NSW Planning Reforms

Changes to Planning Legislation

The Environmental Planning and Assessment (EP&A) Act 1979 has been updated following the passing of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Act 2017 in the NSW Parliament in November 2017.

The amended Act started on 1 March 2018 with most of the changes coming into effect from this date. Others will take longer to come into effect as they require further guidance and consultation.

Details are available on the DP&E web site

Key changes relevant to councils

A number of key changes are significant for councils and will affect local plan making and assessment processes: New Objects of the Act, which include good design, sustainable management of built and cultural heritage and proper construction and maintenance of buildings.

LGNSW had a mixed reaction to the overall package of reforms and this was 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, LGNSW maintains its strident opposition to the ongoing erosion of local plan-making and decision-making powers.

Review of State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs)

The DP&E is reviewing a range of State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs).

LGNSW has made submissions on the following SEPPs to date:

  • Draft Coastal Management SEPP – LGNSW Submission Feb 2017
  • Updates to SEPP 44 - Koala Habitat Protection - LGNSW Submission Feb 2017
  • Draft Educational Establishments and Child Care Facilities SEPP – LGNSW Submission April 2017
  • Draft Educational Establishments and Child Care Facilities SEPP – LGNSW Submission April 2017
  • SEPP 70 Affordable Housing (Revised Schemes) – LGNSW Submission January 2018
  • Proposed new Environment SEPP – LGNSW Submission – January 2018
  • A new Primary Production & Rural Development SEPP – LGNSW Submission 

The Department is reviewing stakeholder feedback on these and other proposals as part of its overall SEPP Review Program.

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: