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.