Evolution, not revolution: reforms proposed for the NSW planning system
Proposed changes to the planning system will impact developments in NSW. Anyone with a current or future development project or modification should consider seeking advice on the potential implications for their development and whether or not to lodge a public submission before 10 March 2017.
On 9 January 2017, the NSW Government announced broad changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (Planning Act). The Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes, outlined that the planning reforms seek to improve housing supply, target delays in processing development applications and provide consistent assessment pathways for major projects.
The extent of reform under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2017 (NSW) is not as comprehensive as the NSW Government's previous proposal, the now lapsed Planning Bill 2013 (NSW). However, the wide-ranging changes proposed for the Planning Act will impact on development applications and modifications in NSW.
Community participation and consultation
- Community participation plans: local councils, relevant NSW Government agencies and the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Planning will have to prepare a community participation plan that reflects the community participation principles to be set out in the Planning Act (unless this can be met through the community engagement strategy it has prepared under the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW)).
- Early consultation: provisions of the Planning Act will be refined to clarify that regulations may be made to encourage or require certain activities to be performed before lodgement of a development or modification application. Providing incentives for early consultation will be explored by the Department. State significant development (SSD) proponents will have to demonstrate community consultation prior to lodgement as part of an environmental impact statement.
- Local strategic planning: to fill the gap in the strategic planning hierarchy, local councils will be required to development local strategic planning statements that provide strategic context and reasoning for local planning controls and take a 20 year horizon consistent with regional and district plans. These statements are intended to inform rezoning decisions and guide development.
- Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs): provisions in the Planning Act for IHAPs will be updated and bring existing and future IHAPs created by local councils under one framework. The Minister for Planning will be given the power to direct a local council to appoint a IHAP where it is reasonable to improve the quality and timing of decisions or manage conflicts of interest or corruption.
- Local environmental plan (LEP) reviews: local councils will be required to review LEPs every five years for consistency with strategic plans, State environmental planning policies, local demographics and other matters.
- Development control plans (DCPs) consistency: currently there are over 400 DCPs across NSW which vary significantly in structure and content. DCPs will now be required to follow a standard format that will be developed in consultation with local councils and model DCP provisions will be developed for use on an optional basis.
- Voluntary planning agreements (VPAs): the Bill will refine and strengthen the Minister for Planning's power to make a direction in respect of the methodology to be used in a VPA. Further improvements to the policy framework for VPAs are currently on public exhibition until 27 January 2017, including a draft ministerial direction, revised practice note and planning circular.
The public consultation period for the Bill closes on 10 March 2017. Anyone with a current or future development project or modification should consider whether to seek advice on the potential impacts of the proposed reforms and whether or not to lodge a submission.
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