In April 2020, the NSW Government announced plans to fast-track the assessment of development applications and rezonings to keep the economy moving and keep people in jobs through the COVID-19 pandemic
This included a series of reforms and measures including changes to Ministerial Orders and a new Planning System Acceleration Program.
As part of that work, we’re introducing a new ‘Planning Delivery Unit’ to progress priority planning projects, both DA and planning proposals, that may be ‘stuck’ in the system.
What are we doing?
We’re establishing a dedicated team of within DPIE that will work alongside coordinators in other government agencies and in consultation with industry and councils to resolve any blockages, delays and issues in the planning framework.
The Planning Delivery Unit team will intervene in regionally significant development applications, priority projects including key planning proposals or precincts and planning amendments that have been identified as a priority and are being delayed due to critical unresolved issues.
Why are we doing it?
The initial focus of the Planning Delivery Unit will be to work with agencies to remove blockages and resolve issues for identified planning projects already in the system and under assessment so that decisions on projects can be made more quickly.
The Planning Delivery Unit team:
- operates a project management service for industry, councils and other government agencies
- ensures agency involvement at appropriate levels, focusing advice on relevant issues
- ensures appropriate resources to support assessments, fix backlogs and build capacity in councils and agencies including a “flying squad” for councils and dedicated coordinators in agencies.
- realigns agency referral processes in collaboration with councils and agencies to support continued rollout of ePlanning and ‘back of house’ processes improvements
- focuses on collaborative whole of government solutions to projects and when needed will also operationalise the use of the Planning Secretary’s legislative step-in powers.
Over time, the Planning Delivery Unit will deliver long lasting benefits by identifying trends and resolving systemic issues for planning proposals and regionally significant development applications.
While the Planning Delivery Unit will focus on fast tracking determination of priority projects it is not a green light for approvals or lessening of planning assessments. The same checks and balances that ensure transparency and evidence-based assessments continue to apply, and community participation remains important in the planning process.
- Fast tracking the assessment and determination of key and priority projects
- More timely fit-for-purpose advice
- Improved certainty on planning application outcomes
- Improved confidence in investment decisions
- Reduced costs for industry and government with more transparent and certain decision making.
How are we doing it?
The Planning Delivery Unit may become involved with projects that are currently under assessment or in post consent approval phase that are experiencing unreasonable delays due to:
- concurrence or referral requests undetermined by a government agency within the statutory time limits permitted under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000;
- unresolved council assessment matters are preventing determination with assessment time exceeding 120 days; or
- multiple complex or significant environment issues such as flooding, bushfire, contamination, heritage, ecology, transport, infrastructure or natural/ mineral resource constraints.
What kind of projects will the PDU get involved with?
Intervention in projects will be at the discretion of the Planning Delivery Unit, and the following key considerations will be relevant when deciding whether a project will be progressed through the Planning Delivery Unit:
- The project is:
- regionally significant development (RSD) as defined under Schedule 7 of State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011; or
- local development with a Capital Investment Value greater than $5 million (excluding dwelling houses/dual occupancies) with one or more integrated development requirements; or a regional project that delivers jobs and local economic benefit; or
- development carried out by or on behalf of the Crown (under Division 4.6 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979); or
- priority projects such as complex or strategic planning proposals or precincts, including projects nominated by local councils, particularly where there are blockages with agencies.
- If the project is not one of the above types, it is a project that will create a public benefit such as:
- delivery of a significant proportion of ‘build to rent’, social or affordable, seniors housing or key worker housing; or
- directly linked to, delivers, benefits from and/or will be catalyst to deliver state or regional level infrastructure; or
- provides significant community facilities, public spaces, green infrastructure, social/environmental benefits, quality design, assists self-determination for Aboriginal people; or has strategic merit in that it will give effect to directions and priorities set by relevant commonwealth, state, regional and/or district plans.
For projects of the type described above, the following factors will be considered:
- the project or planning proposal has been lodged and is currently under assessment, or relates to a post consent approval matter, including satisfactory arrangements for regional infrastructure or a planning agreement with the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces.
- there are unreasonable delays in the determination due to factors such as outstanding concurrence or referral request with a government agency
- the project is delayed by unresolved council assessment matters are preventing determination (including lack of appropriate resources) with assessment time exceeding 120 days.
- the site of the proposed development is subject to multiple complex or significant environment issues such as flooding, bushfire, contamination, heritage, ecology, transport, infrastructure or natural/ mineral resource constraints.
- the project is not currently under appeal to the Land and Environment Court.
How can projects be referred to the Planning Delivery Unit?
Projects can be referred to the Planning Delivery Unit by either proponents, consent authorities (including the local council) or other government agencies.
Requests for Planning Delivery Unit intervention must be submitted to the Planning Delivery Unit via email and provide the following minimum information:
- Project location (address and council area)
- Proponent contact details
- Details of the proposed development (including the development application number)
- Summary of the delays or issues being experienced
- Demonstration of how the project meets one or more of the criteria listed above.