Log in

Forgot your password?
You are here: Home / Other Government Involvement in RW / NSW Government / A New Planning System for NSW 2013 / Barry's Part 3A - The New Planning System for NSW?

Barry's Part 3A - The New Planning System for NSW?

This is the text of Geoff Turnbull's presentation to "A New Planning System For NSW: White Paper Panel Debate" organised by Sydney University Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning on 13 June 2013. Each panellist was asked to identify an opportunity and a challenge with the "New Planning System".

For me there is a large gulf between the paper’s “trust us” aspirations and what looks likely to be delivered.

In the end the only real opportunity I can identify is that the Act is being reviewed and in that process we could possibly achieve genuine improvements in the planning system. We could also take a giant step backwards. As structured it’s looking to me like Barry’s version of Part 3A rather than his election promise to “return planning powers to the local community”.

My reluctance to declare any other opportunities is right at the heart of the Act. It is the removal of the underlying principles of Ecologically Sustainability Development (ESD) and their replacement with the “main purpose of the planning system is to promote economic growth”. This is a big change!

ESD is part of the current Act and is referenced in 60 other NSW Acts. The More and Dyer review proposed ESD should be the main purpose of the planning system and that the definition should be consistent with the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1995.

The Government not only decided to remove ESD from the centre of the system they decided economic growth should be at the centre. ESD is ditched all together and put in its place is a nebulous Sustainable Development definition without the underlying ESD principles.

With ESD removed from the Act we have a very different planning rationale which can “have regard” to environmental and social considerations, then cross across to the other side of the street and continue on its merry growth orientated way. In short, we no longer have an “Environmental Planning and Assessment Act”. The precautionary and polluter pays principles among others are removed.

The current proposal radically changes that balance in favour of the economic – Local Plans for example cannot contain “overly complex or onerous controls that may adversely impact on the financial viability of proposed development” – now there is a Pandora’s box!

The main challenge in the New Planning System is delivering what is promised in the White Paper and here the Department is in the process of trashing community confidence before the new system is even up and running.

The Regional Plan for Sydney is already on exhibition, in the form of the Metro Strategy, without any of the White Paper’s new “ground breaking community participation” processes for strategic planning being in place. So when people get involved in the new sub-regional or local planning they will find the priorities for their areas are already locked in place.

Not a good start for system promising “Community participation is at the centre of the new planning system”. The new system covers itself though because the legislation says you cannot challenge a plan because the promised community participation didn’t happen!

The Better Planning Network asked the Minister to remove the Metro Strategy from exhibition and bring it back with much fanfare under the new system to kick off his new community involvement in strategic planning. The Minister declined, but extended the exhibition until 28 June to try to get greater engagement.

You will find an online petition at change.org protesting the Minister’s action. It currently has about 450 signatures while the Metro Strategy website totals only 76 comments across all five online feed-back categories! [Figures at 13 June 2013]

A locked-in Metro Strategy provides an opportunity for one of the new Part 3A like mechanisms – Strategic Compatibility Certificates. Once the Metro Strategy and its City Shapers are in place a developer can ask the Director General for a certificate to override the Local Environment Plan to allow the quick delivery of say a large student housing development in Darlington or Chippendale because those suburbs are part of the Strategy’s Sydney Education & Health precinct.

Even after a Local Plan is made a developer can apply for a rezoning under the new system or fall back on the continuing State Significant Development stream of the new ‘Part 3A like’ mechanisms. None of these would be consistent with strategic planning or be appealable by the community.

Even within planned areas it is possible to exceed the controls by going to merit assessment for the bits that exceed the code. This is an invitation for developers to go for cream without risking the rest of the development. If it gets knocked back they can always go off to a lower cost Land and Environment Court!

A lot of faith is currently being put in unseen codes and up-front strategic planning. It is my view that the ability of people to comment on up to 80% of developments should not be removed until the new system is in place and shown to be working and that the comments should be used to refine the codes and the local plans.

If the new system is to succeed it has to be built on ESD and deliver certainty not only for developer but also for local communities. The proposals in the White Paper promises much but at the same time removes checks and balances while increasing the Minister’s power and patronage. The possibility for corruption issues as raised by ICAC in their Green Paper submission need still to be addressed.

These are just some of the challenges I see for the New Planning System. I would encourage you to look at the comments being issued by groups such as the Environmental Defenders Office, The Nature Conservation Council and the Better Planning Network and other peak organisations.

Even if you don’t agree with them, the issues these groups raise will need to be addressed if there is going to be real acceptance of the new planning system and a rebuilding of confidence in the planning system.

Source: Presentation by Geoff Turnbull to "A New Planning System For NSW: White Paper Panel Debate" organised by Sydney University Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning on 13 June 2013. Panelists included:Deborah Dearing (strategic planning and urban design consultant); Stephanie Barker (A&E Design Studio); Geoff Turnbull (Redwatch); Sally Lewis (Walker Corporation); Giovani Cirillo (Formaly NSW Dept of Planning, Formally City of Sydney , Practitioner-in-residence, Henry Halloran Trust); Nicole Gurran (Urban and Regional Planning, University of Sydney). It was facilitated by Professor Peter Phibbs, Urban and Regional Planning Program, University of Sydney, Director, Henry Halloran Trust.