Planning Minister Rob Stokes has announced proposed amendments to the NSW planning system to be implemented by the end of 2016. The amendments are intended to create a “simpler, faster and more inclusive assessment process”. Key aspects of the proposed amendments that the government is exploring include:
- Pre-DA consultation with neighbours: requiring home owners and developers to consult with neighbours on plans before lodging them with council.
- Infrastructure contributions: potential mechanisms to ensure that the costs of key growth infrastructure for State and local government are appropriately linked to new development and efficiently funded and delivered.
- Streamlining environmental assessment: potentially reducing duplication and delay when referral of DAs to multiple NSW Government agencies is required, and improving the transparency around how NSW agencies participate in planning decisions.
- State significant projects: potentially integrating other licenses with development consent conditions for State significant development (SSD).
- Transitional Part 3As: removing transitional Part 3A projects from the system, including modifications.
- Enforcement and reporting: Government is considering how reporting can be enhanced to be more outcomes-based.
- Review of State Environmental Planning Policies: the NSW Government is reviewing the current SEPPs.
The proposed amendments are also intended to include a number of outstanding aspects of the former White Paper and Planning Bill 2013 that received widespread support. These include:
- Development pathways: clearly stating the different development pathways and consent authorities
under the planning legislation.
- Environmental assessment: clarifying and streamlining the environmental assessment provisions, including the incorporation of State significant infrastructure into Part 5 of the Act.
- Reviews and appeals: consolidating provisions into a single new part of the Act.
- Administration: standardising provisions relating to the administration of the Act, including those relating to the Minister, the Secretary, the Planning Assessment Commission and other planning bodies.
- Language and accessibility: improving the structure and language of the Act so that it is easier to understand, follow and apply.
SOME THINGS ARE MISSING:
The Minister has made it clear that there are certain aspects of the 2012/2013 reforms that will not be revisited at this time, most notably including ‘code assessable development’ – a streamlined, fast-track assessment pathway for developments that comply with controls previously agreed to by the community. Some positive aspects of the 2012/2013 reforms that have not been mentioned include:
- A shift to fewer, broader land use zones in LEPs, which would result in less legalities and more meritbased decision making;
- A mandatory “amber light” approach, requiring councils to encourage a proponent to modify a development instead of refusing the DA before giving the proponent this chance; and
- “variation certificates” for complying development to permit a variation from the Codes SEPP where
this is well justified.
The NSW Government will be running stakeholder advisory forums across the State with councils, groups, industry and peak bodies.