Subdivision Development

17/12/2011 6:52 am


Subdivision of land is the principal element by which communities are developed. Technically, subdivision describes the legal and physical steps a developer must take to convert raw land into developed land. Subdivision is a vital part of a cities growth, determining its visual aesthetics, the mix of land uses, and infrastructure.

Many current subdivision planning controls have evolved as a result of earlier regulations not providing sufficent streets, services, setbacks, and development densities to create a sustainable community. Each decade has brought new issues that have changed the land development planning process. Developers today more than ever must be aware of the regulations which surround land development. As even despite a project meeting existing zoning requirements, developers are finding that they must justify their projects to local communities and councils in terms of beneficial (or at least not adverse) impacts on matters from the environment and traffic to streetscape and housing affordability. Therefore, developers big and small must develop an appreciation of the vast number of issues which make up urban development.

When a developer wishes to divide land into housing lots, the site should be in a location that follows the growth of the area. Site selection can be the difference between the success or failure of a subdivision, both regulatory and financially.

Regulations adopted by local governments establish procedures that require property owners and developers to obtain zoning, building, and eventually occupancy approval. Applications must be submitted for these approvals, usually with supporting documentation. As development regulations become more complicated and convoluted, developers face many decisions about navigating their way through the planning process. Developers have in part found regulations too restrictive and thus requested special procedures that permit greater flexibility in the planning process. However, special interest groups and community organisations have also discovered that the planning process affords opportunities for participating in decisions. Developers increasingly find that they must spend as much time consulting with community groups as with government officials charged with assessment of the development.


Often the time comes, when the local regulatory process needs to be rethought and reorganised. Complex or overlapping requirements and lengthy, bureaucratic procedures can be simplified to reduce the burdens of the approval process. This is the case with NSW's principal planning legislation the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). The 30 year old piece of legislation has been a victim of the ever increasing issue surroding land development. A once revolutionary piece of legislation, the EP&A Act has become a complex system of multi-layered plans and policies with numerous development approval pathways and consent bodies. Therefore, the NSW State Government is in the process of re-writing the State's main planning law.

Over the last two months the State Government has held the NSW Planning System Review with 90 open community forums and over 60 key stakeholder meetings throughout NSW. The review was covered by Blockbrief in our August post. Submissions for the initial "listening" phase of the Review closed on 4 November. You can read the submissions received during this phase here.

The consultations and submissions received to date informed the development of an Issues Paper which was released 6 December. This Issues Paper outlines the key planning issues facing NSW.

The review will likely lead to a new framework for the NSW Planning System, including draft legislation, it is therefore extremely significant for anyone with an interest in the planning system (everyone), particularly developers thinking of undertaking a subdivision development. As any new legislation will determine how planning controls like zoning, height, land use mix and density are created, and how development proposals are determined.