The Minister for Planning announced two key changes to the plan-making process for Local Environmental Plans (LEPs), commencing on Friday 2 November 2012.
The first key change introduces opportunities for applicants (namely landowners or developers) and councils to request a review of decisions made at key stages during the process of assessing and deciding on a proposal to rezone land.
The second change will return power to councils to allow them to finalise particular kinds of LEPs.
Detailed information is available in the Planning Circular and the Frequently Asked Questions document.
About the Gateway Process
In July 2009, the 'gateway' plan-making process was introduced.
The gateway process has the following benefits:
- assists in meeting the NSW Government’s target of a 50 percent overall reduction in the time taken to produce LEPs
- provides clear and publicly-available justification for each plan at an early stage
- ensures vital NSW and Commonwealth agency input is sought at an early stage
- replaces the former 'one size fits all' system, under which all LEPs large and small were subject to the same rigid approval steps, with one that better tailors assessment of the proposal to its complexity
- improves links between long-term strategic planning documents, such as regional and metropolitan strategies.
Steps in the process
The gateway process has the following steps:
- Planning proposal — the relevant planning authority is responsible for the preparation of a planning proposal, which explains the effect of and justification for the plan. If initiated by the Minister (rather than the local council which is mostly the case) the Minister can appoint the Secretary of the Department of Planning & Environment or a joint regional planning panel to be the relevant planning authority.
- Gateway — The Minister (or delegate) determines whether the planning proposal is to proceed. This gateway acts as a checkpoint to ensure that the proposal is justified before further studies are done and resources are allocated to the preparation of a plan. A community consultation process is also determined at this time. Consultations occur with relevant public authorities and, if necessary, the proposal is varied.
- Community consultation — the proposal is publicly exhibited (generally low impact proposals for 14 days, others for 28 days). A person making a submission may also request a public hearing be held.
- Assessment — The relevant planning authority considers public submissions and the proposal is varied as necessary. Parliamentary Counsel then prepares a draft local environmental plan — the legal instrument.
- Decision — With the Minister’s (or delegate’s) approval the plan becomes law and is published on the NSW legislation website.
Reviews of decisions
In the interests of fairness and accountability, two review mechanisms were introduced in October 2012 in relation to the gateway process. These mechanisms allow an independent body to review some decisions by councils and the department. In particular:
- Pre-Gateway reviews: which may be requested by a proponent if a council has not supported, or not made a decision within 90 days, on a planning proposal. These reviews are informed by advice from joint regional planning panels (or the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) in the City of Sydney council area).
- Gateway reviews: which may be requested by a council or proponent following a gateway determination by the department, but before community consultation on the proposal has commenced. These reviews are informed by advice from the PAC.
Tracking a plan or review
All planning proposals and reviews are available via the department's online tracking systems to enable the proponent, authorities and the public to track the progress of a plan or review at the following locations:
In some instances the Joint Regional Planning Panels (JRPPs) may be appointed as the Relevant Planning Authority to finalise a Planning Proposal. In those instances, information about the planning proposal and its progress may be found on the Regional Panels website.
The Department of Planning & Environment has updated and re-published two guides to assist in understanding about the gateway process and independent reviews:
- Guide to Preparing Local Environmental Plans (Department of Planning & Infrastructure - April 2013) is an overarching guide about all elements of the new system. This latest version contains additional Parliamentary Counsel's Office requirements for drafting and finalising delegated plans. Councils should ensure they comply with the updated requirements when seeking a draft of an instrument from the Parliamentary Counsel's Office as part of the plan making process. The updated document also contains revised contact details for the Parliamentary Counsel's Office.
Guide to Preparing Planning Proposals (Department of Planning & Infrastructure 2012) has been prepared specifically to assist relevant planning authorities such as local councils preparing planning proposals.
Draft LEPs begun prior to 1 July 2009
Draft LEPs notified to the Director-General prior to 1 July 2009 continue to be made under the old local plan-making system. Draft LEP amendments begun prior to 1 July 2009 must be completed within 12 or 18 months of 1 July 2009, depending on whether a section 65 certificate had already been issued. In this regard, a historical version of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 can be found on the NSW Legislation website, in the 'As Made' database.
Donations and gift disclosure
All planning proposals / draft LEPs must comply with State law regarding reportable political donations. For more details, including a disclosure form, read the Development proposals and donations or gifts: guidelines .
Application, reporting and tracking forms – reviews of plan making decisions and delegation of plan making
Below are the forms that will be used by applicants and councils when requesting reviews of decisions in the plan making system. Forms to assist councils request delegation to make a local environmental plan are also provided below.
Two options are provided to assist with the process:
- a pdf version of each document is provided which may be downloaded and completed manually; or
- an editable version of each document is provided which can be downloaded and completed electronically.
The information required to accompany a review request is outlined in A guide to preparing local environmental plans.
Forms to be completed and submitted by councils in relation to delegated local environmental plans are explained in A guide to preparing planning proposals.
The Parliamentary Counsel's Office has also issued advice regarding the drafting and notification processes for making delegated plans. Links to this information are provided below:
Information about PCO's role in drafting process can be found at:
Information about the notification process can be found at: