By Clare Brown | 5 Sep 2016

The Minister for Planning has introduced the Rezoning Review process, effective from 1 September 2016. 

Last year Urbis advised you of draft changes to the pre-Gateway Review process that is now to be known as a Rezoning Review. This process, in operation since 2012, enables an independent review of rezoning applications (Planning Proposals) that have not proceeded to the next stage of assessment (Gateway), when a Council has rejected them or there has been a delayed response or decision by the Council beyond 90 days. 


Expanding the system:

  • A Rezoning Review may now be requested when the Council has failed to submit a Planning Proposal to the Gateway within a reasonable time frame (42 days) after the council has indicated its support. In this case, the proponent is to contact the applicable regional office of the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) to discuss the opportunity for a Rezoning Review.
  • The role of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) as plan maker has been included, along with reference to the Sydney Planning Panels, which will take on the Joint Regional Planning Panels (JRPPs) roles in Greater Sydney Region.

Streamlining the process:

  • The JRPPs, GSC or Planning Assessment Commission (PAC), in the case of rezoning in the City of Sydney, will now assess the Planning Proposal to determine if it should be submitted to the Gateway. This role was previously undertaken by the DPE, who advised the JRPP or PAC, who then reviewed the DPE assessment to make a recommendation to the Minister.
  • The JRPPs, GSC or PAC will now make the decision on whether the Planning Proposal will proceed to the Gateway. Previously they advised the Minister who then made the decision.

Reducing delays:

  • Benchmark timelines have been put in place so that a review process, from review request through to the submission to the Gateway, should be undertaken within 25 weeks. This will include:
    • 90 day assessment process, from receipt of the request for review to the notification of decision to proceed or not to the Gateway.
    • 42 days for Council to accept or decline an invitation to be the Relevant Planning Authority (RPA), following the assessment and a recommendation that the Planning proposal should proceed to the Gateway.
    • 42 days for Council (if they choose to be the RPA) to submit the Planning Proposal to the DPE for a Gateway determination.
    • Within the assessment period, three days for the DPE to notify council and make a request for information and 21 days for councils to respond.

Prioritising strategic merit:

  • A Planning Proposal under review must pass a Strategic Merit Test to proceed to Gateway. Previously, consistency with regional strategic goals was part of the overall assessment process, however that assessment will now be clearly structured and given priority. It will act as a traffic light to proceed with further assessments.  If the Strategic Merit Test is not passed the Planning Proposal will not proceed. 

Urbis is supportive of the changes. Improved clarity and streamlining of the process will provide greater certainty and reduce delays for proponents. Last year, Urbis hosted a client event to discuss the implications of the proposed changes and made a submission to the Department, signaling support for the improvements while also highlighting some areas of concern, including: 

  • Confusion and costly delays from a proposed new consultation phase, which Councils may introduce early in the process, prior to Gateway submission.
  • Unnecessary delays in the process if timeframe benchmarks are not mandated, the JRPPs / PACs are not adequately resourced to undertake the assessment role and the lengthy 42-day council RPA invitation process in circumstances where the Planning proposal has been found to have strategic merit.
  • Clarification required on the detail of the Strategic Merit Test, specifically any indications of the weighting of ‘old’ standard Local Environment Plans (LEPs) and the need to include consideration of relevant changes that have occurred since a local strategy was adopted.

Urbis is pleased to report that DPE has considered our views and adopted most of our recommendations by:

  • Indicating to councils that the appropriate time for consultation is after Gateway submission during the formal process, when more information and supporting studies are available.
  • Committing to adequate resourcing of the process.
  • Strengthening and simplifying the Strategic Merit Test and identifying that the test will consider a change in circumstances, such as the investment in new infrastructure or changing demographic trends that have not been recognised by existing planning controls.

Urbis remains concerned that the timelines introduced into the review process are only ‘benchmarks’ and not mandated though any form of control or regulation. This could result in a reversion to costly and undesirable delays. However, we are supportive of proposals that the DPE will monitor and report on timeframes in an attempt to keep rigour in the system.

Urbis is also concerned that the Council, who originally rejected or delayed the Planning Proposal, will be invited to be the RPA and allowed 42 days in which to make a decision to accept or decline this invitation, this is a lengthy time for this request where an assessment has already determined the strategic merit of the Planning Proposal. Notwithstanding, we support the new process which provides for an alternate RPA to be appointed if that timeline is not met.

The procedural documents, including the revised Guides to making Planning Proposals and Local Environmental Plans have been included in the package of reforms available from the DPE here.  

Our planning team at Urbis will be pleased to provide any further advice on the changes and we look forward to assisting you through the process.  

Clare Brown View Profile
Peter Strudwick View Profile
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