The NSW State Government announced this week that it will overhaul the state planning laws and tackle the state’s serious housing shortage.
Does changing state planning laws really help with housing shortage and housing affordability? Surely a strategic long term plan with a co-ordinated Federal and State Government approach would help with housing issues and affordability? Is just tinkering with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) enough?
What Are the Suggested Planning Changes?
NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes released for public comment several changes, which he claims will help speed up development applications and tackle NSW’s serious housing shortage.
According to the NSW Environment and Planning and Environment website the changes include:
- enhancing community participation: establishing a new part of the EP&A Act that consolidates community consultation provisions, and requiring decision-makers to give reasons for their decisions;
- completing the strategic planning framework: through local strategic planning statements, up to date Local Environment Plans and more consistent and workable Development Control Plans;
- development pathways: improvements to the various development pathways and preventing the misuse of modifications;
- State significant development: through better environmental impact assessment and more effective conditions of consent;
- clearer building provisions: simplified and consolidated building provisions, allowing conditions on construction certificates and ensuring consistency with development approvals;
- elevating the role of design: through a new design object in the EP&A Act, and a Design-Led Planning Strategy; and
- improving enforcement: with the introduction of enforceable undertakings in compliance actions.
What Does this Really Mean?
Government News summarised the changes as follows:
- new powers for the Planning Minister to impose independent planning panels on councils that stall on big DAs;
- widening the definition of ‘complying development’ to include greenfield development and terrace housing, not just one or two-storey dwellings;
- new powers for the Planning Department to intervene if a government agency is dithering over residential approvals;
- standardising the format of councils’ development control plans so they’re easier to read and navigate;
- giving developers incentives to address objections from communities before lodging DAs
Simplifying building provisions for developers;
- making planning agreements between developers and councils more consistent and transparent;
- council planning staff or local planning panels to decide more DAs, councillors to concentrate more on strategic planning;
- making community participation plans compulsory for planning authorities.
In a media statement released yesterday, the Better Planning Network welcomed certain aspects of the changes but noted that:
“…in the case of medium density housing for example, such as a new two-
storey building, neighbours will not get an opportunity to comment before the bulldozers showup next door and commence construction. It also means that terraces could quickly replacesingle houses with backyards without the need for public consultation. This is a significant change that is expected to have major impacts on Sydney’s character, amenity, and green spaces. If allowed to proceed, these changes will significantly erode local communities’ ability to shapet heir neighbourhoods and indeed, the streets they live in.
In addition to expanding code-complying development, the NSW Government also proposes topromote (and in certain cases, impose) the use of local planning panels to assess development proposals. However, these panels will exclude elected Councillors, effectively removing the link between local decision-making and democratic processes designed to ensure that local authorities remain accountable to their constituents. Both the expansion of code-complying development and the removal of elected Councillors from local development decision-making were vehemently opposed by communities during the failed 2013 planning reforms. Given the strength of this response, it is disappointing to see the Government continue to pursue these changes.”
Planning System Needs Work
The current planning system is flawed. It’s frustrating, expensive and difficult for the average person to understand the process. The mooted changes are not for the average person, they are to make large scale developments more streamlined. But large scale developments impacts everyone around them. Any planning changes needs to put more emphasis on the quality of the DA documentation submitted by the applicant. Just recently ITC heard a traffic expert stating a development in Lane Cove was well serviced by public transport as bus stops were conveniently located near the development. No analytical data was provided showing an acceptable public transport service level. We have all seen the new developments going up (and more planned) on Burns Bay Road. ITC receives the most number of public transport complaints about the bus services along Burns Bay Road and Cope Street (or lack thereof).
The Proposed Changes Impact Local Character
We need a vibrant local community. We do not need government to interfere to the extent that we lose all our local character, history and quirkiness. In fact streamlining and less consultation on complying development contradicts the Greater Sydney Commission’s Liviabliity Vision (check out dot point six).
Mr Stokes said “The NSW government is determined to do everything it can, including making the planning system more efficient to ensure housing supply gets to homebuyers fast,” Will this make housing more affordable? Will this increase housing supply to a standard that is consistent with good urban planning practices? Will the explosion of new houses keep up to date with infrastructue and transport requirements?
Have your say – the proposals are on public exhibition until March 10.Details of the proposals are available here. You can povide your feedback here.
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