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A half yearly review of Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs) by the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) Institute of Public Policy and Governance shows they are delivering consistent and expert decision-making at the local planning level.

Department of Planning and Environment Acting Deputy Secretary, Policy and Strategy, Brendan O’Brien, said the findings backed those of former NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas in his review of the NSW Planning System, released last month.

“Mr Kaldas identified the positive impact of IHAPs and this latest review by UTS backs those findings. Less than a year since implementation, the panels are helping to improve decision-making and giving councils time to get on with strategic planning for their areas.

“The Kaldas review also recommended the Department consider extending IHAPs beyond Sydney and Wollongong to the Central Coast and Newcastle, together with greater probity, review and guidance for IHAP members and stakeholders,” Mr O’Brien said.

Between April and September 2018, there were 251 IHAP meetings, with 875 development applications (DAs) considered and 840 determined. The panels also provided advice on 99 planning proposals, making 120 recommendations.

“The UTS review found that referral criteria are largely capturing the volume and type of development applications expected, and panels are bringing a high-level of expertise to the local development determination process,” Mr O’Brien said.

UTS made five key recommendations that the Department has accepted – they include:

  • facilitate further training about the role of community representatives;
  • provide further guidance to councils about the advisory role of panels on planning proposals;
  • continue to provide further education to relevant stakeholders on conflicts of interest;
  • improve the collection and reporting of complaints data;
  • investigate other ways to build confidence in the IHAP system.

Mr O’Brien said the Department had already conducted a series of workshops for community representatives in October 2018 and will continue working with councils and panels to ensure the smooth operation of panels.

“We are committed to ensuring the panels operate independently and transparently and will continue to monitor the referral criteria and panel operations to identify if further amendments are needed,” he said.

To view UTS’ report or to find out more about IHAPs, visit the Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels page

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