Posted on August 11, 2017 by Stuart Simington and Lindsay Taylor

ALERT: Consent authority functions for development of councillors of local councils abolished

The Environmental Planning and Assessment and Electoral Legislation Amendment (Planning Panels and Enforcement) Bill 2017 was passed by both Houses on 10 August 2017 (‘Bill‘).  Notably, the Bill will abolish the role of councillors of councils in the Greater Sydney region and the City of Wollongong in the determination of development applications. The same applies for any council in New South Wales that has an existing Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (‘IHAP‘) as at 1 September 2017.

The most important elements of the Bill (as discussed in this post) will commence imminently when the Bill receives assent from the Governor.

The Bill requires councils  in the Greater Sydney Region and the City of Wollongong to constitute a local planning panel by 1 March 2018.  Other councils may, but are not required, to do so. Where a council that is required to constitute a panel does not do so, the Minister can constitute the panel.

Once a local planning panel is constituted, the consent authority functions of the council in relation to development under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 may no longer be exercised by the councillors of the council concerned but instead are required to be exercised on behalf of the council by:

  • the local planning panel,
  • an officer or employee of the council as the delegate of the council, or
  • a regional panel

Local planning panels will have 4 members, being:

  • an independent chairperson approved by the Minister,
  • 2 other independent persons with relevant experience and approved by the Minister, and
  • a community representative.

If a council area is divided into wards, the community representative who sits on the local planning panel in relation to any matter will be the representative who, in the opinion of the chairperson, is most closely associated with the matter before the panel.

Councillors, property developers and real estate agents may not be members of panels.

The Minister is authorised to give directions on the development applications that are to be determined by a local planning panel.

Local planning panels will also have the function of advising on planning proposals  if such proposals are referred to the panel by the council or at the direction of the Minister.

Panel meetings must be conducted in public, will be recorded, and must be made publicly available. Panels will also be required to give written reasons for their decisions.

Existing IHAPs as at 1 September 2017 will be continued and taken to be local planning panels until 1 March 2018. The effect of this appears to be that upon that date (1 September), the councillors of any council with an existing IHAP will no longer be able to exercise consent authority functions for development.

The Bill also amends the Act and State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011 to change the general threshold for regional planning panels to exercise the consent authority functions of a council from development exceeding $20 million in capital investment value to development exceeding $30 million in capital investment value.

Further detail and analysis of the relevant implications of the Bill will be covered in a further post as soon as possible.

This Alert was prepared by Dr Lindsay Taylor and Stuart Simington.