On 9 January this year the Minister for Planning (Minister) released a summary of proposals and a public consultation draft of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2017 (draft Bill) in order to update the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act).
The proposed amendments seek to promote confidence in the New South Wales planning system and ensure the future growth across State is carefully planned. The proposals are grouped into four underlying themes.
This article provides a high level overview of the proposed changes within each of those themes.
1. Community participation
The Government intends to enhance community involvement in the key decisions that shape New South Wales’ cities, towns and neighbourhoods. Under the changes, planning authorities will be required to prepare community participation plans, having regard to community participation principles. Decision-makers will also be required to give reasons for their decisions. Applicants for State significant development will have to demonstrate in their environmental impact assessment that they have consulted with the community prior to lodging their application.
2. Strategic planning and better outcomes
The continued improvement of upfront strategic planning will guide future growth and development. Councils will be required to develop and publish local strategic planning statements setting out a 20-year vision for their local government area and undertake a five-yearly local environmental plan check against set criteria. Development control plans will need to follow a standard format to improve consistency across local councils.
3. Probity and accountability in decisions
The improvement of transparency, balance and expertise in decision-making will increase confidence and trust in the planning system. New conditioning powers would enable monitoring and environmental audit conditions to be imposed or varied after project approval is given.
Conditions could also be imposed to require a bank guarantee, bond or other form of security to guarantee funding for or towards the carrying out of works or programs required by the consent.
Development consents may be granted subject to conditions that cease to have effect on the issue of an authorisation under another act (where the subject matter regulated by those conditions is adequately addressed by the subsequent authorisation).
To reflect the independent nature of the Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC), changes will be made to its name and function. Under the changes the PAC will be renamed the Independent Planning Commission. Provisions will also be introduced to enable the establishment of local planning panels to exercise consent authority functions of councils.
In addition, model codes of conduct for planning bodies will be developed and the thresholds for regional development will be revised.
The Minister has also said that new transitional arrangements will be introduced to discontinue Part 3A and require certain existing project approvals to be modified under section 96 of the EP&A Act (for more information on the proposed transitional arrangements see the article Time is running out for Part 3A modifications).
4. Simpler, faster planning
The Government has said that it is committed to creating a system that is easier to understand, navigate, and use, with better information and intuitive online processes.
Under the proposals, the Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment (Department) will be given the power to prevent delays and resolve conflict between agencies.
The Department will also play a leadership role in the system, whilst creating an electronic system to digitise the Department’s transactional elements. The proposed amendments seek to improve the responsiveness and efficiency of conditions of consent for State significant development.
The provisions relating to building and subdivision are to be consolidated into a single part to be administered by the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation. As part of these changes, certifiers will be able to impose conditions on construction certificates. The Government is also proposing to amend the EP&A Act to re-establish the primacy of the development consent and overcome the decision of the Court of Appeal in Burwood Council v Ralan Burwood Pty Ltd (No 3)  NSWCA 404.
Further information about the updates
In future Weekly Brief articles, we will look in more detail at some of the proposed changes.
Stakeholders, interested community groups and individuals are encouraged to review the reforms and respond to the Department before 10 March 2017.
Copies of the summary of proposals and the public consultation draft Bill can be found here.
If you need any assistance with preparing a submission, our Planning and Environment team are happy to assist.
Joseph Monaghan, Partner
T: +61 3 9321 9857
Breellen Warry, Partner
T: +61 2 8083 0420
Peter Holt, Special Counsel
T: +61 2 8083 0421
Gerard Timbs, Partner
T: +61 7 3135 0644
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.