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Councils to Lose Ability to Assess some DAs

Councils in Sydney and Wollongong are set to lose the ability to assess Development Applications worth $5 Million or more as part of new rules to be implemented which require the use of Independent Planning Panels.

Mandatory Referral

Yesterday, the Honourable Anthony Roberts announced that Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAP) will be mandatory for all Councils in Sydney and Wollongong.  These panels are currently voluntarily in use by 15 Sydney Councils and Wollongong Council.

For Development Applications with a value between $5 Million and $30 Million, assessment by the IHAP will be mandatory.  Where the value of the development is over $30 Million, the development application is assessed by the Regional Sydney Planning Panel.  The threshold for assessment by the RSPP has increased by $10 Million i.e. from $20 Million to $30 Million.

Reasoning

The reasoning provided for the changes by the NSW Planning Minister include concern about “inappropriate” relationships between Councils and Developers, transparent and accountable processes for assessing development applications of significant value and guarding against corruption.
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Planning Principle Update: Brothels

Recently, in Yao v Liverpool City Council (Yao) [2017] NSWLEC 1167 the Land and Environment Court’s planning principle in relation to brothels was updated from the principles enunciated in Martyn v Hornsby Shire Council (Martyn) [2004] NSWLEC 614.

The planning principles in Martyn had been in operation for 13 years, and, in some instances, had been overtaken by development controls provisions in individual council development control plans. 

The updated planning principle requires (Yao at [25]):

When considering whether to grant consent for a development application for a “sex services premises” a consent authority should to take into consideration such of the following matters as are relevant to the development application:

1. the proximity to any sensitive land uses, such as, but not exclusively educational establishments, places of public worship, child care centres etc

2. the proximity to any premises used for residential accommodation,

3. paths of travel for different members of the community near the premises,

4. the hours of operation,

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Amalgamated Local Councils – Stronger Communities Fund

The NSW Government created the ‘Stronger Communities Fund’ to assist amalgamated local councils begin the delivery of projects to improve community infrastructure and services.

Stronger Communities Fund Grants

Grants available are $10 Million for councils formed as a result of two Councils merging.  $15 Million is available where three or more Councils merged.

Up to $1 Million of the grant to is available to be allocated to incorporated not-for-profit Community Groups, while the rest of the money is to be spent on infrastructure and services.

Criteria & Assessment

The Stronger Communities Guidelines assist Councils to allocate grants by providing criteria to select community grants, criteria to assess projects and a list of ineligible projects.

Major Projects that are prioritised for funding must:

  • have been through a community consultation process;
  • demonstrate social and/or economic benefits to the community;
  • consider issues of sustainability and equity across the broader community;
  • demonstrate project feasibility and value for money, including full lifecycle costs;
  • did not have funds allocated by the former councils; and
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DA lodgement to move online

The Department of Planning and Environment (the Department) has announced plans to move submission of a Development Application (DA) online, potentially saving significant time for applicants.

On average, the time to prepare and submit a traditional DA can take up to ten (10) days, however, through the proposed online system this could be reduced to half an hour (30 mins).

The online lodgement of DAs will be through the Department’s Planning Portal.

Whilst some local Councils currently provide for the online submissions of a DA, the planning portal will be the “one stop shop” for DAs and complying development certificates in the future.  It is predicted that the system will connect any type of application to be lodged to any local council within New South Wales.

The Department will need to make amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 to allow for online applications and is currently seeking feedback from the community and councils in relation to those amendments.  The relevant documents in relation to the Environmental Planning and Assessment (eplanning) Amendment 2017 can be viewed and online submissions can be made here.
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Local Council Amalgamations – Potential Backflip

Muiltiple reports state that the new NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, may reverse the local Council amalgamation process set up by former Premier, Mike Baird.

The Premier is said to be considering a range of options including using plebiscites to allow merged Councils to unmerge, some reports saying by this year and others saying as late as 2020.  A plebescite is held by Governments to test whether people support or oppose a proposed course of action.  In practice this would allow rate payers of local council’s to vote on whether they want to de-amalgamate.

The Premier is also considering whether to dump plans to amalagamate the unmerged Councils currently fighting in Court.   Matthews Folbigg currently represents North Sydney Council in opposing the forced amalgamations.  Other Sydney Councils that are yet to be merged include Mosman, Willoughby, Woollhara, Randwick, Strathfield, Burwood, City of Canada Bay, Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove and Waverley.

The catalyst for the backflip is said to be as a result of the impact of the deeply unpopular policy in regional areas.  The policy arguably caused the swing of more than 20 percent in the Orange by-election against the Nationals Party.  This caused the loss of a coalition seat held for almost 7 decades.
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