New Planning System Needs To Provide Increased Flexibility For Development

24/11/2012 7:58 pm

One of the State’s top private planning consultancies, Don Fox Planning, has reviewed the NSW Government’s Green Paper on A New Planning System For NSW and has prepared a series of posts for Blockbrief, exploring some of the key issues surrounding the implementation of a new planning system. View the other posts in the series here.


The increase in flexibility of development assessment proposed in the NSW Government’s Green Paper is seen as a positive aspect of the new planning system. There needs to be a move away from highly regulated statutory planning to strategically based planning focused on achieving outcomes. Having a merit performance based system is a practical and positive method of ensuring high quality and appropriate development occurs in NSW, and is a change that planning in NSW needs. There are several questions that should be addressed in the White Paper in regard to how this flexibility will be managed and assessed.


Will An Increase In Flexibility Lead To An Increase In Land Use Conflict?

Flexibility is an aspect that the new planning system needs; however some amount of regulation needs to be put in place to reduce the risk of land use conflict. Land use conflict often arises out of a lack of clear measurable controls. The department needs to think carefully about what controls are to be legislated in order to reduce the risk of land use conflict. It must be determined which aspects of planning should be stringent and what aspects can be left to merit assessment. The Department should carefully assess where land use conflict have arisen in the past, using NSW, Australian and International examples and propose solutions for these potential conflicts in the White Paper.


How Will It Be Ensured That The New System Does Not Become A System Derived From Reaction?

A main critique of the current planning act (the EP&A Act) is that it has become reactionary to fix land use conflict; this has created a convoluted and confusing system for planners, developers and community members to navigate. The department needs to ensure that measures are put in place to successfully manage the way reactions to conflict is legislated. Ideally there would be no need for this, however, it is likely that land use conflict will arise, and the new planning scheme may have to be altered accordingly. The Department needs to be creative in the way it anticipates conflict to reduce the need for significant changes to the planning system. The Department also needs to create a reliable, simple and easy to follow method of changing the system when necessary. The current scheme under the EP&A Act is a complicated system which requires extensive knowledge of the Act, making it very difficult for the regular home buyers and developers to understand and follow.


If Development Assessment Is Based On Merit How Will Developers Determine Whether Something Will Be Deemed Compliant?

A key element of the development process is the assessment of a projects feasibility which includes assessment of compliancy. The code elements of the new planning system will allow for easy assessment of feasibility, however the flexibility of merit assessment will result in a highly subjective assessment of development. Development will very much depend on what is considered merit worthy in Council and JRPPs points of view, thus making it difficult to assess what is appropriate for varying areas within NSW. The Department needs to develop a method or scheme which will assist developers and their private consultants in assessing the likeliness of development approval. This may also help give further accountability to development assessment, ensuring that approval of development is consistent throughout an LGA.

Stay posted for the next in the post series from Don Fox Planning.