The Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2017 has been passed by Parliament and a copy is available on Parliament's website.
The updates have four underlying objectives:
The Department of Planning and Environment conducted community and stakeholder consultations across the State, receiving over 470 submissions from councils, community and environment groups, industry, planning practitioners and individuals. The resulting measures are designed to address existing and future challenges and opportunities for NSW.
Given the scope of the changes in this Bill, the Government will be taking a staged approach to the Bill’s commencement. This will allow a smooth transition to the new measures and provide time for councils, communities, industry and practitioners to understand and prepare for the new requirements, including by updating their documents and forms to reflect the new, modernised structure.
Most of the changes will commence in the first quarter of next year. Other changes will take longer to switch on and will involve further consultation, so new features of the planning system like community participation plans and local strategic planning statements will be introduced over time. This will ensure that all stakeholders have a proper opportunity to prepare for changes, supported by appropriate guidance, templates and other resources.
What does the Bill achieve:
The EP&A Act is almost 40 years old, and has been amended over 150 times. To make the Act easier to navigate and understand, the Bill:
The new objects reflect the Government’s commitment to thriving, safe and well-designed communities with local character and heritage. When performing functions under the Act, authorities will now be guided by additional objects promoting:
When the community can engage effectively with planning decisions, the outcomes are better and there is more confidence in the decisions made. The Bill will make it clearer and easier for the community to understand how it can participate in planning decisions.
For the first time, the Act recognises the critical role of councils in strategic planning. This is the process of working with the community to set out what is special about the local area, what its future should look like, and what actions are needed to get there. Under the new provisions:
It is important that the development controls in the LEP and development control plans are kept up-to-date and as simple as possible, so people can understand what development is permitted on a site. The Bill helps to ensure this by:
The complying development pathway is a key part of the planning system, saving applicants significant time and money. However, it is critical that the community can feel confident that the development standards are enforced. To improve confidence in complying development:
Stakeholders also raised concerns about instances where developers have constructed works that go beyond the approval, then retrospectively applied for a modification to authorise the extra works. To address this, councils will be able to impose an additional fee to deter retrospective modification applications. This fee will be set in the EP&A Regulations.
The Government recently introduced changes to make independent hearing and assessment panels (IHAPs) compulsory in Greater Sydney and Wollongong. This means panels of qualified, independent experts will be determining the most sensitive and complex development applications, which will improve planning outcomes and the probity of the system. The changes in this Bill build on the recent reforms by:
NSW agencies often have a role in providing advice or approvals where development has the potential to affect the environment, infrastructure or public safety. Stakeholders have raised concerns that this process can add delays to the assessment process. To address this:
The Government is committed to halving assessment times for major projects, without reducing the quality of the assessment of environmental and other impacts. The Bill contains measures to achieve this and to simplify and clarify the process for State significant development.
Page last updated: 22/11/2017