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Cessnock Council Replies to Planning Minister

Date: 10-Jun-10
Author: Cessnock Kurri Greens
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Cessnock Councillors unanimously voted  to send a strong submission to the Planning Minister last night.

The Planning Minister had written to Council on May 7th asking Council to show cause why he shouldn't take the Councils planning  power away.

In a move which places pressure on the local Member Kerry Hickey last night the Labor Councillors reversed their public position and voted to inform the Planning Minister that Cessnock Council deserved to keep its planning power.

The Minister claimed that Council was taking too long to rezone land and process Development Applications.  The Council submission outlines the improvements that the new Council has made since being investigated by the Department of Local Government in 2008. At that time the Council was dominated by a Labor majority.

'Council now has in place performance monitoring of senior staff and  a new Customer Service Strategy. Cessnock Council is on an upward trajectory.' Greens Councillor Ryan said. 'And we will continue to get better. It is clear that the Department of Planning is as much to blame for any delays as is Council. We acted with the approval of the Department. So while we agree that delays should be minimised the Minister should look at his own Department before trying to blame a local Council.'

'Cessnock Councils' processing of Development Applications is very close to the State average.' said Councillor Chris Parker. 'Not only that, our times are getting faster. We really believe the Minister is picking a fight with Cessnock Council on behalf of the Local Member Kerry Hickey.'

Documents obtained through the NSW Parliament show that just one day before the Minister wrote to Cessnock Council the Department of Planning advised him that in most respects they were not aware of any unsatisfactory issues at Cessnock Council.  The Department assessment of Cessnock Coucnil went so far as to say the Council had shown significant progress towards achieving the recommendations of the Department of Local Government.

The report also shows that Cessnock Council is NOT one of the most complained about Councils in NSW.

'The local Member and Planning Minister have a lot to answer for.' said Clr Ryan  'We are certainly not one of the worst performing Councils in NSW. This is a politically motivated action by the ALP who havent yet go over losing control of Cessnock Council in the Labor heartland of the Coalfields.'

Clr Ryan said the Motion asking Member for Cessnock to resign was deferred and will be debated when the Planning Minister makes his final decision.

James Ryan  0414 922 591
Chris Parker 0434 332217

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