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Professional staff and local planning panels will decide on more development applications whilst elected councillors will have greater involvement in up-front local planning as part of a proposed overhaul of planning systems in New South Wales which the government in that state hopes will create the potential for up to 100,000 new dwellings.

Announcing the proposed changes, Planning Minister Rob Stokes says that inefficient processes had led to a situation whereby Treasury estimated a pent-up demand for more than 100,000 new homes.

He said the government was working to make planning processes simpler and more efficient.

“The NSW Government is determined to do everything it can, including making the planning system more efficient, to ensure housing supply gets to homebuyers fast,” Stokes said.

A critical part of the plan revolves around a redirection of the focus of elected councilors away from the assessment of individual proposals and toward greater up-front planning at the local level.

Under the proposed changes, local councils will be required to develop and publish local strategic planning statements, which will outline a 20-year vision about the desired role and character of towns, suburbs and precincts within the municipal area and identify goals and actions required to deliver upon this vision.

These statements will need to explain how planning controls and decision making will have to deliver upon development which is in line with this vision and how these will be supported by strong strategic planning foundations.

As for specific decisions regarding development applications, the government would like to see more of these made by professional council staff and planning panels as opposed to elected councillors.

One proposal, for instance, would enable the minister to direct a council to use an independent planning panel made up of two independent planning experts and a community representative nominated by the local council.

Under this model, the planning department’s summary says, local councils would set strategy and policy whilst technical assessments would be made by independent experts in line with the framework which elected representatives had set down – a process it says will not only help to depoliticise decision making but in fact lead to better and more robust decision making.

Other proposed changes include standardised formats for development control plans, investigating incentives for developers to engage in early consultation with neighbours and the surrounding community and closing loopholes which have enabled developers to obtain modifications to development approvals for works which extend beyond the purpose of the original consent.

Stokes says the reforms will help to deliver on what it says will be 725,000 new homes which are needed over the next twenty years.

Consultation on the proposed amendments closes on 10 March.

 
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