NSW Planning Reforms

NSW Legislative Updates

In early 2017 the NSW Government announced its long awaited changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment (EP&A) Act 1979.

These changes are significant for councils and will affect both local plan making and assessment processes. LGNSW has a mixed reaction to the overall package of reforms, and this is reflected in the LGNSW submission on the draft EP&A Amendment Bill. While welcoming some changes that will improve plan making practice to some degree,  we are concerned that local plan-making and decision making is being eroded.

The comprehensive LGNSW submission contains 23 recommendations along with detailed comments on specific provisions in the Draft Bill.

Please read item 16 in Weekly issue 7 April 2017 for further information.

Review of State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs)

The DP&E is reviewing a range of State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs). The review involves examining existing policies to consider their relevance and to determine whether the policies need to be retained, amended, transferred or updated.
The DP&E will be releasing proposed amendments to various SEPPs which cover the areas of housing and environment for public consultation in 2017.

Education & Child Care SEPP

LGNSW has made a submission (PDF, 432KB) on a proposed new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) for education and child care facilities. The draft SEPP was released by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E) in February 2017. The draft SEPP proposes to expand the exempt, complying and development-without-consent provisions for schools, TAFEs, universities and child care centres.

LGNSW has concerns about the scope of school development that will be able to be approved as ‘complying’. The changes to fast track the approval of schools lean too far in favour of the applicant and will unreasonably remove councils and communities from the decision making process. Critical issues of concern for these types of development include traffic, parking, road safety, noise and privacy.

In contrast, LGNSW is less concerned with the proposed changes to the approval pathways for child care facilities under the draft SEPP.

LGNSW has recommended further consultation with the sector on both the education and child care components of the SEPP to resolve the detailed matters of concern raised in our submission.

Building reforms

On 21 September 2016, the NSW Government released the final report of the independent review of the Building Professionals Act 2005 (conducted by Michael Lambert) together with a detailed Government response to the review.
The Lambert report included findings about the problems with building regulation which have been identified in a number of related reviews dating back to 2002. The issues and findings accorded with those consistently raised by LGNSW over many years.
LGNSW has tentatively welcomed the Government’s response, as a sign it is finally taking steps to strengthen building regulation.
LGNSW and councils see these much-needed reforms as a high priority, and LGNSW reiterated this position in February 2016 in a letter (PDF, 911KB) to the NSW Government.
LGNSW made two submissions in response to this review:

A detailed account of the problems with building certification facing Local Government was also provided in an earlier submission (PDF, 561KB) by LGNSW (in March 2014) to the Building Professionals Board (BPB) report on 'Building Certification and Regulation - Serving a New Planning System for NSW'.

Complying Codes

The NSW Government introduced a new pathway for development approval of what is called ‘complying development’ under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Codes) 2008. This is referred to as the ‘Codes SEPP’. Complying development is a combined planning and construction approval for straightforward development that can be determined through a fast track assessment by a council or private accredited certifier. A series of state wide codes have been established progressively under the umbrella legislation of the Codes SEPP. These enable a council or private certifier to approve development without the need for development consent from council.

The NSW Government has increased the target for complying development that has set in motion a review of the current codes and an expectation that the state wide codes can be expanded to more risky forms of development, such as medium density development.

LGNSW supports the extension of exempt and complying development provisions, but only where they can be tailored to the local context and incorporate local provisions.

Draft Proposed Medium Density Housing Code 

LGNSW made a submission (PDF, 118KB) to the Department of Planning and Environment’s draft Propose Medium Density Housing Code and Design Guide in December 2016, opposing the expansion of complying development to include medium density housing. Our submission calls on the Government to ensure that medium density housing is subject to proper planning assessment through the development application process, not a tick-the-box approval by a certifier.
LGNSW's previous submissions to the Codes SEPP are:

Review of SEPP 65

Design Quality of Residential Flat Buildings

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E) finalised a comprehensive review of State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 65 – Design Quality of Residential Flat Development in 2015. The review resulted in a number of changes to the policy, including the overhaul of the Residential Flat Design Code into the Apartment Design Guide. LGNSW highlighted concerns about car parking and minimum apartment sizes in its 2014 submission to the review (PDF, 302KB)