doubt, claiming that he felt it went against the findings of the internal audit committee, which had called for the attention of staff on numerous matters relating to VPAs.

Director of City Planning Linda Perrine said that the creation of the policy in itself was one of the committee's recommendations, but as a stand alone action.

Councillor Danielle Wheeler said she wanted the matter returned to the council as soon as possible.

"We don't have a VPA policy at the moment," she said. "I don't want to see any more Glossodia's where we are scrambling to put in basic infrastructure. I don't want to see another Pitt Town. We have a history of accepting poor VPAs."

Cr Wheeler said that not having a policy in place was "not good governance".

Cr Rasmussen said that when the proposed policy had been placed on public exhibition it had attracted one submission.

"If anyone on the audit committee had issues with this then it would have been a good time to raise issues," he said.

"I agree that work has to be done by council and it's no walk in the park, but this one is important.

"We need this policy on the streets ... I encourage that we get this VPA policy on the table as soon as possible."