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NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
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An Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP), known as a Local Planning Panel under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, is a panel of; a chair, two independent expert members and a community member who assess development applications (DAs) made to local councils.


From 1 March (2018), panels are mandatory for all Sydney councils and Wollongong City Council. Panels are to be put in place, so the process of assessment and determination of DAs with a high corruption risk, sensitivity or strategic importance are transparent and accountable.


Statutory rules govern the panels operation, through a 'code of conduct' and 'operational procedures'.

Video – What are Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs)?


Video transcript

Operation of Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs)

The Minister for Planning, the Hon Anthony Roberts MP has appointed independent, expert Chairs for Councils to appoint to their Panel. Councils will also choose two expert members to appoint to its Panel from a pool established by the Department and approved by the Minister for Planning. It will be up to Councils to recruit and appoint community members to the Panels. A guide has been provided to assist this process.


Panel members are required to be expert in one or more of the following fields: planning, architecture, heritage, the environment, urban design, economics, traffic and transport, law, engineering, tourism, or government and public administration.


Panel chairs are required to have expertise in law, or government and public administration.


Councillors, property developers and real estate agents are ineligible to be Panel members as this undermines the objective of having DAs determined by independent experts, depoliticising the assessment process.


The referral criteria for both development applications and planning proposals has been set by the Minister for Planning.


These criteria will be continually monitored. Councils are encouraged to provide ongoing feedback on these criteria and the operation of their Panels to ensure the success of this important change to the planning system.


People attending a panel discussion meeting and presentation



Complaints in relation to the procedure of an IHAP meeting or the conduct of panel members are to be made to the relevant council.


Code of conduct complaints are to be dealt with under the Code of Conduct for Local Planning Panel Members, all other complaints are to be dealt with under council's routine complaints management process. The NSW Ombudsman can also accept complaints.


The Department is able to direct enquiries or complaints to the relevant authority for response and resolution.


Telephone, write or email to:

Tel: 1300 305 695.

Postal address: GPO Box 39, Sydney NSW 2001.

Contact us via the website.


Complaints made in this way will be recorded in the Department's Complaints Register.


If you are dissatisfied with the way in which council has handled your complaint you can request the Department to review the matter.


At any time, a customer can complain to external bodies such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Ombudsman, or the Audit Office of NSW.


If you have allegations of corrupt conduct, misconduct, or serious waste of resources, you are encouraged to approach these organisations directly.


Any comments or complaints in relation to the policies or procedures that govern the operations of IHAPs across the state may be made to the Department.


Further information on the Department's complaint management process can be found under the About Us section of this website.


More information

For more information please contact the Planning Panels Secretariat on 02 8217 2060.



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Page last updated: 26/06/2019