NSW Pulls Back on Planning Reform

Friday, September 20th, 2013
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Current arrangements regarding land zonings, appeal rights and local and state heritage protection in New South Wales will no longer be changed as the state government seeks to assuage community concerns over what the government claims is the biggest shake-up of planning reforms in 30 years.

In his latest statement, Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Brad Hazard says the government has listened to community concerns and in response was drafting up a number of changes to the Planning Bill 2013, the introduction into Parliamant of which has been delayed accordingly.

“The NSW Government wants to make sure the new planning system reflects community needs for protecting the environment and heritage” Hazzard says.

“Whilst returning local government and communities to the centre of the planning system we must cut red tape that blocks increasing housing supply ensuring the dream of owning your own home is a reality for NSW families.”

The changes come amid widespread community concern about aspects of the Bill, an exposure draft of which was released in July following an earlier white paper and which contains wide-ranging reforms to the state’s planning system including streamlined assessment processes and shorter approval timeframes for development applications for new construction and housing renovations which meet local development guidelines (called ‘code assessment’ developments), the creation of infrastructure ‘corridors’ and identification of key suburbs and areas which could ideally accommodate population growth, and a greater emphasis on sub-regional planning so as to coordinate individual planning requirements of individual councils.

Under the changes, however:

  • The code assessable development regime for which the streamlined approval processes apply will only apply to nominated growth areas.
  • A target of 80 percent of developments qualifying for the streamlined code assessable assessment regime will be dropped.
  • Councils will be able to modify state-wide codes to better reflect their local area
  • Current land zonings, appeal rights and local and state heritage protections will no longer change.

Though many in the industry will no doubt feel the changes represent an unfortunate watering down of reforms needed to unlock greater housing supply, Hazzard says they are needed to get things right, and says the government was still moving ahead with necessary reform.

“When the original planning Act was introduced in 1979, it took four years to reach that stage [introduction of the Bill into Parliament]” Hazzard says.

“The NSW Government has taken just over two years to reach the same stage.”

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