Labor calls for independent review into 17-storey towers in Newcastle's East End


The Labor Opposition has today challenged the Premier Mike Baird to commission an independent probity review of the controversial planning proposal for Newcastle’s historic East End, following the Liberal Government’s decision to alter planning rules to increase height limits from 8-storeys to up to 20-storeys at the site.

The proposed three high-rise towers breached the existing height limits contained in the Newcastle Renewal Urban Strategy. However, four weeks ago the Minister for Planning approved a controversial amendment to the relevant State Environmental Planning Policy, to increase the height limits at the site from 8-storeys to 17-storeys, with potential for 20-storeys.

Under questioning from the Labor Opposition in budget estimates Mike Baird was dismissive of community concerns about UrbanGrowthNSW’s development application for the towers in Newcastle’s historic East End and the Planning Minister’s modifications of the planning rules to allow them to be built.

“Mike Baird visited the site earlier this week on his Sorry Tour of Newcastle – but it turns out he’s not all that sorry after all,” said Shadow Minster for Planning Luke Foley.

“UrbanGrowthNSW is a government agency that reports to the Planning Minister. So the Minister is both the developer and the regulator, a clear conflict of interest.

“This development has been enthusiastically endorsed by the former Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy and the former Liberal Member for Newcastle Tim Owens despite community opposition – we can only restore confidence by undertaking an independent probity review.

“All development activities in Newcastle have been cast under a shadow following the conduct of certain local Liberal identities and property developers – if Mike Baird is serious about restoring the trust of the people of Newcastle he will open the curtains and let the light shine in on the East End high-rise towers proposal by conducting a probity review.”

Mike Baird also rejected Mr Foley’s suggestion to appoint retired judge David Ipp to investigate the decision making process to date.

“Mike Baird needs to demonstrate that his words of contrition for the activities of Liberal MPs are more than just words – he needs to back them up with action and so far, he is failing miserably.”