During my time in Local Government an all-too-common theme has developed when it comes to the way infrastructure for new development sites is planned and NOT delivered.
The current mode for most infrastructure delivery is fundamentally a No Cost to Government model.
In this model, developers create Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPAs) with the Consenting Authority which is often Local Councils but may also be the NSW Government. These VPAs are designed to be the mechanism for delivery of infrastructure such as roads and intersections, rail corridors, public spaces and public facilities, public transport interchanges and in larger scale developments, health, and education facilities. On occasions developers sweeten the development proposals with VPA items such as accommodation and recreation facilities.
The common structure that VPAs follow is that the Developer will commence the development with the creation of the residential lot development with a trigger established in the VPA that it will commence work on the VPA infrastructure once a certain number of lots have been sold.
In 2018 I went on a self-funded study trip to The Netherlands, to be better informed about Greenfield developments at the time when Wilton was a major working item for Council. In The Netherlands I witnessed a completely different way of doing these developments, where the fundamental layout was determined by their equivalent of the Department of Planning. All transport and public/social infrastructure was built or dictated prior to then allowing the developers to do land development and develop the built environment around that infrastructure.
What I will be proposing and lobbying for in Parliament is a change to the way development and infrastructure is rolled out in NSW. I will propose that the Government undertake a contractual relationship with developers to lend them UP FRONT the funding required to build the infrastructure in the VPA, and that this infrastructure is then built PRIOR to the sale of any developed blocks. Once the block threshold established in the contract is triggered the developer then commences repayment of the loan to the Government.
Some examples of previous and current failures that come to mind:
• While the development is maintained and complete, the Accommodation and Conference facilities promised with the Stonequarry Development are not delivered.
• Picton Road Cloverleaf Overpass at Almond Street Wilton.
• Road connecting the original Wilton to Greenbridge Estate.
Below is the story of Renwick – which is a very nice example of Greenfield development EXCEPT (I am informed) the developer – Landcom still failed to deliver on the full VPA.
“On Wednesday 23rd February 2005, a wonderful Urban Designer called Gabrielle Morrish spoke on behalf of the State Government’s developer, Landcom, telling the many local Mittagong residents assembled that Renwick would become “…a place where East Mittagong residents liked to go and a place they benefited from rather than suffered with.” The community engaged in a long process of consultation in good faith. Unfortunately, 18 years later, we are still waiting for Landcom to keep its promises.
Renwick was supposed to have a “…village centre including retail, childcare and community facilities…The Village Centre [was to] be the main urban focus for the new community, and a concentrated focal point for local economic, social, cultural and community activities. The design [was to] establish a strong sense of place through facades fronting the square and streets with active edges, shopfront window displays, and inviting entries” (Heart Foundation, 2023; Landcom, 2021).
A key part of the plan was the construction of a medical centre with several consulting rooms, a pharmacy and small general store. The rationale given at the time was that more GP services were needed to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population across the highlands and that locating basic services at the centre of the development would dramatically reduce vehicle movements throughout Mittagong. It was determined that the Government would build the structure for lease to local doctors and business owners. Residents of Renwick and the surrounding streets were supposed to be able to see a GP and buy milk, bread, newspapers and medicines without having to travel out of their suburb, which is consistent with the government planning principles (Transport NSW, 2021). These pictures, taken on 16 February 2023, eighteen years after the meeting in Mittagong show that absolutely nothing of that nature has been provided. The site for the medical and retail centre is nothing but overgrown grass and has been for almost twenty years.
The Landcom team, including Renwick Development Director, Philip Moss, promised Mittagong residents that good planning driven by community consultation could support social cohesion and personal wellbeing in a sustainable way. Perhaps foolishly, Mittagong residents, and those who moved into Renwick based on the initial Masterplan, believed them. It’s time to hold the State Government accountable for the promises made to Mittagong residents in 2005.
If after twenty years the promised medical facility isn’t there, you must conclude that the current State Government model for development doesn’t work.”
Heart Foundation. (2023). Healthy Active by Design—Renwick Masterplan. https://www.healthyactivebydesign.com.au/case-studies/renwick
Landcom. (2021). Renwick. Landcom. https://landcom.com.au/exemplar-projects/renwick/
Transport NSW. (2021). Improving-Transport-Choice-Guidelines-for-Planning-and-Development-2001. https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/~/media/Files/DPE/Guidelines/improving-transport-choice-guidelines-for-planning-and-development-2001-08.ashx