Meet the people on Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai Council’s new IHAPs


Local councillors will no longer make any development application decisions.


Meet the people on Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai Council’s new IHAPs

Isabell Petrinic, Hornsby Advocate
March 6, 2018

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A SENIOR planner and a former Land and Environment Court judge will head the State Government’s new mandatory Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai Council Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels.

IHAPs, consisting of three experts approved by Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and one council-appointed community member who represents the council ward in which a development is to take place, will decide on all development applications (DAs) above $5 million in Sydney and Wollongong starting this month.

And local councillors will make no DA decisions, even though statewide they made only about two per cent until now.


NSW Planning and Housing Minister, Anthony Roberts, introduced the IHAP legislation “to end the dodgy and dirty backroom deals that have gone on for far too long inside local councils”.

New Hornsby chair Gary Fielding, who is the former chair of the Hunter and Central Coast Joint Regional Planning Panel, brings more than 40 years’ experience in senior level planning to the role. His alternates are architect and town planner, Steven Layman, and legal consultant and former Pittwater Council mayor Jacqueline Townsend.

“I’m quite privileged actually,” Ms Townsend, who resides in the harbourside eastern suburb Rushcutters Bay, said.

Ku-ring-gai’s chair is former NSW Land and Environment Court judge, Angus Talbot. His alternates are Ms Townsend and Kevin Hoffman, a retired commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment Court.

Mr Roberts said a statewide recruitment campaign attracted 490 applications for the panels.

“The ratepayers of those councils are set to benefit from the expert panels that will bring transparency, integrity and a high degree of probity to the development application assessment process,” he said.


Jacqueline Townsend is pictured right with TV personality Tracey Spicer in 2014.
Ms Townsend agrees with the government that the IHAPs will free local councils to focus its efforts on strategic leadership.

“The councillors will focus on the strategic planning for their communities and IHAP’s role is to decide on applications within that framework,” Ms Townsend, who was the council-nominated member of the Sydney East Joint Regional Planning Panel from 2009 to 2016, said.

Hornsby Council’s endorsement of Juliet Grant and Lynda McLure as the panel’s technical expert members, David White as expert local member and Ross Walker as non-expert local member comes on the proviso council fails to convince Mr Roberts to make the council exempt from the IHAP process. While awaiting the minister’s decision, council has endorsed IHAP community members Tony Jones (A Ward), Jerome Cox (B) and Barbara Wynn (C).

Ku-ring-gai has endorsed as its experts Gerard Turrisi and Sandra Robinson. Its community members are Frank Ko, Peter Thornton, Elaine Malicki and Suzanne Jolly.

Gary Fielding.


Kevin Hoffman.

“The only negative is the State Government are imposing this on all Sydney councils so councils don’t have a chance to tailor it,” Hornsby councillor and IHAP supporter Nathan Tilbury said.

Unlike many of the other Sydney IHAPs Hornsby’s will not meet during the day. Meetings will be held in the council chambers on the fourth Wednesday of each month at 6.30pm.

Experts will be paid $1500 a meeting. Non-experts and community members get $600.

“Councils will still be in charge of the rezoning,” Cr Tilbury said, adding “you’ve got 16 councils in Sydney who already successfully use IHAPs and they’re well liked by everybody”.

“Now councillors can make representations on behalf of the community at (IHAP) meetings and help them (residents) through the process; it’s certainly what I would do,” he said.

Gary White, the state’s chief planner, says there is no reason for local councillors to get “cornered and lampooned” over individual developments.
Ratepayers will foot the annual bill of operating an IHAP, estimated by the government as around $100,000 — costs the department of planning says councils may find “offset through savings on legal costs from reviews and appeals”.

The department’s spokesman said all IHAP meetings are open to the public and all meetings will be recorded and made publicly available.

Six of the 180 complaints about the handling of a DA made to the Office of Local Government in 2016-17 were about Hornsby Council. Two were against Ku-ring-gai.

The NSW Ombudsman’s 2016/17 annual report says council customer service continues to be the most-complained about issue (23.2 per cent), followed by development (14.2 per cent, or 440 complaints across NSW) including decisions on DAs and other development-related decisions.

Click here for the State Government’s ‘5 stages to faster, more efficient assessments’

■ Minor, low-impact home, shop or business improvement projects, known as “exempt development” or “complying development”, don’t require planning or building approval. Other developments need consent and a form must be lodged with your local council, alongside a development application (DA).

■ City planning officers determine the majority of DAs under delegated authority of council.

■ The fees for DAs are mandated under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000, and range from $110 for developments up to $5,000 to $15,875 for developments over $10 million (plus an extra $1.19 for each $1,000 or part of $1,000 by which the estimated cost exceeds $10 million).

Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000:

Click to access 2000-557.pdf


■ Many NSW councils offer an online application tracking service.

■ Complaints about the general administrative conduct of councils, councillors and council staff can be made to the Office of Local Government or the NSW Ombudsman, while complaints about alleged corrupt conduct of councillors or council staff can be made to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Office of Local Government:

NSW Ombudsman:

Independent Commission Against Corruption:




■ DAs with a dollar value of over $5 million but under $30 million go before a mandatory Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel, known as an IHAP.

■ IHAPS also deal with:

● DAs where the applicant or owner is the council, a councillor, councillor’s family member, council staff member, or a state or federal MP;

● DAs that get 10 or more objections;


● DAs accompanied by a voluntary planning agreement;

● DAs seeking to depart by more than 10 per cent from a development standard; and

● applications associated with a higher risk of corruption (that is, residential flat buildings assessed under SEPP 65 and demolition of heritage items).

■ All meetings are open to the public.

■ Five independent Sydney Planning Panels make decisions about significant

development proposals in their region.

■ The projects they assess are valued over $30 million.

■ The panels also act as the relevant planning authority in some decisions when directed by the Minister for Planning or the Greater Sydney Commission, undertake rezoning reviews, and provide advice on planning and development matters when requested.