NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Local Planning Panels

Update – changes to Local Planning Panels

Local Planning Panels are being bolstered under new rules to reduce corruption risks and improve decision-making.

The department is strengthening them to ensure there’s less certainty about who will be on a panel and make it harder to predict who will make decisions on projects. Along with other changes, this will help stamp out the potential for improper influence and lobbying even further.

Changes to the way Sydney District Panels and Regional Planning Panels operate come into effect immediately, while changes to Local Planning Panels come into effect on 24 April 2023 to give councils time to recruit additional panellists.

Changes to the operation of Sydney District Panels and Regional Planning Panels include:

  • requiring RPP members to be rotated regularly to randomise panel membership
  • requiring probity checks, including police checks, for community representatives in RPPs, and a statutory declaration that representatives are not property developers or real estate agents
  • encouraging councils to appoint a minimum of 4 alternate council members that can sit on their relevant RPP
  • appointing a minimum of 60 experts in the pool that Sydney District Panels and Regional Planning Panels choose from, which is under way.

Changes to the operation of Local Planning Panels include:

  • mandating a minimum number of experts in pools for LPPs (15)
  • mandating a minimum number of community representatives in LPP pools (4)
  • requiring LPP members to be rotated regularly to randomise panel membership
  • requiring probity checks, including police checks, for community representatives in LPPs, and a statutory declaration that representatives are not property developers or real estate agents
  • clarifying that applicants can request to formally meet with LPPs to brief them on any project
  • implementing a framework for the department to induct LPP members.

Please read our frequently asked questions (PDF, 172 KB) for more information.

Refer to the statutory rules for further information.

Local planning panels (LPPs) are panels of independent experts that determine development applications on behalf of Council and provide advice on other planning matters, including planning proposals.

Under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 local planning panels are mandatory for all councils in Sydney, Wollongong City, Central Coast Council and Wingecarribee Shire. Panels are put in place so the process of assessment and determination of development applications (DAs) with a high corruption risk, sensitivity or strategic importance is transparent and accountable.

Statutory rules govern the panel's operation, through a code of conduct (PDF, 241 KB) and 'operational procedures'.

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

 

Video transcript

Operation of Local Planning Panels

The Local Planning Panels (LPPs) ensure increased probity and accountability in the planning system, safeguard against corruption and lead to better planning outcomes.

LPPs make decisions on sensitive, complex and contentious DAs that come before councils, with council staff, under delegation, still determining the more straight forward DAs.

The panels will help free up councils to focus on long-term strategic planning.

The panels consist of a chair and two independent experts appointed by council from a Minister-endorsed pool of independent, qualified people, plus a community representative.

Independent expert members are required to have expertise 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.

Community representatives appointed to a local planning panel are not required to have planning expertise. The role of the community representative is to ensure that local insights and knowledge are considered as part of the panel’s decision-making.

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 their ongoing success.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, panel meetings can occur by teleconference. There is no requirement for panel members or members of the public to attend panel meetings in-person.

Just as was the case for in-person public meetings, virtual public meetings will be audio recorded and published on the council’s website.

Your council can provide further details on how its local planning panel will continue to operate.

Complaints

Complaints in relation to the procedure of an LPP 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:

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 LPPs across the state may be made to the department.

Further information on the department's complaint management process can be found at About us.

More information

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

Page last updated: 23/01/2023