Planning Reforms welcome

Urban Taskforce Chief Executive, Tom Forrest, today welcomed the announcement by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Planning Minister Rob Stokes, to “drastically reduce planning assessment times and cut red tape” … to “turbo-charge the economic recovery”.

“Today’s announcement is a fundamental change in direction, and it is very welcome”, Mr Forrest said.

Mr Forrest said that the NSW planning system, until recently obsessed with strategic planning, has started from a low base – the slowest in every single category of assessment according to the NSW Productivity Commissioner’s report published late last year. But today’s announcement will build the capacity of the Department of Planning to push forward with faster approvals for job creating projects, for new home, new apartments, new retail centres, new industrial projects and new commercial office construction.

“The announcement of a merit-based appeal mechanism to the Land and Environment Court, when local Councils reject planning proposals for the rezoning of land, is particularly welcome.

“The planning system has largely ignored the legitimate role of rezoning proposals to enable flexibility and accommodate changes in economic circumstances for too long. The Government’s media release today concedes that it currently takes an extraordinarily long 579 days and thousands of pages of expert consultant reports to progress a re-zoning of land.

“It is a sad reflection on the state of the day-to-day operations of the NSW planning system when the only way to fix it is to appoint additional Land and Environment Court Commissioners. This highlights the need for cultural change”, Mr Forrest said.

Mr Forrest said that planners at Council level, in particular, need clear direction from Government that their role is to work with developers and the community to deliver positive outcomes which contribute to economic growth, to new jobs and to new homes. DPIE has shifted mode and is now a driver of the NSW economy. The same cultural change needs to happen at Council level.

“The Berejiklian Government has done an outstanding job in delivering new infrastructure.

“But it took the COVID-19 crisis to spark long needed planning reform which drives the planning system to leverage the massive investment in new metros and new motorways to deliver high density transport-oriented developments. That is now happening and that is very welcome indeed. The silver lining of COVID-19 is we are now getting a planning system which is driving the economy forwards, not holding it back.

“Hopefully the catch-cry of Council planners: ‘but it’s not 100% consistent with the plan’ will never be heard again”, Mr Forrest said.

Mr Forrest said that the announcement of the fast-tracked roll-out of e-Planning is also supported.

“This new e-Planning system will highlight which Councils are slow and which are fast. It will allow the new Planning Delivery unit to identify the bottlenecks, be they at Council level or State Government agencies which are required to give concurrence, and take action”, Mr Forrest said.

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