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Frequently asked questions

General questions

Are independent hearing and assessment panels the same as local planning panels (LPPs)?

Yes. The legislation refers to ‘local planning panels’, but these were previously called ‘independent hearing and assessment panels’.

Do councils outside Greater Sydney, Wollongong and the Central Coast need to constitute an LPP?

No. However, if a council wants to form an LPP, it must follow the model established in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW).

Please contact the Planning Panels Secretariat (see contact details at the bottom of this page) for help if your council wants to set up an LPP.

LPP members

How will an approved independent expert know they have been selected for an LPP?

The council will let them know.

Is the number of experts in the department’s managed pool fixed?

No. It may vary.

What happens if an expert in the pool is not selected at first for an LPP?

The expert will remain in the pool. We may contact them to join a different LPP later.

How is an LPP member protected against personal liability?

All members are protected under section 2.28 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW):

2.28 Exclusion of personal liability

A matter or thing done, or omitted to be done, by:

(h) a member of a local planning panel, or

does not subject the Minister, the Planning Secretary or any such person, officer, member or individual so acting personally to any action, liability, claim or demand if the matter or thing was done, or omitted to be done, in good faith for the purpose of the administration of this Act.

How does work health and safety apply to LPP members?

Work health and safety is a council responsibility. For more information, contact your council.

Must LPP members be members of professional bodies and hold practising certificates?

LPP members are chosen for their experience and skills at the time of their application. We encourage experts to maintain these qualifications.

What are LPP members paid?

The remuneration rates (PDF, 64 KB) are available on our website. There are set rates for each meeting.

The rates cover all work related to a meeting, including preparation, visiting sites, attending the meeting, and participating in deliberations and voting on matters considered at the meeting after the meeting is closed.

LPP members can also claim an hourly rate for working outside meetings, such as for electronic determinations. This is in addition to the meeting rate. Members can also claim reasonable travel and out-of-pocket expenses.

Can councils increase payment rates above those set by the minister?

Yes. The minister has set minimum rates and councils can increase them.

Are LPP members council employees?

LPP members are not council employees. Councils appoint LPP members for fixed terms.

Members are considered ‘public officials’ for the purposes of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 (NSW).
 

Must an LPP consider the community representative’s concerns before deciding on a matter?

Yes. The community representative’s role is to bring local knowledge and experience to the LPP. Issues they raise are an important consideration.

LPPs base decisions on:

  • the technical planning merits of a proposal
  • the views expressed in submissions on a proposal
  • relevant legislative requirements, including the public interest.

When reaching a decision, an LPP must balance the views of all members, including the community representative.

Each LPP member has a vote. If a member disagrees with the majority, the panel must formally document the dissenting view and record it in the reasons for the LPP’s decision.

Is a community representative allowed to attend a council meeting to better understand community concerns?

Yes – in a private capacity. To avoid any perception of bias, LPP members should always consider how others may view the situation if local planning issues are being discussed, either publicly or privately.

They should avoid meetings where planning matters that will come before the LPP will be discussed.

Members must avoid making public statements on matters likely to come before the LPP, including statements that may create a perception of bias.

Can a community representative discuss a decision with a member of the public after the decision has been made?

No. The matter may come back to the LPP for modification.

I’m a member of a community organisation or a business chamber that may make a submission on a development application (DA). Does that disqualify me from sitting on the LPP for that DA?

It will depend on your level of involvement. If you have been involved in drafting the submission or are an office holder of the organisation, it may be appropriate to declare an interest and allow an alternate member to take your place on the LPP for that matter.

Membership will not disqualify you from sitting on the LPP for that matter. However, for transparency, you should disclose your membership.

Can LPP members discuss community concerns with the public?

No. Tell the individual or organisation to write to the council and/or register to speak to the LPP at a public meeting. This will put the objection on the record, and both the LPP and the community will have the benefit of that person or organisation’s views.

What do I do if I’ve been lobbied?

If anyone tries to lobby you, you must disclose it in writing to the LPP chair. The chair will report the disclosure to the council’s general manager.

Do all the items on the LPP code of conduct apply to alternate community members even if they are not sitting on the LPP?

Yes. The code of conduct (PDF, 226 KB) applies to all members at all times.

Operations

Must LPPs hold public meetings for every matter they consider?

No. Public meetings are only held for contentious matters where the local council has received 10 or more unique objections. Meetings are held so the LPP can hear from those who wish to express their views on the development application before a decision is made.

The LPP may ask council staff to brief it before considering the matter.

Will the LPP make its agenda/business papers available before a meeting?

The LPP must give reasonable notice of when and where it holds meetings. It is good practice to make business papers publicly available before meetings.

Will proposals be brought to the LPP at the pre-lodgement stage?

No. The LPP is a determinative body and cannot give advice on applications that will come before it.

Will the LPP deliberate in public?

The LPP may choose to do so, but it is not obligatory.

How are LPP members rotated with alternate members?

The chair and expert members are rotated with their alternates. The chair will manage this.

The chair chooses the community representative who is part of the LPP’s quorum. This is the only representative who can deliberate and vote at meetings. Other community representatives can attend but cannot deliberate or vote.

Should the community representative who votes be from the same ward as the matter/s being considered?

Where there are wards, community members are chosen to represent the community of that ward. Community members can be chosen to represent more than one ward.

In choosing the community representative for a meeting, the chair should select the representative whose ward has the most matters being considered at that meeting.

Will there be an architect or urban design expert on every LPP?

No. A council can include an architect (or member of any other discipline) from the pool as an expert, but it is not required.

A council’s design staff can review an application as part of the assessment. This could include a design advisory panel if the council has one.

Who manages the LPP?

The chair manages the LPP in keeping with legislative requirements and the LPP’s operational procedures.

What is the role of the alternate chair?

Alternate chairs have the same role as the chair when presiding over an LPP meeting or any other business.

The alternate chair does not, however, have the same management responsibilities outside an LPP meeting.

Applicants occasionally offer quite detailed material during meetings. How is this dealt with?

If material is detailed, substantial or technical, the LPP may need to defer its decision to allow council staff to assess it. It will be up to the LPP whether to accept new information at the meeting.

To ensure the LPP is fully prepared, the chair may decide that council staff should brief the LPP. In certain circumstances, the chair may decide the applicant should brief the LPP to explain complex matters or present confidential or commercially sensitive material.

What is the protocol for LPP members who want to address the LPP as a consultant on behalf of the applicant?

LPP members must not address the LPP of which they are a member.  

Can a councillor contact an LPP member directly?

No. Councillors are only allowed to make a formal representation to the LPP in the same manner as an objector.

How do LPP members interact with council staff?

Where an LPP member has questions for council staff, the chair will contact the general manager or another senior staff member the general manager has named.

Part 7 of the code of conduct outlines how an LPP member liaises with council staff.

If the LPP needs more information or an explanation of technical issues after reviewing a council planner’s assessment report, members can request a staff briefing through the chair.

How does the LPP manage the situation if an assessment report or an applicant does not give enough information?

The LPP may defer its decision and ask for more information. However, the chair must work with council staff to minimise deferrals.

The LPP should include the reason for a deferral in its decision, along with a timeframe for supplying more information to the council for assessment.

Can an LPP member discuss a matter under consideration with anyone else?

No. They cannot hold individual discussions with councillors, the applicant, their consultants, parties who have made a submission, or any other person with an interest in the matter.

Is the council responsible for defending an appeal of a decision the LPP has made?

Yes. Under section 8.15(4) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW), the council is the respondent to any appeal. However, they should be directed by the LPP on how the appeal is conducted.

What happens if an LPP member cannot attend a site inspection, briefing or meeting?

Members should try to attend all of the LPP’s meetings, briefings or other business. 

If a member cannot attend part or all of a meeting, they should inform the chair in advance.

How does the department receive feedback on the operation of an LPP?

Councils can give regular feedback through the online reporting form. LPP members can email [email protected] to give feedback at any time.

Referral criteria

What development applications will LPPs determine?

LPPs determine development applications and applications to modify development consents captured by section 9.1 directions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) issued by the Minister for Planning.

Is a development application for Crown land captured by the conflict-of-interest criteria?

If the Crown owns and manages the land, it is not captured by the criteria.

If council manages the land and is the applicant, it is captured.

If council manages the land but is not the applicant, the application is not captured.

Can an LPP delegate an application back to council staff?

Generally, the LPP should determine all matters in the Minister for Planning’s directions. However, under section 2.20(8) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW), the LPP can delegate a matter back to council staff for determination.

Generally, the LPP should only do this if the application or outstanding matter/s are minor and simple.

Can a councillor or a general manager refer a development application to an LPP?

No. Only development applications captured by the Minister for Planning’s directions can be referred to the LPP.

How are petitions counted in the number of objections received and what is considered a unique submission?

Each petition counts as one objection. It is the same for form letters. A single submission signed by 10 people counts as one unique submission.

Objections need to be unique to be counted individually.

Council assessment staff can decide if a submission is unique.

If a development application was notified twice, the second time with amended plans, are objections from both notification periods counted in the contentious criteria?

Yes. Under criteria 2(b) of the development application referral direction, objections are counted from both notification periods if the objection is unique and has not been withdrawn by the original submitter.

Can the number of objections received be reduced if amended plans address the issues?

No. Once a development application receives 10 unique objections, it must be referred to the LPP.

The only exception is if a council’s submissions policy specifies a different number of objections.

Is value used as a criterion for the LPP referral directions for development applications?

No. We removed this criterion in response to stakeholder feedback.

Does demolition of a heritage item mean full or partial demolition?

The use of ‘demolition’ in the referral criteria covers both demolition and partial demolition. 

… demolish, in relation to a heritage item or an Aboriginal object, or a building, work, relic or tree within a heritage conservation area, means wholly or partly destroy, dismantle or deface the heritage item, Aboriginal object or building, work, relic or tree. 
Standard Instrument – Principal Local Environmental Plan

How do the referral criteria apply to concept development applications?

A concept plan under section 4.22 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) must be referred to an LPP if it is for a development that would trigger the referral criteria.

Do LPPs determine complying development certificates?

No, they do not.

Will councils need to update their delegations for determining development applications and modification applications?

Some councils’ delegations may not cover all development applications to be determined by council staff and will need to be updated.

Planning proposals

When must an LPP review a planning proposal?

LPPs give advice on whether a proposal should be sent to the department for a Gateway determination.

To satisfy the minister’s directions, the advice must be sought before the proposal is sent to the minister or the Greater Cities Commission (section 3.34 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW)).

A full assessment report is needed to allow the LPP to give comprehensive advice to the council.

Must LPPs consider planning proposals in open sessions?

No. The LPP may ask council staff to give a briefing on a planning proposal and then give its advice by circulating papers.

Conflicts of interest

Under the conflict-of-interest criteria, who is a ‘relative’?

The definition of a relative is in the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW):

… relative, in relation to a person, means any of the following: (a) the parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, lineal descendant or adopted child of the person or of the person’s spouse or de facto partner, (b) the spouse or de facto partner of the person or of a person referred to in paragraph (a).
 

Under the conflict-of-interest criteria, does ‘internal alterations and additions’ include external additions?

No. Only internal additions are exempt.

Do the declaration-of-interest exemptions for councillors in the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) apply to LPP members?

No. Councils appoint LPP members under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW). The LPP code of conduct and its disclosure requirements apply to all LPP members.

Is the department considering making consultants who are LPP members declare a conflict of interest if their firm has received work from a development application?

All members must declare and manage any conflicts or perceptions of conflict in line with the LPP code of conduct. If a member is unsure if they need to make a declaration, they should discuss the matter with the LPP chair.

What is expected when a potential conflict of interest only emerges during a meeting?

The matter should be disclosed as soon as it becomes known to the member. The significance of the conflict should be discussed with the chair and proper steps taken to manage the situation. In some circumstances, this may mean the member steps aside from the LPP.

For more information about local planning panels: