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Business and Corporate Law, Construction Law, Local Council

Recent amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW)

As of earlier this year the laws surrounding planning and development in New South Wales have seen the most significant changes in the last 40 years, and certainly since the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (“EPA Act”) came into effect.

The EPA Act was recently amended with a raft of significant changes following extensive public consultation. The new changes cover a variety of different areas. As you can appreciate, this will impact on how developers and the general public obtain development consent from Council. It will also impact on how Council will assess development applications when lodged. Below is a summary of some of the amendments arising.

1. Community Participation Plans (CPPs)

Under the new regime, Councils will now be required to prepare CPPs which will basically outline the process and timeline involved in any community participation required (ie. public exhibition) prior to making planning decisions. The amendments include minimum public exhibition periods.

2. Local Strategic Planning Statements (LSPSs)

Another new plan that has been established on the back of the recent amendments is the LSPS, which each Council must now prepare. The LSPS outlines the planning priorities for the particular Local Government Area. If the Local Government Area of the Council is further split into wards, then Council will be able to produce an LSPS specific to each ward. New planning proposals by Council, such as for rezoning, will also need to include an explanation as to how the proposed changes are consistent with the relevant LSPS. The LSPS is to be reviewed at least every seven years by Council.

3. Periodic reviews of Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) and State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs)

The recent changes will also require Local Councils to review their LEPs every five years. Similarly, the Planning Secretary will need to review any State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) also every five years.

4. Contributions and Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPAs) for Complying Development

VPAs can now be entered into for complying development proposals. This therefore increases the scope of these agreements that allow the developer to fund public amenities, infrastructure or provision of affordable housing as part of its development proposal. Similarly, State infrastructure contributions can be required for Complying Development.

5. Enforcement powers for Complying Development

As part of the NSW Government’s push to increase the use of the Complying Development pathways, there are further powers to enforce Complying Development Certificates (CDCs), including to allow Councils to stop work under CDCs for up to seven days to allow investigations and enabling the Land and Environment Court to invalidate CDCs.

6. Allow consolidation of Development Control Plans (DCPs)

The new amendments will allow for “standard format DCPs” to provide consistency across such documents. While the formatting of DCPs are to become consistent their content will remain under the control of the relevant Councils.

The amendments passed Parliament on 15 November 2017 and received assent on 23 November 2017. The majority of changes have been implemented on 1 March 2018, whilst other amendments will be rolled out over a period of time thereafter.

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