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How many experts does it take?

By Marilyn Campton

Some Sydney councils are requiring up to 49 specialist reports for a ‘simple’ Development Application, new research shows.

A review by the Urban Taskforce recently found that one council requires 27 reports, another requires 26 and yet another requires 23 just for a simple house. If a residential apartment building is proposed, the DA requirements escalate, up to the Northern Beaches Council requiring 49 reports.

Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson commented that each council issues a check list that lists the growing number of detailed reports required.

“Clearly this is getting out of control”, he said.

“Reports now required by Sydney councils for lodging a residential DA include Access Report, Acid Sulfate Soils Report, Air Quality Report, Asbestos Management Plan, Construction Noise and Vibration Management Plan, Contamination Assessment, Crime Risk Assessment Report, Flora and Fora Assessment, Hazardous Materials Survey, Heritage Impact Statement, Noise Impact Analysis, Reflectivity Report, Security Management Plan, Tree Management Plan, Water Cycle Management Plan and many others.

“Liverpool City Council require for a single dwelling house a Statement of Environmental Effects, Waste Management Plan, Sediment Control Plan and potentially a Traffic Report, Arborist Report, Archaeological Assessment, Salinity Management Response and Odour Assessment.

“Canterbury Bankstown require a Neighbour Notification Plan for a DA for a single house. Willoughby City Council require for all DAs an Arborist Report, Acoustic Report, Archaeological Assessment Report, Demolition Report, Erosion/ Sediment Control Plan, Shadow Diagrams, Site and Context Analysis, Traffic and Parking Assessment and a Waste Management Plan.”

The Urban Taskforce research found that there were 81 separate reports required for a residential DA across all the Sydney councils and this did not include a number of other reports required for non-residential DAs.

“Clearly, many of these reports are necessary to assess the Development Application for a single house but over recent years the number of specialist reports seems to have grown dramatically”, Johnson said. “Each of these reports costs the applicant a significant amount of money which just increases the cost of housing in Sydney.

“It looks like council planners are very risk adverse and want expert reports on multiple areas that they can use to justify their decisions.”

Johnson suggests that a whole industry of consultants has grown up around the requirement for expert reports and adds that ‘no doubt this group will encourage the need for even more reports’.

“A balance is required in terms of a Report Impact Statement on Housing Costs to ensure the assessment process has not become too complex”, he concluded.

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