Update - changes to Local Planning Panels
As of August 2020, the NSW Government made changes to the way Local Planning Panels work to make them more efficient and to improve the assessment and determination times of development applications and maintain panel oversight of sensitive and contentious applications.
These changes were made as part of the Planning Acceleration Program to support the state’s immediate and long-term economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
The changes will speed up panel determinations by:
- reducing the need to conduct public panel meetings for non-contentious matters by applying a ‘10-or-more’ objection trigger for public meetings
- reducing the amount of modifications going to panels
- obliging panel chairs to more actively manage development applications (DAs) coming to the panels to reduce panel deferrals and assessment timeframes
- allowing chairs to bring forward determination on DAs that are experiencing unreasonable delays of over 180 days from lodgement
- introducing panel performance measures.
An Information Sheet with further details about the changes and Frequently Asked Questions is available.
Refer to the Statutory Rules tab for further information.
Teleconferences to remain
Continuing the functions of the local planning panels (LPPs) is crucial to ensuring independent and transparent oversight in the determination of housing, community and commercial facilities and infrastructure for the people of NSW.
Public panel meetings are a key pillar of our planning system as they give people the opportunity to express their views directly to the determining body before a planning decision is made.
With face-to-face public panel meetings no longer an option, holding meetings by virtual means, such as by teleconference, will be a necessity until further notice.
There is no requirement for panel members or members of the public to attend panel meetings in-person.
Just as was the case for physical meetings, virtual 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.
Local planning panels (LPPs) (formerly known as Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels or IHAPS) 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 Sydney councils, Wollongong City Council and Central Coast Council. 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.
The 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 high-value 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 and Public Spaces.
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.
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 under the About Us section of this website.
For more information please contact the Planning Panels Secretariat on 02 8217 2060
Page last updated: 25/02/2021