Planning and development

Information about how to maintain efficient land use planning functions during merger implementation is provided in new guidelines prepared by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E). The document is entitled Guidance for Merged Councils on Planning Functions (PDF, 185KB).

Some key things to note from the guidelines are:

  • Under the proclamations, the previous decisions and actions of former councils are recognised as decisions and actions that the new council can rely on.
  • References in certain plans, controls, consents or delegations to the former council are to be treated as references to the new council.
  • Existing applications for development are to be processed within statutory timeframes.
  • Merged councils are to nominate new JRPP representatives to deal with new matters.
  • Councils are encouraged to make early contact with the Department on the capabilities of the NSW Planning Portal before finalising software decisions about e-Planning.
  • The new council will need to ensure it has processes in place to receive, notify, assess and determine applications from day one.
  • Councils are required to continue to issue planning and building certificates during merger implementation.
  • Accredited council building certifiers will typically transfer to the new council and councils should inform the Building Professionals Board (BPB) of these new employment arrangements.
  • New councils are expected to receive and assess planning proposals that have strategic merit in accordance with the Gateway process from the first day of their establishment.
  • Until elected councils are in place the DP&E will not be authorising council delegations except under certain (limited) circumstances. (An overview of the planning proposal process is provided in a separate flowchart which is available on the DP&E website.)
  • Planning controls can continue to operate under existing statutory arrangements; there is no need to amend local environmental plans (LEPs) immediately if no inconsistencies exist.
  • The creation of new council wide local environmental plans is not required until a newly elected council is in place. This will not necessarily involve a new comprehensive LEP as an existing LEP can be expanded to become the principal instrument for the area.
  • In the longer term, new councils need to prepare an amalgamated development control plan that brings together the different DCPs from the individual councils.

The information below should be read in conjunction with the DP&E guidelines. It is arranged within the four stages of the amalgamation process and contains suggested activities relating to amalgamating strategic and statutory planning, building and heritage functions for a council merger.

Additional information and useful materials can be found on the Resources page.

Stage 1 - Review

  • Establish working group within a project management framework. Critical paths and/or timelines to be established.

Strategic and statutory planning

  • Commence an audit of the strategic (e.g., archaeological studies, heritage studies, Conservation Management Plans) and statutory planning (e.g. local environmental plans, development control plans, section 94 plans) frameworks and studies. Collate and analyse the existing strategic and statutory plans / schemes and planning processes for eventual harmonisation. See the Checklist Strategic and Statutory Planning (PDF, 98KB) for supplementary information.
  • Identify specific precinct or place management issues in relation to the individual council’s local environmental plans (LEPs). Also note what is best practice, what is working well and what is not.
  • Identify current practice in delivering zoning (section 149) certificates and ePlanning services.

Certification and building services

  • Collate and review all processes, levels of service, documentation, methodologies etc. for building services. See the Checklist Building and Certification Services (PDF, 15KB) for supplementary information.
  • Map all processes including records management processes.
  • Advise ICT business unit of current business systems and databases being used by councils.

Heritage provisions and incentives

  • Collate information on heritage places and develop an inventory. Identify the potential areas for enquiry / concern relating to heritage and heritage management.

Stage 2 - Plan

Strategic and statutory planning

  • Metropolitan councils to provide feedback to the development of the District Plans that are to be introduced by the Greater Sydney Commission in 2016. The District Plans will establish the strategic plan for that area.
  • Councils in regional/rural NSW will also be required to provide feedback on the emerging Regional Plans.
  • Commence the review of the merging council’s strategic and statutory planning frameworks.
  • Develop an agreed set of processes, level of service and customer contact points for the new entity to ensure a smooth transition for customers.
  • Develop and implement a communications plan to ensure all planning customers are advised of transitional processes, timeframes and any changes resulting from the boundary realignments.

Certification and building services

  • Commence the development of the service delivery model.
  • Consolidate all processes including records management processes and address inconsistencies (ICT).
  • Ensure developers are advised of any changes. Continue to manage developer contributions are managed in accordance with statutory requirements and maintain records.

Heritage provisions and incentives

  • Identify planning provisions for heritage within the councils.
  • Identify non-planning policies and arrangements within the councils.
  • Identify areas of parity and difference within the Community Strategic Plan.

Stage 3 - Mobilise

Strategic and statutory planning

  • Develop a project plan for consolidation of the local environmental plans and development control plans and policies.
  • Determine an agreed position on the consolidation of the local environmental plans.
  • Discuss with the Department of Planning and Environment the initiation of a review process for the amalgamating councils’ local environmental plans.
  • Communicate this proposed LEP review process to all stakeholders.
  • Contact current applicants and customers advising any changes in officer contact details if applicable.
  • Until the LEP review process is finalised, or where the more than one LEP will be operating until a full LEP review process is initiated, determine an agreed position on a Transition plan for short, medium and long term actions for the planning and development functions.
  • Consider all current environmental management plans and integrate into land use planning where applicable.
  • Determine how to align the delivery of zoning (section 149) certificates and other ePlanning services in accordance with the Department of Planning and Environment’s requirements.

Certification and building services

  • Finalise the service delivery model.
  • In partnership with ICT business unit, commence transition and/or consolidation of data.
  • Develop an agreed set of processes, procedures and levels of service.
  • Develop policy if applicable.
  • Confirm all fees and charges.
  • Continue to ensure developers are advised of any changes.

Heritage provisions and incentives

  • Identify strategic and statutory Heritage management gaps across the council’s planning frameworks.
  • Collate information and confirm asset management planning and costings for heritage places.

Stage 4 - Implement

Strategic and statutory planning

  • Obtain endorsement of agreed position and develop a project plan, in order to initiate the preparation of an LEP for the new entity.
  • Implement new practice in the delivery of zoning certificates and other ePlanning services in accordance with the Department of Planning and Environment’s requirements.
  • Consider the need for a communications strategy informing the community of transitional and new planning processes and documents.

Certification and building services

  • Implement new delivery model. Adopt policy if applicable.
  • In partnership with ICT business unit, continue transition and/or consolidation of data.
  • Continue to review process and procedures to identify opportunities for continuous improvement.
  • Maintain customer contact.

Heritage provisions and incentives

  • Determine the process of harmonisation with all planning provisions and non-planning policies.
  • Ensure that all heritage management (including financial and asset management) activities and arrangements for the new entity are identified and integrated into statutory and strategic planning functions.