The reason I want meetings streamed is to hear the discussion around why decisions are made. Attending Council meetings has shown me that the discussion around items are often more telling and important than the final decisions.
A perfect example of the importance of discussions around decisions is the first item of this meeting that I missed, the proposed concrete batching plant at 60 Greendale Rd, Bringelly (although it is not the only item in this meeting where it would have been great to hear the discussion). The residents out near Greendale Rd would have been delighted to see the plant proposed by Boral was unanimously knocked back but the grounds for knocking it back were fascinating.
This is interesting because in the previous meeting Liberal Councillors had taken strong issue with Cr Cindy Cagney’s view that the permissibility of plant should be determined under Camden’s LEP.
The counter argument at the time by Liberal councillors Peter Sidgreaves and Lara Symkowiak was that the plant was in the South West Growth Area and was therefore covered under the State Environment Protection Plan (SEPP). In their eyes it was permissible under the SEPP, and even though they deferred the decision till the next meeting to get more information, it was quite clear that they believed Cr Cagney had made a bad call.
Yet, when we turn to this meeting the four reasons given for declining the plant include one relating to the unacceptable visual impact because it exceeds the maximum permissible height under the Camden LEP. The other three reasons all relate to the EPA.
The reasons were:
- The plant failed to comply with maximum permissible height under the LEP
- The unacceptable traffic impact as spelt out in the EPA
- The unacceptable noise as spelt out in the EPA
- The development was not in the public interest as shown by number and nature of submissions against it – also under the EPA
Using the EPA in this context is quite unusual for Camden Council. It is also possible that the four reasons given could be challenged in the Land and Environment Court. It would have been good to hear the discussion around this.
There was also some opposition to the ORD02, regarding clearing of land for the Emerald Hills Estate, which includes an area that has been recognised as being biodiverse. It may very well be that the discussion around this item, led to the biobanking of Gundungurra Reserve in the September 12 meeting.
The vote, that went along party lines, suggests a robust discussion around the Camden environment but without being present at the meeting, only the decision can be viewed. Again, this is an issue where many in Camden would like to have heard the discussion that led to the decision.
The third issue where there was conflict was around the refurbishment of the Macaria building in Camden for use as an art gallery. An additional $484,729 has been added to the cost, almost doubling what had been budgeted. In 2016, the Labor councillors had expressed doubt about how accurate the original costing had been. At the time their concerns had been dismissed.
The extension of funding had been brought back to be approved and it was interesting to note that Cr Paul Farrow voted against this. The reasons why he chose to vote against it would have been very useful to know. Are his concerns around the potential for further costs blowouts? The minutes don’t tell us.
I would also have been interested to see if there were any discussions around Item 06: Draft Vegetation State Environmental Planning Policy. I have often found when reports or submissions come before the Council, that individual councillors have some keen insights into what certain aspects of legislation change could mean to Camden. It is not unusual for these items to actually have more interest for residents than we might otherwise expect.
Unfortunately, all we have are the final decisions and no understanding of why they were taken at all.