An overhaul of the planning system in New South Wales which has received a mixed response by the construction industry has passed the first hurdle toward becoming law.

As the Planning Bill 2013 and other associated Bills passed through the state’s lower house on Wednesday, state planning minister Brad Hazzard said the reforms provide the necessary steps to promote the creation of housing, employment and infrastructure necessary to cater for an expected two million extra people over the next two decades.

“This is a once-in-a-generation transformation of planning in this State which will serve us well for the 21st Century,” Hazzard said.

A key plank of the reforms revolves around the identification of designated growth areas where key infrastructure projects such as the North-West Rail Link or WestConnex are being rolled out.

In these areas, a new ‘code assessment development’ regime will apply under which development proposals which fit within a pre-determined code agreed upon between the community and the local council. The code spells out what does and does not constitute appropriate development and determines which projects will get automatic planning approval without additional community consultation, with only those developments which do not fit within the code being subject to merit-based assessment.

In established housing areas, councils will have the option of adopting the new regime but this would not be forced upon them.

The introduction of the legislation last week received a mixed response from the construction industry.

Property Council of Australia NSW executive director Glenn Byres said the changes would create a more sensible and orderly system, while Housing Industry Association regional executive director (NSW) David Bare expressed frustration about the code not applying to existing residential areas where the majority of housing construction is concentrated. Bare also argued the code offered few targets with regard to the percentage of developments which qualify for both the new code assessable rules in growth areas and also for complying developments in other areas.

Some opposition parties, however, remain opposed to code assessable concept altogether.

“Under code assessable development residents have no right to make a submission on proposals including building up to 20 townhouses on a local street or a residential flat building in their local shopping strip,” Greens MP and Planning spokesperson David Shoebridge said. “Around the state, property developers will be looking at their local councils and seeing if they can get a pro-development majority to implement code assessable development and exclude community consultation.”

Should it become law, Hazzard says he hopes the new system will be up and running next year.