Greater Sydney Commission: Time for action on schools’ planning

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Originally published: The Daily Telegraph online, 15 December 2014, 12.00am

The new Greater Sydney Commission would take charge of planning schools and medical precincts under a far-reaching plan proposed by the state Opposition.

Opposition planning spokesman Luke Foley will outline his vision today for the powerful new planning commission following the release of the Baird government’s metropolitan strategy.

Mr Foley said NSW school student numbers were projected to grow by a third in the next 16 years but education needs had been constantly overlooked by the Planning Department.

Of the extra 347,000 children expected to be attending school by 2031, 88 per cent will be living in metropolitan Sydney, with an extra 25,000 school places needed just in the Blacktown area.

“We’ve had over 30 years of plans for greater urban consolidation but only now has the government started looking for a new school in the inner west,’’ Mr Foley writes in The Daily Telegraph today.

“Thirty years too late and we are now paying the price.”

He said the new commission, which will begin operations on July 1 from a Parramatta headquarters, must be empowered to develop a “20-year demand map” for school places across the public, Catholic and independent sectors.

“Currently, the differing demands of 41 local councils frustrate schools authorities and delay decisions,’’ he said, calling for a uniform schools planning code.

He said building plans should take into the account the need for schools to provide out-of-school-hours care.

Outlining an expanded role for the commission, Mr Foley also said it should drive a town centres strategy to revive Penrith, Liverpool,

Campbelltown and Gosford and focus on creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Creating “smart” jobs in Sydney’s health and education precincts should be a major focus in Camperdown, Randwick, Westmead, Rydalmere, St Leonards, Macquarie Park, Frenchs Forest, Campbelltown and Penrith.

Under the government’s plan for the commission, it would report to the Planning Minister and directly oversee planning decisions by Sydney’s 41 councils.

Its role will include monitoring job creation efforts, office-space capacity, housing development, infrastructure delivery, water and air quality and parks and recreational trails.

The commission will be driven by a high-level board of independent directors and produce an annual update report, an outcomes report every three years and five-year reviews of the metropolitan plan.

Mr Foley, who will outline his vision in a speech tonight to the Committee for Sydney, said the commission should report to State Parliament and include on its board high-calibre business people like former bank bosses Cameron Clyne and Gail Kelly.

He said he was concerned the government’s model would create “a pale and timid commission, limited in its scope and ambition, under the control of Planning Department bureaucrats”.

“The Greater Sydney Commission” - Luke Foley Address to the Committee for Sydney

Originally published as: Greater Sydney Commission: Time for action on schools’ planning