The development and construction sectors are vital in supporting economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis, being key drivers of investment and employment in the NSW. Planning reforms seek to boost these sectors.

In late 2019, in response to low development application approvals and a decrease in construction, reforms were already set to promote development, cut red tape, increase transparency and reduce assessment timeframes.

In 2020, in response to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, a number of planning reforms were brought forward in order to keep the sectors moving. As Minister for Planning Rob Stokes stated back in March, “This will pass and when it does, the planning system will be ready to continue driving economic productivity across the State.”

In March 2020, the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 was introduced, changing the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) to allow the Minister for Planning to make certain orders without the usual planning approvals. Relevantly, we saw Ministerial Orders extending site operating hours for commercial development and construction work to weekends and public holidays.

In April 2020, the Planning System Acceleration Program was introduced to deliver fast-tracked assessment of State Significant Developments, development applications and rezoning, as well as a $75.9 million investment into new community infrastructure in north west Sydney.

In November 2020, the Priority Assessment Program was introduced to fast-track public and private sector projects that are strategically important to deliver jobs and investment. The program has already accelerated a number of State Significant Infrastructure projects, including a new Metro line and motorway servicing the Western Sydney Aerotropolis.

Where the sectors had previously been experiencing a backlog in the system, we can expect faster approvals and the progression of projects and development. We will likely see even further planning reforms to enable economic growth in the development and construction sectors.

Developers and investors should be encouraged by the reforms to continue to progress projects, stimulate investment and take advantage of reduced red tape and assessment times.

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.