NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Planning Reform Action Plan

The Planning Reform Action Plan builds on the momentum from the current reform measures to create a more timely, certain and transparent planning system.

The Action Plan addresses the need for reforms and recognises the critical role the planning system can play in the state’s economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the Planning Reform Action Plan?

The Action Plan outlines long term structural reform of the planning system and consists of a series of initiatives.

We're working with councils, industry and the community and update them on our progress as we develop the different components for each initiative.

The Action Plan introduces measures to:

  • reduce assessment times for planning proposals, regionally significant development applications (DAs) and major projects
  • provide new resources for the Land and Environment Court
  • reduce concurrence and referral cases between agencies
  • expand complying development, and
  • accelerate precinct coordination.

Action Plan initiatives

The Planning Reform Action Plan focuses on initiatives that improve the planning system by shortening time frames, getting rid of blockages and providing more transparency to the community.

Faster Assessments Program

The Faster Assessments Program combines new resources, better case management and system improvements to slash assessment times by June 2023. The changes will see:

  • rezoning decisions cut by 191 days (a 33 per cent time saving);
  • decisions on DAs for larger, regionally significant projects cut by 91 days (a 25 per cent time saving); and
  • decisions on major projects of significance to the State cut by 20 days (a 17 per cent time saving).

This measure helps stimulate the economy through stronger investment conditions and set significant time saving benchmarks by:

  • streamlining processes for planning proposals, DAs and major projects
  • boosting assessment resources, and
  • actively case managing both government and industry led planning projects.

It helps reduce holding costs, the costs of preparing applications and also makes it faster and easier to navigate the planning system.

One initiative is the Faster Mapping Amendments program – a process to simplify the finalisation stage for Planning Proposals that require map-only changes to Local Environmental Plans (LEPs), where there are no changes to the written instrument.

From 3 May 2021, this new, more direct pathway will be available to councils.

Planning Proposals

To further support the reduction of planning proposal assessment timeframes and streamline processes, we are working on a range of process improvements such as revised delegations, additional guidelines, clearer timeframes post gateway determination, digital mapping and improving the quality of planning proposals.

Concurrences and referrals

We’ve introduced the Planning Delivery Unit (PDU), a team to help eliminate bureaucratic road-blocks by reducing the number of applications that need concurrences and referrals and introducing benchmark time frames for key assessment and planning functions.

This work helps increase investor confidence in the planning system and lead to faster decisions, providing greater certainty for the community and industry.

We have begun a review of existing concurrence and referral provisions. Later this year, we will consult and engage with other agencies ad well as industry and the broader community on additional details of the work, the findings of the review and proposed reforms.

By mid-2023, the PDU will work to reduce concurrence and referral requests by 25 percent.

Land and Environment Court

We’re boosting the role and resourcing of the Land and Environment Court (LEC) to help clear the backlog of appeals.

We’re appointing four new Acting Commissioners, with each allowing up to 75 more matters to be considered each year.

We’re also establishing a new class of appeals to act as a circuit breaker for rezonings that have been delayed in the system for too long.

The new class of appeals is designed to ensure planning proposals considered by the LEC are consistent with strategic plans and that the appeal does not influence the existing strategic vision for an area.

This work also provides opportunity to arbitrate and adjudicate planning proposals, similar to DAs.

We are ensuring the department and councils are more accountable for their decision-making timeframes in relation to planning proposals.

We're consulting with industry and the community later in 2020 and working directly with the LEC to create this new class of appeals. We intend to have the reforms in place by mid-2021.

This work will also involve a broader consideration of the planning proposal process.

Complying Development Reforms

Reforms to complying development, focused on employment areas, offer a fast-tracked approval pathway for low impact development. This means projects that meet strict construction and building standards will be signed off faster by council or an accredited certifier.

These reforms support greater innovation by expanding complying development opportunities and better tailoring assessment processes based on risk and complexity. They will complement our other work to improve assessment timeframes and reduce project delays.

New teams have been established to undertake this work. Work to review existing policy and systems has begun, and consultation for the proposed reforms is underway. Most of this work is expected to be delivered by mid-2021.

Read more about the Employment Zones Reform project.

Accelerated Whole of Government precinct coordination

We're working with Councils and NSW Government agencies to resolve complex issues at the planning stage, and ensure precincts are delivered with the right infrastructure in the right place at the right time.

Better coordination across government helps us deliver more housing and employment hubs across NSW, bring more certainty and demonstrate the benefits for government, communities and the industry.

It ensures there is coordination from the top down, and drive the delivery of housing and employment hubs across the State.

By mid-2022 we expect to have a new framework in place that prioritises, accelerates and improves coordinated delivery of strategic precincts.

More information

You can read our frequently asked questions (PDF, 110 KB) for more information about the Planning Reform Action Plan.

Page last updated: 02/02/2023