Posted on May 25, 2011 by Frances Tse

Abolition of planning assessment panels and changes to planning administrator functions

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Maintenance of Local Government Development Consent Powers) Bill 2011 (Bill) has been introduced into the Parliament.

The Bill proposes to abolish planning assessment panels,  amend the functions of planning administrators and create an advisory body to be known as the Panel for the Review of Councils.

Currently, planning assessment panels and planning administrators can be appointed by the Minister to exercise planning functions of a council if, amongst other things, the Minister is of the opinion that the council has failed to comply with its obligations under the planning legislation, or is of the opinion that the performance of the council in dealing with planning and development matters is unsatisfactory.

Planning assessment panels have been created in a number of council areas in the past including Ku-ring-gai and Wagga Wagga.

The proposed Panel for the Review of Councils will be charged with the functions of:

  • to advise the Minister about the need to provide assistance to councils in the exercise of their prescribed planning functions, and
  • to advise the Minister about the need to appoint planning administrators for particular councils.

If the Minister subsequently proposes to appoint a planning administrator for a council, the Minister will need to notify the council of the proposed action and the council will have opportunity to make submissions to the Minister.

The Bill proposes that a planning administrator will not automatically exercise the functions of the council in respect of which it is appointed. Planning administrators are to:

  • provide advice to the council in relation to the exercise of certain prescribed planning functions, such as granting or refusing development consents, and imposing or modifying conditions of consent, and
  • assist the council in making improvements to its governance and to the process by which it exercises its prescribed planning functions.

Only if the planning administrator is of the opinion that a council has exercised its prescribed planning functions in a manner that fails to comply with the council’s obligations under the planning legislation, or in a manner that is not in the best interests of the community, will the planning administrator be able to reverse the council’s exercise of its prescribed planning function and exercise that function in the place of the council.

Updates on the progress of the Bill through the Parliament will follow.