Sartor announces NSW planning reforms

The NSW Government recently released a draft exposure bill outlining reforms to the NSW planning system.

A discussion paper, Improving the NSW Planning System, was placed on public exhibition for a 10-week period in late 2007 and early 2008, attracting 538 submissions. NSW Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor said in a statement that many of the key reforms outlined in the discussion paper were reflected in the exposure bill, including:
* establishing a Planning Assessment Commission of independent experts to decide about 80 per cent of proposals currently decided by the Minister;
* a series of Joint Regional Planning Panels, made up of NSW Government and local council nominees to determine regionally-significant proposals;
* expanding the Building Professionals Board’s powers, allowing it to suspend or revoke a certifier’s accreditation without having to go to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, and lifting the maximum fine it can impose from $11,000 to $110,000; and
*  introducing arbitrators and other non-lawyer reviews of planning decisions.

“As part of the reforms, community members will be able to challenge a new category of development to be known as ‘public interest development’,” Mr Sartor said.
“This category is likely to include certain projects which exceed development controls by more than, say, 25 per cent, and could be expanded over time.
“This proposal is a powerful anti-corruption measure which will provide far greater community objector rights to challenge inappropriate development.
“It is handing broad review powers to the community for high-risk developments."

Mr Sartor said he expected the new review powers would discourage councils’ use of the State planning policy SEPP 1 to approve developments which exceeded height and floor space rules. These changes are in addition to existing rights for members of the community to challenge approvals in the Land and Environment Court.

The Draft Exposure Bill also contains provisions to create a more accountable system for levying and delivering community infrastructure. It will define issues, including housing affordability,  that must be taken into account by councils when developing contribution plans.

The Draft Exposure Bill package – which includes the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2008, Building Professionals Amendment Bill 2008 and the Strata Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 – will be released for comment until April 24, 2008

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