Australia

Councils to tap into $250m pool for public spaces

Sydney councils will each be eligible for up to $5.5 million in funding for parklands, town squares and main streets under a state government scheme aimed at speeding up development assessments for projects that boost jobs and housing.

The $250 million funding program is a further attempt by the NSW government to stimulate economic activity and ensure a pipeline of construction projects amid a severe slowdown sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said councils that fast-tracked assessments of job-creating projects would be given incentives through funding of up to $5.5 million each to spend on upgrading public domains under the state's public spaces legacy program.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes.Credit:Jessica Hromas

It comes as the government has pushed through determinations for 67 planning proposals and projects worth $17.7 billion, including schools and housing, across the state since the pandemic struck in March. A further 13 projects are due to be decided upon by mid-August after their assessment was sped up.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the government was helping councils to prioritise local planning projects that would boost jobs and investment in their communities with the $250 million incentive.

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"We want councils to think big and bold and deliver legacy projects – new parks, new walking trails, more walkable and inviting streets and open spaces for their communities," he said.

One of the criteria for councils to be eligible for the funding is that they use the government's e-planning system that allows development applications to be lodged online. All councils in greater Sydney have been required to use e-planning since last month.

Local Government NSW president Linda Scott welcomed the state government’s commitment to a locally-led economic recovery by supporting councils to extend and fast-track their existing infrastructure for the public good.

"Council budgets are under pressure from the pandemic yet we all understand the benefits investing in local parks, cycle paths and new community facilities can have," she said.

Sydneysiders have flocked to parks and other public spaces since the pandemic struck, underscoring the importance of ensuring adequate parklands in Australia's most-populated city.

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