June 12 marked another significant step forward the state's first Special Activation Precinct, with the release of the final master plan for the Parkes site.
"We can't underestimate how big this is going to be for Parkes and for our children and grandchildren," Cr Neil Westcott said during Parkes Shire Council's June meeting, in response to the plan.
Along with the master plan, a new planning framework for the delivery of the precinct was also developed and approved by the NSW Government.
"This is a great day for regional NSW - the master plan for the Parkes Special Activation Precinct proves that it is possible to balance job creation and investment attraction, with looking after important environmental and community priorities," Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, John Barilaro said when announcing the news.
"This new planning tool sets the framework for future precincts.
"The Parkes precinct will support economic and business growth across the Central West, and it is all thanks to the $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund."
The final plan follows 16 months of identifying a vision, planning, studies involving technical experts, designing, and community and stakeholder consultation.
The draft master plan was finalised last September, released on public exhibition in October and returned 34 submissions - many in support of the precinct, though a number of applicants expressed their concerns.
The Parkes precinct master plan covers 4800 hectares of land - located a few kilometres west of the town, its land uses and approval processes for investors.
It still includes six sub-precincts in its structure plan - Parkes/Regional Enterprise, Intensive Livestock Agriculture, Resource Recovery and Recycling, Solar, Mixed Enterprise and Commercial Gateway.
"We are making it easier to do business in Parkes by setting out all planning and environmental requirements upfront - this will reduce delays, save money, and give greater certainty to investors," Mr Barilaro said.
"The master plan also sets out a long-term vision for the Parkes precinct, with up to 3000 jobs coming from freight and logistics, resource recovery, and value-added agriculture."
The new planning framework was developed following the outcomes of technical studies and stakeholder engagement, and has been summarised by six features in the final master plan.
The framework will include the sub-precinct approach, as well as a new Regional Enterprise Zone - a flexible land use zone allowing a wide range of employment and industrial uses in the area around the Inland Rail port.
It plans to retain vegetation and as many trees as possible; aims to support the town centre and local businesses and not compete with them; and will have a 'Connection to Country' - a plan to protect and respond to the site's landscape values and places of significance.
And it will be a 'green' place to do business, setting targets for Parkes to become Australia's first Eco-Industrial precinct built on the UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) framework.
UNIDO is a specialised agency of the United Nations that assists countries in economic and industrial development.
"The precinct will focus on sustainability and will be Australia's first UNIDO Eco-Industrial Park - where a community of businesses work together to achieve enhanced environmental, economic and social performance, which in turn offers companies a competitive advantage through a circular economy and onsite energy-generation," Mr Barilaro said.
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has worked in partnership with Parkes Shire Council and consulted with relevant government agencies to develop guiding principles for the Parkes Special Activation Precinct Master Plan.
These principles, the master plan reads, underpin the planning for the activation precinct and will be considered in the assessment of applications for Activation Certificates and development consent.
"The Parkes Special Activation Precinct will be the most connected regional hub in Australia," the master plan says.
"As Australia's premier inland port, the Parkes Special Activation Precinct will service the distribution of products nationally and internationally through connected and world class infrastructure."
Council has welcomed the news, describing the release of the final plan a "very historic epoch for Parkes and the greater region" at its June 23 meeting.
Cr Alan Ward was elated by the development saying "this is a vision of Parkes Shire Council now for decades and I think it's quite exciting for us to be able to get to the very next stage".
"It's like a green light. Instead of it being a concept, it is now a reality," he said.
The Parkes Special Activation Precinct master plan and new planning framework - State Environmental Planning Policy (Activation Precincts) 2020 - can be viewed here.
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