Want to shape the laws that shape your neighbourhood? Get the lowdown on changes to NSW planning law

If you need help with your submission on the proposed changes to NSW planning laws, these EDO NSW resources can help.

By EDO NSW Policy and Law Reform Director Rachel Walmsley

8  March 2017

As you may have heard, the NSW Government is proposing amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (Planning Act), and the community has until the end of March to provide feedback.

This is a great opportunity to tell the NSW Government what you would like planning laws to do better, and how you would like to engage in the system that will shape the growth, health, amenity, accessibility and sustainability of your local neighbourhood, your region and your state.

If you don’t know where to start, read below and check out the EDO NSW resources at the bottom. We encourage everyone to get involved and have a say on these important reforms.

The proposed changes are set out in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2017 currently on public exhibition until Friday 31 March 2017.

What would the changes mean?

If passed by Parliament the Bill will:

  • update the objects and restructure the Planning Act;
  • require new Community Participation Plans and local strategic planning statements;
  • clarify minimum public exhibition periods;
  • reform state and local decision-making panels;
  • aim to speed up decision-making and information-sharing on large and small development; and
  • repeal the controversial Part 3A ‘transitional’ pathway for modifying major projects.

Some of these changes are positive – such as improved community engagement upfront, greater enforcement tools, and increased accountability.

However, some of the proposed changes are not so positive – for example, community review rights will remain limited, while developer rights are expanded, and the planning department may be able to override advice from other agencies. Read about community review rights in our 2016 report Merits Review in Planning in NSW.

We make recommendations about all of these issues in our submission. But equally as important, we also highlight what is missing from the Bill.

It is particularly concerning that climate change is not addressed in the proposed reforms. Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face. A new planning bill is an opportunity to address the challenges and put in place laws to ensure long term ecologically sustainable development. The planning system has a vital role in reducing emissions and planning for future adaptation scenarios. Read more about this in our 2016 report Planning for climate change: how the NSW planning system can better tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

Check out these resources before making your submission:

EDO NSW submission and briefing note

Not everyone enjoys reading planning legislation or writing submissions, but luckily we do! We’ve published our submission four weeks early so you can read what we are saying about the reforms. Read our submission.

A summary of the key issues can also be found in our briefing note Six big changes to the Planning Act in 2017 (and three missed opportunities).

Seminar video and podcast

We have a video of our community seminar on the reforms held at McCabes Lawyers in Sydney on Thursday 2 March 2017. Watch the video below. And check our the presentation slides from the seminar.

Or you can listen to our podcast instead, in which we provide an overview of key issues and missed opportunities in the proposed changes. 

If you find these resources helpful, please donate to support our future law reform work.