Posted on April 16, 2013 by Lindsay Taylor

Planning Reform White Paper Released

The NSW Government has today released the White Paper on planning reform in NSW, ‘A new planning system for NSW’. Two Exposure Bills, the Planning Bill 2013 and the Planning Administration Bill 2o13 have also been released.

The key reforms proposed by the White Paper are summarised below. LTL will make further detailed posts on issues arising out of the White Paper and the Exposure Bills in the days and weeks to follow.

Five fundamental reforms to the NSW planning system are proposed by the White Paper.

1) Changes to the planning culture

The White Paper recognises that a change in planning culture will be necessary to implement the new planning system. This will include a restructure and other changes to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, and a greater emphasis on reporting for strategic planning at all levels.

2) Community participation

The White Paper proposes increased community participation at the start of the planning process and participation on an ongoing basis.

A ‘Community Participation Charter’ is set out in Part 2 of the Planning Bill 2013. ‘Planning authorities’, including councils, will be under a duty to act consistently with the charter and will also be required to adopt a community participation plan, setting out the community participation methods for plan making and development assessment processes undertaken by the authority.

The method of community participation will vary depending on the decision being made. A high level of community participation will be appropriate in the development of Subregional Delivery Plans, whereas a low level of participation would be expected for development that complies with ‘the rules already established upfront from community involvement.’

It is also envisaged that a move towards ePlanning will allow for improvements in access and convenience for community participation.

3) Strategic planning

There will be a shift to evidence based, upfront, strategic planning as the basis of the planning system.

A hierarchy of plans and policies will exist, comprising:

– NSW Planning Policies;

– Regional Growth Plans;

– Subregional Delivery Plans;

– Local Plans.

These plans and policies will be known as ‘strategic plans’.

The legislation will require that each type of strategic plan gives effect to the policies and principles in the strategic plans plans higher in the hierarchy.

Land use and infrastructure will be integrated.

In addition, there will be reductions and refinements in referrals, concurrences and other planning related approvals. In many instances these will be addressed at the strategic planning stage. A ‘one stop shop’ within the Department of Planning and Infrastructure will also be established for those applications that will continue to require referrals , concurrences or other planning related approvals.

4) Development assessment

The planning system will move to a ‘performance based system’ making greater use of code complying development.

Eighty per cent of all developments, including a range of residential, commercial, retail and industrial, are proposed to be complying or code assessment within the next five years.

Development will be streamed into five ‘tracks’ being exempt development, complying or code assessment  development (which complies with standards in strategic plans), merit assessment development (which does not comply with standards in strategic plans) or prohibited development.

Consent authorities will be required to meet faster approval timelines. Straightforward complying development approvals will need to be granted within 10 days, and complying development with minor variations, and code assessment approvals within 25 days. There will be restrictions on the ability of consent authorities to ‘stop the clock’. Merit assessment development will undergo more rigorous assessment.

Independent expert decision making will be promoted through the Planning Assessment Commission, Regional Planning Panels and  Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels.

Applicant and merit objector appeal rights will remain unchanged, however, it is proposed that a new fast track appeal process in the Land and Environment Court be established for appeals regarding single residential dwellings and dual occupancies. In this track, Commissioners will act as experts and will be able to determine appeals on site or at Court promptly.

5) Infrastructure

The planning and delivery of infrastructure supporting development will take place in conjunction with planning and delivery for housing and employment.

This will be achieved through 10- year local infrastructure plans prepared by local councils, and ‘growth infrastructure plans’ that will be informed by Subregional Delivery Plans and will contain:

‘- subregional performance outcomes;

– ten and five year spatial infrastructure requirements for growth areas;

– an approved prioritised growth infrastructure delivery schedule with funding allocation for projects within the first five year period;

– proposed private sector participation;

– a regional infrastructure contributions schedule; and

– accountability arrangements and performance monitoring requirements.’

Three kinds of infrastructure contributions will exist under the new system – local infrastructure contributions, regional infrastructure contributions and regional growth funds.

Local infrastructure contributions will no longer be capped, to enable local councils to deliver infrastructure. However, local infrastructure contributions can only be levied for essential infrastructure such as local roads, parks, drainage and essential community facilities.

Planning agreements will not be abolished, but it is expected that they will generally only be used for State significant development or in exceptional circumstances, as most contributions will be provided through the ‘standard’ system. Planning agreements will only be allowed to provide for the provision of infrastructure specified in a local infrastructure plan or growth infrastructure plan, a Ministerial planning order, a strategic plan if for affordable housing, or if it is for the conservation or enhancement of the natural environment.

Building regulation and certification

Finally, the White Paper proposes changes to building regulation and certification. The aim of these changes is to provide a ‘more robust, consistent and transparent’ system for regulation and certification of building.

Under the new system:

– additional occupations involved in building design and construction, such as designers, specialist engineers, fire protection system installers and others will be accredited;

– there will be mandatory certification of certain specified building aspects;

– improved documentation for buildings including a requirement for a ‘building manual’ setting out key information; and

– increased regulation of certifiers through stronger disciplinary guidelines, auditing and stronger requirements to report non-compliant work.

Submissions can be made on the White Paper and Exposure Bills until 28 June 2013.