19 Jan 2016

For your information, we are pleased to update you on a few planning matters that have arisen over the holiday period.

As you are aware, the Minister for Local Government Paul Toole has announced 35 council merger proposals.

The Minister has now appointed Delegates to each merger proposal to conduct a public inquiry and provide an assessment report to the Boundaries Commission. The reports will be reviewed and commented upon prior to any merger decision being made by the Minister. The key steps in the process are explained here.

The community consultation process is now underway and it is expected the Delegates will make their report to the Boundaries Commission by March. Any decisions made on the mergers are unlikely until after June 2016. You can find a full list of the merger proposals and the Delegates here. Submissions will close on Sunday 28 February 2016.

In the meantime, councils are obliged to undertake regulatory functions including the processing of Development Applications. There has been some concern regarding the issue of Government Guidelines which restrict councils from engaging in certain financial arrangements during the merger process. As a result, some councils have stalled the negotiation of Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPA). However, Urbis actively encouraged industry groups to seek clarification from the Office of Local Government. Advice has been received that the Minister will write to councils to reinforce that the VPAs are not to be affected by the new provisions. Urbis will keep you updated on this and any other merger issue.

The Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) Act will commence on 27 January 2016.

The Greater Sydney Commissioners have been appointed, except for the six District Commissioners. It is expected that the latter will be announced next month. Any new Local Environmental Plans (LEP) for areas in the Greater Sydney Region will now be made by the GSC. The much awaited District Plans, which will provide strategic guidance throughout the region, are expected to be exhibited for public comment by the GSC in the coming months.

The Minister may also constitute a Sydney Planning Panel (SPP) for the Greater Sydney Region (except the City of Sydney) that will take on the role of the Joint Regional Planning Panels (JRPP). The SPP is yet been formed. The current Sydney JRPPs will continue operating until such time that a SPP is appointed. Urbis will keep you informed of any changes, including the appointment of the District Commissioners.

More information of the GSC and the Act can be found here.


The City of Sydney invites feedback on a proposal to change the heritage floor space controls and introduce an alternative Heritage Floor Space (HFS) Allocation Scheme. The documents are here.  This proposal affects property in central Sydney. Submissions are invited until 8 February 2016

There is a known shortage of HFS and the changes proposed are in the interests of increasing the supply.  Council has determined that an alternative to HFS allocation is required for a temporary period to provide time for a recent control amendment to deliver more HFS by expanding the eligibility criteria for awards to Government buildings.

The proposed scheme  would allow a developer to enter into a Voluntary Planning Agreement providing for HFS allocation to occur at a specified date after works have commenced or, alternatively, a monetary amount to be payable to the council to be used for heritage conservation.

In addition to the alternative scheme, the council is proposing amendments to the City of Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012 that will:

  • Enable heritage buildings granted an award of HFS more than 25 years ago to be eligible for a further award (to increase supply);
  • Enable the requirement to allocate HFS to be satisfied after development consent but prior to construction works (to align with council policy); and
  • Ensure that the requirement to allocate HFS in respect of ‘accommodation floor space’ applies only to development that has a building height greater than 55m (to reduce the number of developments requiring HFS).

Urbis is well experienced in the issues arising from shortage of HFS and are supportive of a scheme to provide an increase supply and allow for alternative arrangements to expedite the approval process. However, on review of the draft documents there are matters which require further explanation to fully understand the impacts on industry. Urbis will be seeking additional information and clarity from the council on how monetary contributions will be calculated as well as the processes involved in making VPAs. We will keep you informed of updates.

To discuss any of your concerns or queries please contact one of our Sydney Planning Directors.

Tim Blythe View Profile
Peter Strudwick View Profile
Jennifer Cooper View Profile
David Hoy View Profile
Stephen White View Profile
Clare Brown View Profile
Murray Donaldson View Profile

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