The new planning regime for New South Wales councils, announced by State Minister for Planning Rob Stokes, has been met by outrage from local councils which said that the changes were ‘disrespectful’. 

The regime includes a new planning guarantee requiring councils to refund planning application fees if they do not meet timelines imposed by the State Government.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President, Darriea Turley, said that this announcement is a second gut punch, following hard on the heels of the lowest rate peg setting in 20 years – a rate so low that councils are already being forced to consider cuts to services, infrastructure and jobs.

“It was dropped at a developers’ lunch ten days before Christmas, and before the councils elected at the 4 December elections have even been declared by the New South Wales Electoral Commission, let alone had a chance to meet,” Cr Turley said. 

“The Minister is no doubt rushing to lock in what he sees as his legacy before he is moved out of the portfolio in the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, but this announcement smacks of disrespect and contempt for the third tier of democratically elected government, and the communities they represent.”

A media release issued by Minister Stokes said that the new regime includes:

  • One-size-fits-all maximum timeframes for assessments and determinations by councils
  • A new planning guarantee requiring councils to refund planning application fees if they do not meet government-imposed time frames
  • Ministerial intervention powers if the government believes councils are not upholding their responsibilities

Cr Turley said that it was rich for the Minister to be claiming he was simply asking councils to meet the same standard of timeliness and certainty on rezoning and development applications as the State Government.

“It is not uncommon for the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to take more than a year to assess planning proposals by councils.

“Where is the recognition that the development industry often submits partially complete or wildly speculative proposals well outside the approved strategic plans for the area, slowing the process?

“Where is the recognition that councils are already grappling with a plethora of other changes pushed through by this Minister – changes that are impacting their systems and processes, and placing additional strain on an already-strained workforce?

Cr Turley said that such changes include:

  • Having to recalibrate their systems to integrate with the Planning Portal
  • Amending, developing and updating their land use plans 
  • Preparing new plans and implementation strategies for housing and employment 
  • Changing the names and definition in their policies and plans 
  • Increasing their planning and development reporting 

“And all of this with significant shortages of planning staff.

“Planning is a critical function jointly delivered by local and state governments, and communities deserve a co-designed system.

“Local government has always committed to working with the Minister for Planning to provide a genuinely collaborative system that delivers the best outcome for the people of New South Wales. 

“We are profoundly disappointed the outgoing Minister has decided to leave our sector on such a negative note.”

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