Ol’ Blind Joe
By Stirling Hamilton
I MISSED an opportunity for public input into a shire planning document last month and it seems I was more than a decade late.
My first article for The Toodyay Herald appeared in September 2012.
“The shire’s recently departed town planning officer left a legacy of proposed amendments to Town Planning Scheme No 4 (TPS4) and Local Planning Policies (LPPs),” I wrote.
“The changes to policy E1 ‘Subdivisional development guidelines’ which add the words ‘and leading up to’ to the paragraph outlining a subdividers’ responsibility to upgrade the road fronting the lot have already been passed in a manner reminiscent of the British polical comedy show Yes Minister.
“This is because instead of calculating costs on the road frontage of the subdivision, you would also be up for sealing gravel roads ‘leading up to’ the subdivision.”
“This is calculated at $212,000 per kilometre.
“Despite the potential effect on landowners, they (the changes) were adopted quietly in a manner of which (Yes Minister character) Sir Humphrey Appleby would be proud.Read more
Four little words
“I’m fairly certain the councillors weren’t even aware that, hidden away in the middle of 300 pages of a routine Corporate Services Annual Review Of Delegations and Policies, were inserted those four little words.”
Another concern for residents was a proposal to make it compulsory to prepare a structure plan for any proposed new subdivision.
These are complex documents that require planning consultants, engineers, and roadworks consultants to produce and cost about $30,000.
Our shire’s town planning scheme currently says that the council can decide if a structure plan is needed – the shire can prepare one itself or require a landowner to do so.
This is important because it allows the council to exercise discretion if the subdivision is simple and doesn’t unduly affect other properties.
I wrote in July 2013 that “the Scheme sets the law and the Strategy gives the reasons/objectives.”
Homework not finished
The problem is that the strategy was written after the scheme and the previous administration under former shire CEO Graham Merrick didn’t finish its homework.
There are many inconsistencies between the scheme and the strategy.
For example, the scheme gives the council discretion to require structure plans – the strategy deems them compulsory.
As I wrote in 2012: “The Strategy says of itself that ‘it is unlikely to be a complete and definitive document and aims to be a living document.”
The strategy has been controversial since it got served up in 2008.
It received more than 180 critical submissions and has not been reviewed since.
“The Strategy will need to be reviewed (in 2012) at the same time as the Scheme, as both documents are dependent on each other for their integrity,” I wrote.
I wrote in March 2014 that “it seems the WA Planning Commission (WAPC) has allowed radical elements within its ranks to promote an eminently sensible idea.”
“Responding to community demands for more affordable housing and rentals, the WAPC has altered its policy on Ancillary Accommodation (granny flats).
“The Commission has removed the requirement that they can be occupied only by members of the same family and will allow folks to rent them out.
“Our Council waxes lyrical in its aims and objectives about wanting to provide for a range of housing choices and to encourage creative planning and design.
“Yet we have hundreds of overly restrictive building regulations, such as the one that says an ancillary dwelling must be a similar design and appearance to the existing house.
“Also, if you adapt and upgrade a shed or suchlike while you build, the council demands that you decommission its habitability once the primary dwelling is completed.”
Why can’t they be kept as temporary accommodation for families and friends?
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” – US President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919).
Ol’ Man Dazzy’s digger
Meanwhile, on the subject of swimming pools, just about every town in the Wheatbelt has a damn pool and with some trees – a bit of shade cloth, a couple of dunnies and you’re in business.
I wanted to build one out the back of the Top Pub (former Toodyay Tavern) where parents could have a couple of drinks in the beer garden while the kiddiewinks cavorted in the water.
Twenty years ago, Ol’ Man Dazzy put his hand up and offered to bring an excavator, loader and truck to dig a dirty great big hole for it.
Several tradesmen piped up and said they would chip in their time to make it happen.
But our illustrious shire overlords ignored Dazzy and chose instead to spend $14 million on a big new Colosseum.
None of our problems are due to any flaw in human nature itself but to the actions of fiscally incompetent former shire CEOs with grand plans to send us all broke.
I actually feel sorry for our councillors who receive maybe one per cent of what shire CEOs and their staff earn.
I’ve watched newly elected councillors led meekly like lambs to the slaughter on the high altar of shire rules and regulations.
It’s so appropriate that council meetings are held in the old courthouse which befits the nature of its conduct when former shire CEOs passed judgement on all and sundry.
How I wish I could drag them all outside to watch them wither and shrivel before the beacon of truth.
Men fight for freedom, then they begin to accumulate laws to take it away from themselves – Anon.