Under pressure from Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury, the Labor government has agreed to change its controversial "call-in" powers to require community consultation before the planning minister calls in big projects.
Call-in powers have proved one of the most controversial aspects of the city's planning system, allowing the planning minister to "call in" major projects and approve them, bypassing the normal planning process.
The power was used most recently by Simon Corbell to approve the controversial Brumbies' 131-unit housing development in Griffith and the Royalla solar farm near Tuggeranong.
Labor rejected a stronger regime put by Mr Rattenbury that would have banned the use of call-in powers unless the developer had consulted the community before lodging a development application.
Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said that would have given a developer too much control over the use of call-in powers by choosing not to consult. It wouldn't allow the minister the freedom to call in and refuse an application in the public interest, if community consultation hadn't taken place first, he said.
Instead, the government agreed to a new provision that the minister must be satisfied that consultation has been sufficient and appropriate before using his call-in powers. He must also be satisfied there was sufficient public awareness of the proposal and will be able to require more consultation.
The Liberals supported the legislation, but planning spokesman Alistair Coe said it would change little, given that it would be up to the minister to determine what constituted adequate consultation, and community consultation was already required in most circumstances in any case.
Mr Rattenbury welcomed the legislation as a step forward, saying he had been long concerned that call-in powers were used to circumvent public discussion and get around community opposition. He was encouraged by Mr Coe's enthusiasm for stronger steps and would look at other changes to planning law that he could push through the Assembly with the Liberals' support, he said.
The Greens would take a policy to the 2016 election giving the Assembly the power to veto ministerial call-in decisions.