Changes to Local Planning Panels in NSW
The Minister for Planning has issued a new direction to Local Councils in relation to the constitution and operation of Sydney District and Regional Planning Panels and Local Planning Panels in NSW, which takes effect on 24 April 2023. The motivation behind the new direction is, according to the Minister, to improve the integrity of the panel assessment system and to proactively address any perceived or actual risks to the integrity of the planning system.
- requiring Regional Planning Panel members to be rotated regularly so that there is randomisation of panel membership.
- requiring probity checks, including police checks, for community representatives in Regional Planning Panels, and a statutory declaration that representatives are not property developers or real estate agents.
- encouraging councils to appoint a minimum of 4 alternate council members that can sit on their relevant Regional Planning Panel.
- appointing a minimum number of 60 experts in the pool Sydney District and Regional Planning Panels choose from, which is underway.
- mandating a minimum number of experts in pools for Local Planning Panels (15).
- mandating a minimum number of community representatives in Local Planning Panel pools (4) requiring Local Planning Panel members to be rotated regularly so that there is randomisation of panel membership.
- requiring probity checks, including police checks, for community representatives in Local Planning Panels, and a statutory declaration that representatives are not property developers or real estate agents.
- clarifying that applicants can request to formally meet with Local Planning Panels to brief them on any project implementing a framework for the Department to induct Local Planning Panel members.
The amendments do not constitute an overhaul of the panel system, but they do represent something of a shakeup, promoting more diversity of expertise and better rotation of panel members. Put differently, arguably, the goal is the dis-entrenchment of unelected decision makers within the NSW planning system. The Department is acutely aware of the scale and value of development approved under the panel system in NSW (in the order of $3.5 billion per annum) and is understandably keen to maintain the integrity of the system, both actual and perceived, which these amendments will assist with. See our related article: “Court Rejects Bias Allegations Against Local Planning Panel” by Anthony Perkins and Claire Parsons.
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.
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