In May this year, the NSW Government released its long-awaited White Paper on Planning Reform in NSW and Draft Exposure Bills aimed at creating a new planning system for NSW. Subsequently, Hunt & Hunt held two workshops in Sydney with clients to discuss how individual enterprises might be affected by the new planning system. This feedback was gathered to help formulate a submission on the White Paper.
The NSW Premier and the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure earlier this month signalled major changes to the application of development codes to new projects. The changes are set to eviscerate much of the potential of the White Paper.
The Minister announced by media release:
- code assessable development will only apply in nominated growth areas (eg around the North West and South West train lines or areas nominated by councils)
councils will be allowed to modify the state-wide codes to better reflect their local area
the target for code assessable developments has been removed entirely
councils will have to prepare Neighbourhood Impact Statements if they intend to implement code assessable development.
These changes will erode the efficiency and affordability of the planning reforms, effectively subjecting development to the same impediments of slow assessment and public criticism as currently exist.
The White Paper set a target of 80% code assessable development within five years, but this has now been scrapped. The ability of councils to modify codes will reduce the utility of codes, and render everything from home renovations to multi-dwelling development open to the process of criticism and review that has beleaguered development in the recent past. Councils which wish to take up a code based approach now face an additional bureaucratic process called a Neighbourhood Impact Statement which will further impede the utility of codes.
Moreover, the NSW Premier has stated code application will be rigidly enforced.
The White Paper had envisaged methods for minor variations to code compliance and only required merit assessment for those portions of a development that fell outside the code.
By contrast, the Premier has made it clear – if you exceed the code by as little as 1 cm, your entire project will be fully merit-assessable.
This lack of flexibility defeats much of the potential of the White Paper, which had acknowledged the need to reduce DA costs and timeframes and improve certainty of outcome. Last week’s changes will erode these objectives.
The Bill has now been introduced into the NSW Parliament.