Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning and Local Government, Vickie Chapman MP, has written to FOCUS in response to correspondence sent to her on 1 November 2020, from the President of FOCUS, Philip Henschke. It relates to the Planning and Design code current being developed by the Marshall Government in South Australia.

This response letter dated 24 November 2020 can be downloaded,

You have received and hopefully read our President’s report around the time of our Nov 10 AGM. You would thereby know of Warren Jones’s decision to step down from his impressive leadership role. Unlike our US friends the FOCUS Presidential election was free of rancour and legal dispute. As sole nominee and eligible I was elected unopposed.

First, I briefly introduce myself before repeating elements of my tribute to Warren at the AGM (no thunder and lightning accompaniments).

I have lived in Unley since purchasing our Fisher St villa in 1973. Our three daughters could almost see the Unley Rd bus stop for their city secondary school travel. I also had a relatively painless commute to the Repatriation General and Flinders Medical Centre until retiring in 2010. I now additionally enjoy crisscrossing the Council area as a recreational and commuting cyclist.

My link with FOCUS began with our inaugural President and continuing committee member Ros Islip asking me to join the group when Unley was challenged by inappropriate high rise developments.

Unley residents within and beyond FOCUS know of Warren’s impressive advocacy in pressuring politicians on both sides of the divide over planning shortcomings in health services.

Warren continues to tackle Health ministers and bureaucrats in media, print and face to face to secure improved health services in our State hospital system, currently the Women’s and Children’s being the main issue.

Warren has not only led FOCUS in addressing shortcomings in the Planning and Design Code but applied his detailed knowledge of matters therein to being Convenor of a Statewide Protect our Heritage Alliance. FOCUS under Warren’s presidency has linked with a range of groups and individuals to educate citizens on the links between climate control and our living environment. We thank you Warren.

As Barry Jones says in his latest book “What’s to be done”. To effect change in these complex areas governments are too often found wanting. He calls on voters to engage, engage engage with our leaders. FOCUS provides one platform for your engagement


Philip Henschke
President FOCUS

(Tuesday 10th November 2020)

This has been a most unusual year. But your Committee of Management has remained active and engaged.

A major interest has been the Government’s proposed new planning system, promulgated as the draft Planning and Design Code. Along with other community groups and key organisations FOCUS has engaged with the Protect our Heritage Alliance in a campaign to modify the harmful effects of the Code on heritage and our built and natural environment. To this end, we supported a Petition of 14,000 signatures calling on the Parliament to defer, review and repair the Code.

The Committee has participated in regular quarterly meetings with Hon David Pisoni MP and with Unley Mayor Michael Hewitson and CEO Peter Tsokas and Council officers. We have engaged with Council and Elected Members on issues such as the Planning and Design code, the Tree Strategy, the Village Green project, Unley Oval and the Julia Farr Centre Site.

The FOCUS Constitution has been revised and updated.

We have supported the Unley Bicycle Users Group, participated in Council workshops and monitored the activities of the Council Assessment Panel.
On behalf of our members, the Committee has protested the increase in crowded infill and the regular loss of private trees.

We have been particularly concerned about the ugly and inappropriate developments at Culross Ave and Fullarton Rd, Norman Tce and Third Ave, Everard Park, and the high rise at 246 Unley Rd.

A public highlight of our year was the lecture on Biodiversity presented to an overflowing audience by Chris Daniels, Director, Cleland Wild Life Park.

With the launch of our new FOCUS brochure we plan to embark on a membership drive. Now, more than ever, we need community support in maintaining and enhancing the amenity of the City of Unley.

I wish to thank my tireless Committee of Management and the many friends and supporters who have made my time as President a pleasant privilege.

Warren Jones AO

on the Planning and Design Code

Dear Supporter and Concerned Member of the Community,

The convoluted and unsatisfactory process enveloping the Government’s proposed Planning and Design Code is entering its end game. After a prolonged period of sham ‘consultation’, endless complicated and confusing Reports and rolling delays, Phase 3 of the Code looks like being implemented in metropolitan Adelaide and regional cities the New Year, perhaps as early as March.

In the meantime the already ‘activated’ Phase 2 (rural) Code in regional South Australia has been unsatisfactory and will be subject to further review. It is not clear whether community feedback will be part of this process.

However, it has been announced that another, close to definitive, version of the Phase 3 Code will be released shortly for public consultation and feedback. This second and final chance consultation will be a vital test of the credibility of the State Planning Commission in finally meeting public demand for genuine and meaningful engagement on this important policy document.

Unfortunately there are indications that this final consultation may once again fail to meet the standards for public consultation in the Planning, Development an Infrastructure Act and the Community Engagement Charter, further disenfranchising the community from meaningful participation.

I also understand that this, supposedly ‘final’ version of the Code will still be incomplete, and feedback will only be entertained on components that have been modified in the last version, and not on the whole document.

This means that any of the many of the original mistakes, errors and unacceptable components that have survived into this iteration cannot be identified and corrected.

There are many reasons to doubt the genuineness and effectiveness of this forthcoming and possibly final opportunity for public review and feedback.

New Planning Minister Vickie Chapman has shown a willingness to listen to community feedback. Therefore I urge and invite you to download the attached Open Letter signed by 18 community organisations about the need for genuine public consultation on the Planning and Design Code and send to her via email to bragg@parliament.sa.gov.au and also to your local State MP.

Thank you for your support. This may be our last chance to influence the final version of the Code and shape the future of our urban environment, trees and heritage.
Yours Sincerely

Warren Jones AO


Write to your local MP and tell them that the community expects a genuine consultation on the final draft version of the Planning and Design Code before it is implemented in metropolitan areas.

Download a list of State MP contacts

Professor Warren Jones AO is the Convenor of the Protect our Heritage Alliance, a coalition of concerned organisations and individuals, working to protect our built and natural environment. GPO Box 2021 Adelaide, SA 5001

Phone: 0419 852 622
Email: convenor@protectourheritage.org.au
Facebook: protectourheritageSA

The illusory promise of trees, greening, open space and car parking management in urban infill, and the fudged and false reassurance about the protection of Contributory Items.

Urban Infill Paradise?

There is no doubt that the spin from the State Planning Commission (SPC) and the Department of Planning is becoming more refined and, even, sophisticated.

It is a pity that more effort is not put into making the Code workable and acceptable rather than trying to justify and promote the ongoing mess it is creating.

The latest document ‘Raising the bar on Residential Infill in the Planning and Design Code’ and its accompanying letter from the SPC Chair view the latest proposals around urban infill through rose-tinted glasses.

The original basic criteria for trees, greening, open space, parking, street ‘appeal’ and water management have been embellished with the addition of illusory promises and un- enforceable pseudo-regulations.

There is liberal and disturbing use of the terms ‘deemed to satisfy’, ‘performance outcome’ and ‘performance assessed’ which are code for flexible interpretation of the ‘provisions’ and an invitation to owners and developers to do what they like.

Contributory Item Confusion

A key element of the Planning and Design Code is the failure to transition Contributory Items (CIs) to any sort of identifiable protected status.
CIs are typically part of a group of buildings of historical importance that contribute to the character of an area. The vast majority lie in Historic Conservation Zones or their proposed counterpart, Historic Area Overlays.

Councils have been encouraged to re-designate CIs as Local Heritage, to give them some degree of protection. This will happen for only a minority of Cis.

The remaining large majority will lose whatever specific protections currently exist for these places. This is not clear in the information promulgated by the SPC….to MPs, Councils and the community.

The vague and confusing Historic Area Statements proposed in the Code offer no reassurance of robust protection for CIs.

The, albeit weak, demolition controls protecting Heritage Items do not apply to CIs, but this is not readily apparent in the contrived and misleading verbiage we are fed by the Planning bureaucracy.

This is Planning Policy ‘On the Run’

We must remain suspicious and sceptical about the motivation and process of the SPC as it tries to patch up the mess it has created.

What is happening now is expedient policy making ‘on the run’. It is eight months since the unsuccessful ‘consultation’ process concluded. There has been no further public consultation on the Planning and Design Code since then.

Now we are seeing new, more fanciful and unhelpful reports and documents appearing, in what appears to be a new strategy of the SPC to debate its ill-formed policies in the public arena.

This circuitous process must be brought to an end. The failures, shortcomings and budgetary problems surrounding the Code and the associated e-planning systems must be exposed to the light of day.

What is needed is a strong political directive to defer, consult, correct and repair the damaged Code in order to find a way forward.

A key starting point will be the institution of a new and genuine consultation process which will establish the imperatives for the, eventual, creation of a workable and broadly acceptable Code.

Professor Warren Jones AO is the Convenor of the Protect our Heritage Alliance, a coalition of concerned organisations and individuals, working to protect our built and natural environment.

Phone: 0419 852 622

Email: convenor@protectourheritage.org.au


The new Planning Minister Vickie Chapman has publicly stated that she is prepared to review some of the many problems with the Planning and Design Code, and to delay its implementation.

We now have a window of opportunity to capitalise on this delay and convince the Government that this flawed and unpopular attempt at planning reform is attracting increased community attention, and may threaten their re-election prospects.

I urge you, again, to write to your local MPs and to members of the Upper House (list of MPs)

In response to many requests, I also attach a draft Letter for this purpose which you may chose to use as it is, or to use it to inform your own words.

Letters to our politicians need not be long and they can be repetitious. The main thing is to communicate so that an extensive correspondence is generated and logged in their parliamentary and electoral offices.

With Best Regards
Warren Jones AO

Dear Supporter and Concerned member of the community,

We now have an opportunity to divert the course of the deeply flawed Planning and Design Code into a new phase of genuine consultation, review and amendment.

If there was ever a need for a review of the damaging activities of the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP), it can be seen in two recent decisions which unashamedly favour developers over heritage and responsible urban planning.

The approval of a  17 storey motel in Wright St will see the effective destruction of a row of bluestone cottages with the unsatisfactory retention of the façade.

The second Adelaide City Council approval is for a 21 storey glass-clad hotel at the former Bank of Adelaide site on Pirie St and will involve the complete removal of the heritage listed 1920’s former bank building (below).

Both properties slated for demolition are local heritage listed.  The proposed developments have been criticised by the State Government Architect.   The cautionary aspect of these decisions is that, within the City of Adelaide, application approvals can bypass heritage and height criteria in the name of the designs being ‘merit based’.

The flexible interpretation of this meaningless definition means that SCAP can be complicit in aiding developers in flouting what should be immutable design criteria, if not regulations.  

This foreshadows what is ahead  across the metropolitan area if the Planning and Design code is implemented in its current form.  The development rules that have protected our heritage and urban amenity for decades will be ditched for an anything goes approach with unelected and unaccountable bodies such as SCAP making decisions that will impact everyone.

But the advent of new Planning Minister Vickie Chapman creates an opportunity to have the Code reassessed and amended.  I urge you to continue to keep up the pressure, by re-enforcing with her your concerns about the Code at her Bragg Electoral Office.

It seems clear that the Government has decided to take ultimate control of the new planning process out of the hands of an irresponsible bureaucracy which has created such a chaotic mess.   This could be a real circuit-breaker in our efforts to be heard.

As I have indicated previously, the other effective avenue for protest and change is the Parliamentary Legislative Review Committee as it considers the 14,000 signature Petition submitted by the Protect our Heritage Alliance. The LRC is now seeking written public submissions regarding the matters raised in the petition.

The Petition calls for further, but genuine, consultation on the Planning and Design Code, an examination of the governance of the State Planning Commission and SCAP to increase transparency and accountability and minimise conflicts of interest, and a review of the content and impact of the draft Code.   It also calls for the banning of donations to political parties by developers.

Your submissions should reference Petition No 2 (Protect our Heritage) and be sent to:  Matt Balfour, LRC Secretary  (Phone 8237 9415) Email:  seclrc@parliament.sa.gov.au

Your submissions on any aspect of the Petition and the Code will be accepted by the Committee by close of business on Monday 14 September.

Please make your views known.  This may be the last opportunity.

With Best Regards

Warren Jones AO

18 August 2020

Ask the Parliament to fix the planning mess.

We have reached a critical point in the fight to halt and defer the implementation of the flawed policy and process of the Government’s Planning and Design Code.

Even though the Phase 2 (rural) Code has already ‘gone live’, it is not too late to halt and review the whole process. This would mean deferring Phase 3 (metropolitan) for as long as it takes to review and repair it, and re-appraising the future of Phase 1 (remote) and Phase 2.

This prospect has now become feasible because of several recent developments.

The discredited Stephan Knoll has been replaced as Planning Minister by Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman, who has an encouragingly enlightened attitude to planning reform and heritage.

A news report last week confirmed the unreadiness of the Code for implementation and the concerns of the building industries at the prospect of dealing with unprepared, confusing and uncertain administrative processes for the assessment and approval of development applications.

There is now very real industrial, political and community pressure to delay any further moves to Code implementation until 2021.

We are aware that the Government, at last, has recognised the intransigent incompetence of the State Planning Commission and DPTI in creating such a mess of the Planning and Design Code.

With the advent of Vickie Chapman to the Planning Portfolio, there is an opportunity for Cabinet to break the damaging stranglehold of the bureaucracy on the planning system. We have hopes that this will lead, not only to implementation deferral, but to a constructive review of issues such as contributory items, zoning, block sizes, height allowances and
the protection of heritage, trees and open space.

We now also have another opportunity to influence the political process through the Parliament’s Legislative Review Committee (LRC) which is considering the 14,000 signature Protect our Heritage Petition, which many of you signed earlier in the year. The Petition calls on the Parliament to review the operation of the new Planning Act and the State Planning

Commission and to defer implementation of the Code pending genuine community consultation.

The LRC has now called for written public submissions for its consideration. This is your best chance to be heard by the Parliament and to prevent the further erosion of community rights, public accountability and protections for our environment and heritage.

Submissions close on 14 September 2020.

The LRC will Report in due course to the Minister who, in turn, must respond and report to Parliament.

We now have a gateway of opportunity to exert renewed influence on the planning process. This pressure must now be political. Cabinet has lost confidence in the planning bureaucracy, and the real battle now is for the hearts and minds of Government MPs whose political future is in increasing jeopardy.

Professor Warren Jones AO is the Convenor of the Protect our Heritage Alliance, a coalition of concerned organisations and individuals, working to protect our built and natural environment.

Phone: 0419 852 622

Email: convenor@protectourheritage.org.au



Time to pause and consult

Dear Supporter and Concerned member of the community,

The Phase 2 (rural) Planning and Design Code ‘went live’ on Friday 31 July 2020. This was despite clear and strident feedback from country Councils that they are unprepared, under- resourced and inadequately staffed to cope with the complex new system and its, still incomplete, e-planning platform.

This is all part of the unrestrained and damaging scramble by the State Planning Commission (SPC) and the Planning Department (DPTI) to impose a confusing and unworkable policy framework which will attempt to override long established and accepted planning practices specific to Council areas. The Government’s promise of a ‘one size fits all’ rationalisation of planning processes throughout the State is unrealistic and unacceptable to local communities.

A key part of the unrest and Code implementation pushback was generated by the short-term and inadequate consultation particularly with rural Councils and their communities. The statutory obligations of the Community Engagement Charter were ignored by the SPC. Community feedback was largely disregarded, and a Planning and Design Code that was mainly the brainchild of the development, construction and building industry is at risk of being foisted on a disenfranchised public.

And now, in the aftermath of the discrediting of former Minister Stephan Knoll, we have a new Planning Minister, Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman. On face value, this is a welcome development. New Minister Chapman has a background of an enlightened attitude to planning policy and heritage protection. She was one of the more strident of her Liberal colleagues, when in Opposition, to speak against John Rau’s Planning, Development and Infrastructure (2016) Act.

Given the mess she has now inherited and, which she must, by now, have discerned as a threat to Government-held city electorates, including hers, it is to be hoped that she will review and re-consider the future of the Code implementation process.

In the first instance we must urge her to defer the deployment of the Phase 3 (metropolitan) Code in accord with the wishes, not only of communities and key concerned organisations, but also of Industry bodies, who fear the chaos of a poorly planned and managed implementation. Secondly, we urge her to ensure that the community is now given a genuine opportunity to debate the sweeping changes being imposed by stealth through the Planning and Design Code.

The proposed new planning system was Labor’s baby, but the Liberal Government has inherited its rearing, although it is at the mercy of a bureaucratic nursemaid who, at present, holds sway over rational political oversight.

It is to be hoped that the new Minister will be able to break this nexus and set the process on a new path. I urge you to contact her at her Bragg Electoral Office to encourage her to heed and act on the concerns of a much neglected community voice.

With Best Regards

Warren Jones AO


Write to your local MP and ask for an independent review of the management and costs of the Planning & Design Code, before it progresses any further.

Download a list of State MP contacts

Professor Warren Jones AO is the Convenor of the Protect our Heritage Alliance, a coalition of concerned organisations and individuals, working to protect our built and natural environment. GPO Box 2021 Adelaide, SA 5001

Phone: 0419 852 622

Email: convenor@protectourheritage.org.au


Facebook: protectourheritageSA

24 July 2020

The SA State Planning Commission (SPC) was established in April 2017 as the, nominally independent, principal planning and administrative body for the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act (2016).

Three of the four current Members have links to the development industry. The Chair is associated with a development company, Housing Choices Australia, which has building interests in Adelaide, and is a client of the South Australian Government.

Understandably, there is an inherent public perception of conflict of interest in a system where developers dictate and monitor planning policy with such widespread implications for the wellbeing and lived amenity of all South Australians.

The property, building and development industries seem to have had an inordinate influence on the development of the draft Planning and Design Code, so it is no surprise that the Code favours their interests over those of other concerned stakeholders and local communities.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) has been front and centre in offering advice and courtesies to the Planning Minister, the SPC and the planning department. This peak development industry body provided the blueprint for the Code. It also brokered and fostered a study group tour of the UK involving government and industry representatives.

Even more insidious was the caution delivered by the UDIA to the SPC ‘…….that the Community Engagement Charter should not be relied on too heavily’…… in promoting community understanding of the new planning system. And this biased advice came from the Chair of the UDIA’s Infill Development and Urban Renewal Committee, himself a member of the SPC.

The transparency of the SPC can be called into question by an analysis of the status of agenda items in its meetings, particularly during the tenure of the current Chair.
Under the first Chair of the SPC (to August 2018) 17% of agenda items were designated as confidential. Under the current Chair (from October 2018 to present) this figure is 50%, and an alarming 63% this year.

It is hard to believe that two-thirds of SPC business is ‘commercial in confidence’, but, indeed, if that is the case, it raises questions about the major emphasis on private development and commercial interests in the planning system, at the expense of the rights of the community at large.

Looking back on this, so-called, planning reform, it has been a catalogue of bad policy, made worse by an attenuated, complicated and expensive process of system development and implementation that has bypassed the Community Engagement Charter. Worse still, the oversight of the Planning and Design Code has been tainted by concerns about conflicted interests, transparency and a lack of public accountability.

It is time for some independent scrutiny of the State Planning Commission and its growing secrecy and lack of transparency.

Professor Warren Jones AO is the Convenor of the Protect our Heritage Alliance, a coalition of concerned organisations and individuals, working to protect our built and natural environment.
Phone: 0419 852 622

Email: convenor@protectourheritage.org.au



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