REFORM – Again??

On By pn in Improve Your Planning IQ

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.

NEXT STEPS
The NSW Government will be running stakeholder advisory forums across the State with councils, groups, industry and peak bodies.