NSW Government goes green for planning

The New South Wales Government has released a paper – A New Planning System for NSW which sets out its proposals to reform the NSW planning system.
It proposes 23 ‘transformative changes’ to the planning system to move from a heavily regulated and prescriptive system to a simpler, strategic and transparent system which will include a Public Participation Charter.
The paper is the government’s response to the report of the independent panel which was established in 2011 to review the NSW planning system.
Following extensive consultation the independent panel, led by former NSW Government ministers Tim Moore and Ron Dyer, has produced a two-volume report with 374 recommendations – The Way Ahead For Planning in NSW.
A review of international best practice in planning law, which was commissioned to help inform the preparation of the Green Paper, has also been released and was conducted by Leslie Stein, scholar in residence at the Centre for Environmental Legal Studies at Pace University in New York.
The Green Paper outlines major changes in key areas of the planning system, these will result in reforms across a number of areas such as; involving the community early in guiding planning decisions that will shape the growth and future of our cities, towns, and neighbourhoods.

Also included is placing emphasis on preparing good policies upfront to guide growth and development; reducing red tape and delay for the assessment of development applications for all types of proposals; ensuring that infrastructure is planned and delivered to support new and existing communities.

Planning for NSW also recommends promoting a ‘can do’ culture in the planning system and ensuring that councils and the government are accountable for delivering the results they have committed to; providing greater access to information about planning policies, planning decisions, and your rights in the planning process.
The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW (LGSA) has welcomed the paper, however questions remain about how the O’Farrell Government intends to get communities involved in early stage, strategic consultations.
President of LGA NSW, Cr Keith Rhoades said the state’s planning system has become extremely complex and is long overdue for an overhaul.
“What concerns me about the Green Paper is that it makes economic growth and development the primary, if not exclusive objective, of the planning system,” he said.
“While not denying the importance of the economy, the planning system should also be underpinned by social and environmental objectives.
“The status of the state policies, regional and sub regional plans also requires further explanation, as it’s important to provide certainty and
confidence in the planning system.”
President of the Shires Association of NSW, Cr Ray Donald, said he was pleased to see the proposal for a tougher building regulation regime, especially if code based assessment and private certification are to be expanded.
However he believed there were many aspects of the Green Paper that need clarification.
“Councils are comprised of elected officials and there is a need to maintain legitimate community representation in the NSW planning system,” said Cr Donald.
“The three per cent of development applications remaining are typically large and complex, and of concern to the community.”
Mr Donald said there should also be an accountable, elected representation on Regional Planning Boards, with the mayor being the most appropriate representative, unless the council determines otherwise.
“The suggestion of creating a new Enterprise Zone with little or no development controls is not acceptable and the LGSA will be lobbying for this aspect of the discussion to be removed or heavily modified,” he said.
“The community needs protection from open slather cowboy developments.”

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