09 May 2013

One policy to rule them all: Queensland's single State Planning Policy

by Kathryn Pacey, Ian Motti

Although existing development applications will continue to be assessed under the existing policies, the Single SPP will be relevant for development applications that have not been decided when it commences.

The Queensland Government has released the draft single State Planning Policy (Single SPP) for public consultation, with submissions closing on 12 June 2013. The Single SPP aims to simplify and clarify the State's interests in the planning and development system by replacing the current individual state planning policies, with one single, comprehensive policy.

The Single SPP is stated to be a key framework of the State Government's planning reform in Queensland, which together with the introduction of the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA), is intended to lead to greater certainty, fewer unnecessary delays and better planning outcomes. The Single SPP is intended to express the State’s interest in planning and development in one document, and encourage flexible, innovative and locally appropriate approaches to planning.

Queensland's current system of State Planning Policies

A State Planning Policy (SPP) is a State planning instrument made by the Government under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA) and sets out the State's policies on matters of State interest. A SPP is a statutory instrument, and applies throughout the State unless it specifies otherwise.

SPPs must be reflected in a local government planning schemes, and until this occurs, are used in the planning and development assessment and decision processes by concurrence agencies and assessment managers (for impact assessment) under SPA. A SPP prevails over a local government's planning scheme to the extent of any inconsistency.

There are currently 12 SPPs and 1 temporary SPP in effect in Queensland. These cover a range of individual state interests including, strategic cropping land (SCL), good quality agricultural land (GQAL), wetlands of high ecological significance in Great Barrier Reef catchments and the conservation of koala populations in South East Queensland.

Temporary SPP 2/12 – Planning for Prosperity is also currently in effect and foreshadows many of the themes expanded upon in the Single SPP.

The Single SPP

The Single SPP addresses 18 State interests, grouped under five themes:

  • housing and liveable communities: amenity and community wellbeing; land development and housing supply;
  • economic growth: agriculture; development and construction; mining and extractive resources; tourism;
  • environment and heritage: biodiversity; coastal environment; cultural heritage; healthy waters;
  • hazards and safety: air, noise and other emissions; hazardous materials; natural hazards; and
  • transport and infrastructure: State infrastructure and services; State transport infrastructure and networks; strategic airports and aviation facilities; strategic ports; water supply catchments and infrastructure.

The Single SPP identifies principles and implementation strategies relating to each State interest, which a local government must have regard to when making or amending planning schemes.

The Single SPP is supported by a number of guidelines and mapping products, some of which are still under development and not available for consultation. The guidelines contain a mixture of mandatory and guidance information. In considering how the SPP is to be reflected in a planning scheme, or considered through development assessment, those guidelines should be considered by proponents.

The Single SPP provides that even though some developments are not regulated by SPA (eg. mining), due regard and construction should be given to state and local planning instruments, including the SPP and regional plans. This statement will need to be considered in the context of the decision making criteria of the relevant legislation.

The Single SPP has a heavy focus on protection of the integrity of the intent of zones, and reducing the level of assessment to the extent appropriate for the appropriate zone (eg. industrial and commercial uses are to have the lowest appropriate level of assessment in industry and commercial zones).

The Single SPP sets out planning requirements for economically significant industries, most of which are identified through accompanying mapping, including agricultural land, areas that are identified as having valuable mineral, petroleum and coal resources, tourism assets and values and industrial land uses. A heavy focus of the Single SPP is on considering whether the proposed development can co-exist with economically important industries, and protection of the integrity of economically important industry.

The Single SPP also provides development assessment considerations for environmental and cultural protection areas, including biodiversity (including strategic offset areas), development in the coastal zone and cultural heritage areas.

Significantly, the existing SPP1/03: Mitigating the Adverse Impacts of Flood, Bushfire and Landslide, which was the subject of a number of recommendations from the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry, is also incorporated into the Single SPP.

The Single SPP requires detailed consideration of natural hazards, and incorporates “mandatory requirements” which specify mandatory features of each policy element that are required to be incorporated in planning instruments, including requirements for flood hazard mapping.

Application of the State interests

Once commenced, the Single SPP will need to be applied:

  • by local governments when making or amending their local planning schemes; and assessing impact assessable development applications, where a planning scheme has not been amended to reflect the SPP;
  • by a concurrence agency, within the limits of its jurisdiction (although the Single SPP assumes that SARA is in effect, and consolidates all concurrence agency roles);
  • by a Minister of the State when designating land for community infrastructure under SPA; and
  • by the State when making or amending a regional plan.

Where there is a conflict between State interests, the Single SPP provides that consideration needs to be given to a resolution that best achieves and advances the purpose of SPA. The Single SPP sets out three objectives as a guide to manage competing interests and priorities:

  • the State interests must be considered in their entirety;
  • innovative and locally appropriate solutions must be supported; and
  • local governments must be empowered and supported to make the best planning decisions for their communities.

In addition to these three objectives, the Single SPP recognises that there may be sufficient grounds to depart from a provision relating to a State interest where there is an overriding need in the public interest, to do so. Overriding need may arise if:

1. the overall social, economic or environmental benefits of the development or decision outweigh:

(a) any overall detrimental effect upon the social, economic or environmental values of the land and adjacent areas; and

(b) the development or decision advances the purpose of SPA and the principles outlined in the Single SPP;

2. the development cannot reasonably be located elsewhere so as to avoid conflict.

Coastal protection

In addition to the Single SPP, the State Government's Coastal Protection State Planning Regulatory Provision (Coastal SPRP) came into effect on 26 April 2013.

The Coastal SPRP suspends the operation of SPP 3/11: Coastal Protection. Properly made development applications made on or after 26 April 2013 are to be assessed against the development assessment provisions contained in the Coastal SPRP.

The Coastal SPRP is intended to be in effect until the Single SPP commences later in 2013.


Although existing development applications will continue to be assessed under the existing policies, the Single SPP will be relevant for development applications that have not been decided when it commences.

As a number of local governments are currently in the process of amending and making new planning schemes, the Single SPP will need to be considered through that process. Development assessment will be simplified to some extent where the Single SPP is noted as appropriately reflected in the planning scheme.

It is expected that the Single SPP will be finalised in the latter half of this year.


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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.