More guidelines

21 March 2011

Centre Design Guidelines

Earlier this month the NSW Government placed the draft Centre Design Guidelines on public exhibition until 31 May 2011. This document is 90 pages long and sets out 396 new principles to further regulate urban development.

The Centre Design Guidelines will come on top of the existing 1,060 Department of Planning policy documents regulating development in the state (the full list, as produced by the Department of Planning, is here).

It’s surprising that the NSW Government would propose 396 new planning principles without rescinding even one of the 1,060 existing policy documents. Only last month, the Productivity Commission released a report saying that planning rules in NSW and Queensland were the most difficult to find and use.

No-one in our industry would ask for an unregulated environment. However, the level of regulation we face is mammoth and much of it is completely unnecessary. Many of the new rules proposed in the draft Centre Design Guidelines require developers to do things that they would want anyhow. Formalising them as principles will mean more consultants will need to be hired, to show compliance by generating more mountains of paper.

Some principles would make it easier for planning authorities to refuse development applications, even when proposals complied with zoning controls and height limits.

Unfortunately, NSW planning is in such a state of disarray that proposals like guidelines such as these are regularly used to block proposals that comply with a zoning plan and development standards. In the NSW planning system, a “guideline” is normally applied rigidly. These guidelines will deliver another layer of rules and, in many cases, will prevent legitimate and sensible proposals from proceeding.

More information on the Centre Design Guidelines is available here.

Our submission to the NSW Opposition is available here.

Good Design for Medium Density Living

The Department has also placed on exhibition a draft Good Design for Medium Density Living publication that “showcases examples of well-designed residential projects comprising a range of housing types”.

The Department says that this is a “non-policy document” but in the very same breath says the document “is intended to support decision makers in preparing planning controls”. It seems to us that there is a surprising lack of understanding as to what a policy document is. Any document that is published by a government department “to support” statutory decision-makers is, in truth, a policy document. 

More information is here. It is on exhibition until 31 May 2011.