The Local Government Association of South Australia (LGASA) has welcomed the South Australian Government’s response to the Expert Panel’s report which presented opportunities to improve and strengthen the planning system. 

The LGASA has said that a successful planning system must be built on a well-informed and engaged community who can be actively involved in planning decisions.

That’s why it has continued to stress the importance of local autonomy to meet the unique needs of suburban and regional areas and promote transparent planning activities.

This localised policy helps to preserve and enhance local character and gives residents a voice in planning decisions that impact on where they live.

This depends on full participation of councils, and communities, in decision making to maximise the local benefits of planning processes, strategies and policies.

The State Government’s support for improvements in areas like local heritage protection, urban greening, increasing minimum garage sizes and improved guidance for infill development have been welcomed by the LGASA.

The LGASA said however that it’s unfortunate the government hasn’t taken the opportunity to further strengthen some areas, including third-party appeals for over height developments and conservation of heritage and historic character.

The LGASA said that it will be looking at the recommendations in detail over the following weeks and seeking close engagement with the government on its recommendations.

Infill development

The government has provided in principle support for the creation of general infill design guidelines with industry, but further work is needed.

The LGASA said that it will be seeking engagement on the guidelines, including provisions to revise how private open space is calculated and distributed and the requirement for a basic landscaping plan for all infill development.

Car parking

The government supports the recommendation for the minimum garage dimensions to increase.

Further work will be done with the State Planning Commission on the creation of local road design standards or guidelines, exemptions for electric vehicle charging stations from development (with considerations on location), and a car parking off-set fund to build active travel infrastructure.

Local heritage

The government has committed to looking further at the panel’s recommendation to transition local heritage to the Heritage Places Act 1993 from the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 (PDI Act) and improve visibility and protection of Representative Buildings in the Code.

Removing local heritage from the current PDI Act will create a more unified and streamlined heritage protection framework and is expected to simplify the regulatory process for heritage protection, making it easier for stakeholders to navigate and understand.

Equally, Representative Buildings serve to highlight examples of architectural styles or periods which significantly contribute to the character and identity of an area.

The LGASA said that there is a need to better understand how Representative Buildings are intended to influence planning decisions, further guidance on their consideration in development assessments and how their character-contributing features should be preserved or reflected in new developments will be beneficial to the planning system.

Trees

The government has largely supported recommendations relating to trees including committed to investigating the intersection between the Planning Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 and Native Vegetation Act 1991.

It has also supported changes to ensure greater retention of trees including increasing the Urban Tree Canopy Off-set Scheme fees, investigating penalties for tree damaging activity, and encouraging tree retention and planting on private land. 

LGASA said that it will seek to further engage on extensions to regulated and significant tree overlays.

Accredited Professionals Scheme

The government has committed to looking further at the recommendation around minor variations, including amending the Scheme to remove the ability for building professionals to issue planning consents.

This initial step would ensure planning decisions are made by those with a comprehensive understanding of the planning framework and promote consistency and reliability in determinations.

Increased assessment times for complex applications

The government has committed to looking further at additional assessments for complex performance assessed development applications to 30 business days.

It is expected that this will provide a more realistic timeframe for a thorough assessment of complex development applications, as they often involve intricate considerations such as land management agreements, environmental impacts and compliance with various planning policies.

LGASA said that extending the assessment period would acknowledge the need for due diligence in reviewing these aspects comprehensively.

LGASA’s recommendations for a stronger planning system

During the review the LGASA called for changes to the planning system in response to the following eight priorities.

  • A well-informed community empowered to genuinely engage with the planning system
  • A Planning and Design Code that encourages innovative policy
  • Quality housing and urban design policy that is not considered as a cost add on, but as an essential part of an acceptable living environment
  • Good design outcomes embedded in innovative, clear, and well-articulated policy within the Planning and Design Code
  • Increased regulated and significant tree protection that recognises the importance of these trees and discourages removal through significant penalties
  • A clearly defined role for Relevant Authorities within the planning system that is understood by the community
  • Redirection of the financial burden of administering and implementing the planning system away from local governments and their communities
  • Urgent resolution of inefficiencies in the planning system in collaboration with local government

Next steps

The LGASA has said that it will continue to advocate for a planning system which meets the diverse needs of its communities and supports quality housing and urban design.

The association said that it looks forward to working with the government on these recommendations to strike the right balance between development, community values and local character.

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