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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.


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 & Development Law: Amended Plans affixed to Joint Expert Reports

Joint Conferencing

A recent trend occurring in Land and Environment Court Class 1 Development Appeals is where an Applicant’s expert presents at a joint expert report conference with a set of amended plans that the Respondent’s expert is expected to consider for the purpose of the joint report. Often, this occurs where a hearing is listed within a very short time period from the joint conference creating confusion for the Respondent’s expert in relation to whether they are required to consider the amended plans for the purposes of the joint conference.  This trend also creates difficulties for Local Council Respondents in relation to notification of amended plans to objectors, preparation of draft conditions of consent and assessment of the plans prior to the hearing due to the tight time constraints.

Directions in relation to amended plans

Recently, in Landco (NSW) v Camden Council [2017] NSWLEC 86  Robson J made directions as duty Judge in a Class 1 Development Appeal for a similar situation.
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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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AGL’s Failure to Disclose Political Donations

AGL Energy Limited (AGL) and its subsidiary AGL Upstream Infrastructure Investments Pty Ltd (AGL Upstream) pleaded guilty in the Land and Environment Court to offences relating to the failure to disclose political donations (Secretary, Department of Planning and Environment v AGL Energy Limited; Secretary, Department of Planning and Environment v AGL Upstream Infrastructure Investments Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 2, per Moore J).

Failures to Disclose

Section 147(11) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) provides an offence where a person fails to make a disclosure of a political donation when making a planning application.  The offence occurs where a person fails to make that disclosure where they knew, or reasonably ought to have known, that a disclosure was required to have been made under s 147.

In total there were 11 failures to make complete disclosure of political donations.  The offences committed by AGL and AGL Upstream occurred over a period from 2008 to 2014. Donations were made to the Liberal Party, the Australian Labour Party and the National Party.  The failures to disclose were in relation to both planning applications and modification of approval applications.
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