Posted on February 5, 2013 by Lindsay Taylor

Feedback on Green Paper planning reform proposals

The Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DoPI) has published a Feedback Summary relating to community and stakeholder consultation it recently undertook on the planning reform proposals contained in A New Planning System for New South Wales – Green Paper.

The Feedback Summary states that the DoPI received a total of 1220 submissions. Of those, 47% were neutral and did not state support or opposition to the proposed reforms, 28% indicated support but with qualifications, 6% indicated unqualified support and 19% did not support the reforms.

An overview of the feedback covering key issues and stakeholder comments is provided below.

Community participation

This issue encompasses the reforms concerning a proposed Public Participation Charter, strategic community participation, transparency in decision making and information technology and e-planning.

The Feedback Summary indicates that:

  • there is strong support for the concept of a Public Participation Charter, although local councils indicate a need for further details and flexibility in its approach,
  • community groups and councils are of the view that the Charter should have statutory force whereas  other stakeholders, such as the NSW Minerals Council and Rio Tinto, are of the view that that the Charter should not be statutory,
  • community groups and local councils agree that community engagement in decision making is essential at the individual development assessment as well as the strategic planning  stage,
  • local councils have raised funding and resourcing issues in enabling community engagement in early stages of strategic planning and in developing and implementing better information technology tools to promote community participation.

Strategic focus

This issue encompasses the reforms involving proposed NSW Planning Policies, Regional Growth Plans, Subregional Delivery Plans, Local Land Use Plans and New Zones.

The Feedback Summary indicates that:

  • a number of submissions argue that the formal hierarchy of plans need to be spelled out more clearly,
  • many submissions express support for the cascading of NSW planning policies and note that effective planning at the regional and subregional scale has been lacking,
  • submissions from environmental groups argue that all strategic plans should integrate environmental outcomes and natural resource management,
  • some submissions have questioned the legal status of the policies,
  • there is support for Regional Growth Plans in particular the intent to ensure that they are integrated with infrastructure delivery at the local level,
  • many submissions express support for Subregional Delivery Plans,
  • local councils have emphasised the need for further details on the role of Local Land Use Plans and how they interact with existing LEPs, DCPs and current local strategic plans,
  • there is agreement in many submissions that Local Land Use Plans should be prepared by local government,
  • there are differing views on the proposed Enterprise Zones,
  • a number of submissions express support for the proposed Suburban Character Zone.

Streamlined approval

This issue encompasses the reforms involving depoliticised decision making, strategic compliance, streamlined state significant assessment, smarter and timely merit assessment, increasing code assessment and extended reviews and appeals.

The Feedback Summary indicates that:

  • there are differing views about depoliticised decision making with some of the community and local governments opposing the proposal and some supporting it,
  • a number of submissions express support for the principle of streamlined assessment. However there are mixed views in relation to use of Strategic Compatibility Certificates with some in the private planning sector supporting use of the Certificates and environmental groups and local government not supporting it,
  • many submissions express support for proposed reforms to State significant development. However some community submissions want assurance that the Government won’t tip the balance too far towards development interests,
  • many submissions support the focus on smarter and more timely merit assessment with requirements matching the level of risk,
  • there are mixed views on the amber light approach with some supporting the concept and some concerned of the risk and liability to consent authorities,
  • there are mixed views in relation to the use of independent experts and Joint Regional Planning Panels in the assessment and approval process with community groups expressing concern for this proposal and the private planning sector and businesses expressing support,
  • there are also mixed views on the proposal to increase code assessment with local government and community groups raising concern for this proposal and the private planning sector and businesses expressing support,
  • there are mixed views on the issue of extended reviews and appeals and while the Green Paper did not propose changes to appeal rights for merit based assessment, a number of submissions have encouraged the Government to address this issue.
  • in relation to review of gateway decisions, the private planning sector and businesses generally support this proposal but local government and environmental groups generally do not.

Provision of infrastructure

This issue encompasses the reforms involving contestable infrastructure, Growth Infrastructure Plans, affordable infrastructure contributions, policy priority infrastructure.

The Feedback Summary indicates that:

  • there is support for increased use of contestable infrastructure,
  • many submissions support the development of Growth Infrastructure Plans to ensure government agencies deliver on infrastructure in high growth areas. There is support for those plans being development in conjunction with subregional delivery strategies,
  • some submissions express support for more affordable infrastructure contributions. However some submissions from community groups and local government have raised concerns about the effect of reducing levies and compromising housing affordability or inhibiting housing delivery,
  • local government and business generally support the retention of voluntary planning agreements and works-in-kind agreements as tools to provide flexibility in provision of developer contributions and recommend that they not be ‘over-regulated’,
  • there is support for the proposal to simplify and streamline the deliver of public priority infrastructure. However, some submissions express concern about the proposed assessment process for these projects.

Delivery culture

This issue encompasses the reforms involving the Chief Executive Officers Group, Regional Planning Boards, mandatory performance monitoring and organisational reform.

The Feedback Summary indicates that:

  • submissions express support for the CEO’s Group with local government, community groups and environmental groups stating that Chief Executives of the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Department of Primary Industries should also be included in the group,
  • the majority of submissions addressing the proposed Regional Planning Boards noted that the Green Paper had not clearly defined the roles, representation or skills base for the Boards. Community groups and local government are generally in agreement that the Boards should include representation from elected representatives of councils and council staff,
  • there is support for proposed mandatory performance monitoring although many submissions note that further detail is needed on how this would be carried out,
  • there is general agreement that cultural change within Government agencies is critical to achieving the outcomes described in the Green Paper.

Other issues

The Feedback Summary also states that many submissions including from local government indicate that the reformed planning system should be based on environmental and social objectives. In particular, many submissions from community and environmental groups suggest that principles of ecologically sustainable development  should be included amongst the purposes of the planning system.

Way forward

DoPI indicates that the Feedback Summary will inform the development of the White Paper, which is the next step in the reform process. It is anticipated to be published in early 2013.