Developers and local governments alike should note the recent introduction of a suite of changes to Queensland's planning framework. The changes, introduced as part of the Queensland Government's Economic Recovery Plan, are intended to reduce red tape, simplify planning processes and fast-track critical supplies needed in the community.
The changes are brought about by the Planning Legislation (Economic Recovery Measures & Other Matters) Amendment Regulation 2020 (Qld), which commenced on 11 September 2020. Specifically, the amending regulation:
- gives effect to a new version 1.3 of the Development Assessment Rules (DA Rules), which includes changes to public notice requirements for development applications;
- gives effect to a new version 1.1 of the Minister's Guidelines and Rules under the Planning Act 2016 (Qld) (MGR), which includes amended provisions relating to the delivery of critical infrastructure and the amendment process for local government infrastructure plans (LGIPs); and
- inserts a new part 8B under the Planning Regulation 2017 (Qld), providing for new "economic support instruments", which allow local governments to "opt-in" to enable reduced assessment requirements for certain types of development.
Changes to public notice requirements under the DA Rules
The new DA Rules include changed requirements for the design layout and publication of public notices for development applications.
The design layout changes apply to notices displayed at the premises and given to owners of adjoining lots. The new design layout, which is intended to make notices more reader-friendly, requires the use of:
- plain language, including "Have your say";
- certain symbols, signifying the street address, real property details, type of approval sought, application reference number and submission period for the proposed development; and
- a minimum of two images of the proposed development.
The DA Rules include a link to a downloadable template of the notice, including the symbols.
Furthermore, the DA Rules now specify that, where there is no hard copy local newspaper in the vicinity of a proposed development, a public notice may be published in an online local newspaper or on the relevant local government's website. This change was initially introduced on a temporary basis under the Planning (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020 (Qld), but has been made permanent in recognition that many local newspapers may not return to hard copy production.
Changes to infrastructure provisions under the MGR
The MGR have been amended to streamline the process for the making of Ministerial and local government infrastructure designations, to support the more efficient delivery of critical infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals.
The amendments to the MGR also clarify the process for amending LGIPs. This is intended to ensure that local governments are able to more effectively and frequently make updates to LGIPs to align with planning scheme amendments.
New "economic support instruments" under the Planning Regulation
A new chapter 8B of the Planning Regulation 2017 (Qld) deals with "economic support instruments". Under the new provisions, a local government may adopt (by resolution) an economic support instrument for its local government area, which will effectively reduce the assessment requirements for certain development, if satisfied that to do so will "support the State's economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 emergency".
The purpose of the economic support provisions is to reduce barriers to new businesses opening or existing businesses relocating or adapting to operational challenges. The instruments are directed towards reducing planning hurdles in situations where a particular type of development is reasonably anticipated and compatible with the relevant zone intent.
An economic support instrument may apply any of the following reduced assessment requirements to the local government area:
- reducing the level of assessment to code assessment for a material change of use that would ordinarily be impact assessable, if the proposed use is anticipated for the relevant zone (where anticipated uses are set out in Table 1 under s.68I of the Planning Regulation);
- prescribing building work which increases the gross floor area of an existing building by no more than 10% or 100m2, whichever is lesser, as accepted development, provided that it relates to an existing use identified for the relevant zone (in Table 1 in Schedule 6, part 1, section 1A of the Planning Regulation), is not carried out on or adjacent to a State or local heritage place, does not infringe any boundary setback requirements, and does not involve operational works for vegetation clearing or any reduction in parking or landscaping;
- prescribing certain material changes of use involving only existing buildings as accepted development, provided that only minor building work will occur and the proposed use is anticipated in the relevant zone (where anticipated uses are set out in Table 1 in schedule 6, part 1, section 7A of the Planning Regulation);
- prescribing material changes of use for home-based business in township and residential zones as accepted development, provided that no industry activity takes place and the business complies with the acoustic quality objectives in the Environmental Protection (Noise) Policy 2019 (Qld) during operating hours.
Economic support instruments, if adopted, will remain in place until 17 September 2021 or otherwise until revoked by resolution (whichever is earlier).